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Relief - Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Madurai (made)

  • Date:

    Dated by inscription 1766 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory, with traces of tamarind juice

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South Asia, Room 41, case 29

Relief depicting the marriage of Siva and Parvati witnessed by Visnu and Laksmi (Kalyanasundara, ‘The Wedding of the Charming One’). Visnu officiates, pouring a lustration blessing (abhiseka) over the couples open hands from a gold pot. Siva displays two attributes, a deer (mriga) (deer) and an axe (parasu). He is attended by one of his dwarfish attendants, a gana. In acknowledgement of the occasion, Siva holds a spray of flowers in his lower hand. All in attendance are richly bejewelled and wear high hair-crowns (jatamakutas).

This subject is popular in south India, especially in Madurai where it is assumes a local character, Siva marrying Minaksi, the princess of the Pandyan royal household, thus effecting a union of local traditions with Sanskritic culture. This Divine Marriage is re-enacted there and at other temples each year as part of the annual Panguni Uttiram temple festival, performed with processional icons of the couple. The priests enact the rituals of marriage to the delight of a large audience, mostly female devotees.

A number of centres in south India were renowned for ivory carving in the Nayak period, most especially workshops associated with the Vaisnava temple at Srirangam, and the Minaksi-Sundaresvara temple at Madurai. This relief represents an end panel to a casket, possibly serving as a jewellery box, engraved with the date ‘Samvat 1823 (1766 CE). Although this date cannot be accepted definitively (it could have been add later by a subsequent owner), it broadly fits with our understanding of mid-18th century Nayak decorative arts.

Physical description

A relief depicting the marriage of Shiva and Parvati ('The Wedding of the Charming One'). This relief may well be associated with the city of Madurai whose Great Temple celebrates this marriage. The ceremony (Kalyanasundaramurti) is witnessed by Vishnu and Lakshmi. They stand at the left, Vishnu holding together with the normal attributes, a golden pot, from which he pours at the moment of uniting the couple. Shiva and Parvati, wearing jatamakutas (high crowns) and royal ornaments, offer their hands with palms open. Shiva bears his attributes of a mriga (deer) and parashu (battle-axe) and in his addition holds a flower or spray of flowers in his lower left hand.

Place of Origin

Madurai (made)


Dated by inscription 1766 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory, with traces of tamarind juice


Height: 16.5 cm, Width: 11 cm

Descriptive line

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati, ivory, Madurai, south India, 1766

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Swallow, Deborah and John Guy eds. Arts of India: 1550-1900. text by Rosemary Crill, John Guy, Veronica Murphy, Susan Stronge and Deborah Swallow. London : V&A Publications, 1990. 240 p., ill. ISBN 1851770224, p.42, no.27.

Guy, John: 'Indian Temple Sculpture', London V & A Publication, 2007, p.112. pl.122.
ISBN 971851775095

Guy, John (ed.). ‘L’Escultura en els Temples Indis: L’Art de la Devocio’, Barcelona : Fundacio ‘La Caixa’, 2007. p.212. cat. 173.
ISBN 9788476649466
p. 217, cat no. 443
In the image of man : the Indian perception of the universe through 2000 years of painting and sculpture : [exhibition / organized by Catherine Lampert assisted by Rosalie Cass]. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson :in association with the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1982 Number: 0297780719, 0297781243 (pbk.)
82, cat. no. 356, pl. no. 74
The art of India and Pakistan, a commemorative catalogue of the exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1947-8. Edited by Sir Leigh Ashton. London: Faber and Faber, [1950]
No. 68
Haworth-Booth, Mark; Indian Sculpture: A Travelling Exhibition, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1971

Production Note

Madurai, Tamilnadu, south India





Subjects depicted

Marriage; Hinduism


Sculpture; Hinduism


South & South East Asia Collection

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