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Figure - Shiva Dakshinamurti

Shiva Dakshinamurti

  • Object:

    Figure

  • Place of origin:

    Thanjavur (Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, south India, made)

  • Date:

    late 12th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Granite

  • Museum number:

    IS.41-1966

  • Gallery location:

    South Asian Sculpture, Room 47b, case BNC, shelf 4

Dakshinamurti, the "Lord who faces South", represents Shiva as the supreme teacher of yoga, music, jnana (divine knowledge) and all the arts and sciences. Each of these four aspects is distinguished iconographically. This image, with a rosary and flame in the upper hands, is Vyakhyanamurti, Shiva as the expounder of the shastras. Four-armed Shiva is depicted with the uncut hair of an ascetic, seated in the virasana (heroic) posture, the lower right hand raised in the gesture of teaching in silence (chinmudra). The rocky landscape upon which he sits is an allusion to his Himalayan retreat where he instructs through mind-speech the secrets of the shastras to the holy men (rishis). With his right foot he suppresses the dwarf-like figure of Apasmarapurusha, the demon embodying ignorance and forgetfulness. The wild animals of the mountain, carved in low relief, gather around him to hear his profound message.

In the medieval period images of Dakshinamurti came to occupy a position on the south wall of the central shrine of a Hindu temple, displacing Ganesha in the south Indian temple schema in the early Chola period. By being positioned south-facing, Dakshinamurti was able to look down from his temple as if still seated in his beloved Mt Kailasha in the Himalayas. This sculpture would have originally occupied a niche on the south elevation of a late Chola temple.

Physical description

A four-armed Shiva with the long uncut tresses of an ascetic, sitting on a rock in the mountain wilderness where he is said to have preached to hermits of the forest. Adjacent to him on his left are three cavernous haunts of wild animals, rising one above each other. His eyes are focused on the tip of his nose, suggesting rapt meditation or spiritual ecstasy, while his right foot rests on the head of the demonic dwarf Apasmara, signifying his power over the forces of darkness and ignorance; his left leg is crossed over his right. The front right hand is poised with forefinger outstretched; the rear right holds a rosary; the rear left holds a flame; the front left is suspended over the left knee with palm facing inwards.

Place of Origin

Thanjavur (Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, south India, made)

Date

late 12th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Granite

Dimensions

Height: 119 cm, Width: 58 cm, Depth: 30 cm, Weight: 290 kg

Historical context note

Shiva as the great teacher, depicted with the uncut hair of an ascetic, seated in the virasana (heroic) posture, the lower right hand raised in the gesture of teaching in silence (cinmudra). The rocky landscape upon which he sits is an allusion to his Himalayan retreat where he teaches in silence the holy men (rishis) the secrets of the shastras. With his right foot he suppresses the dwarf-like figure of Apasmarapurusha, the demon of ignorance and forgetfulness. The animals of the mountain, carved in low relief, gather around him. Dakshinamurti, the "Lord who faces South", represents Shiva as the supreme teacher of Yoga, music, jnana (knowledge) and all the arts and sciences. Each of these four aspects is distinguished iconographically. This image, with a rosary and flame in the upper hands, is Vyakhyanamurti, Shiva as the expounder of the shastras. Images of Dakshinamurti should occupy a position on the South wall of the central shrine of a Hindu temple.

Descriptive line

Shiva Dakshinamurti, granite, Thanjavur, south India, late 12th century

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

Guy, John: 'Indian Temple Sculpture', London V & A Publication, 2007, p.73. pl.80.

ISBN 971851775095
Guy, John (ed.). ‘L’Escultura en els Temples Indis: L’Art de la Devocio’, Barcelona : Fundacio ‘La Caixa’, 2007. p 109, cat.68.
ISBN 9788476649466
John Irwin, V & A Bulletin, Vol. III no.2, April 1967
Krishna Sastri, South Indian Images, 1916, fig 57 (showing the left hand in same unusual position)
Guy, John, ed, La Escultura en los Templos Indios: El Arte de la Devoción , Barcelona, Fundación 'La Caixa', 2007, p.109, No.68, ISBN 978 84 7664 945 9.
pl. 16
Irwin, John C., Indian Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1968

Labels and date

Shiva as Dakshinamurti

1200–1300
Late Chola period

Dakshinamurti, the ‘Lord who faces South’, represents Shiva as
the supreme teacher. Holding a rosary and flame, he expounds
the sacred texts and has the uncut hair of an ascetic.With one
foot he suppresses Apasmara,the demon of ignorance.The rocky
landscape represents his Himalayan retreat,Mount Kailasha.The
image would have occupied a niche in the south wall of a temple,
looking south as if from the Himalayas.

Granite
Southern India (Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu)

Museum no. IS.41-1966 [06/06/2011]

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Hinduism

Categories

Sculpture; Hinduism

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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