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Sculpture - Durga Mahisasuramardini

Durga Mahisasuramardini

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    India (north, made)

  • Date:

    mid 7th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr & Mrs Douglas Barrett

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This terracotta sculpture shows the Hindu goddess Durga killing the demon Mahisa disguised as a buffalo. It is a recurrent subject in Hindu sculpture from the Kushan period (1st century AD-320 AD) onwards.

This form of Durga goes through an elaborate iconographic evolution which we can trace through rock-cut and freestanding versions. The majority are large-scale images in a temple context. This representation is a small-scale terracotta, crudely modelled for use perhaps in a household or wayside shrine. It shows Durga in an early four-armed form, lifting the buffalo's body up by the tail and holding its head down with her foot so she can despatch it with Shiva's trident.

Physical description

This terracotta figure of Durga Mahisasuramardini is shown in relief against a plain back slab and plinth with an incised line at the margin.The four armed figure of the goddess is shown lifting the buffalo demon by the tail held in her left front hand while she stabs its back with Shiva's trisula (trident) held in her front right hand. She rests her right foot on the neck of the beast which appears from under the hem of her skirt. She is otherwise naked except for her jewellery which comprises a heavy segmented necklace under a row of beads, large circular ringed earrings and heavy wrist bangles. Her hair is swept back off her face and gathered into a bun on top with an ornament fixed in the centre parting above her forehead. Her large eyes are modelled with incised lines under arched incised eyebrows. Her remaining two arms are uplifted, her left hand holding a large bell (ghanta) andin her right one a baton-shaped unidentified weapon. (According to the Devi Mahatmya, the bell was given to her by Indra when the gods were arming her for battle with the demonic forces (asuras) led by Mahisa).

Place of Origin

India (north, made)


mid 7th century (made)



Materials and Techniques



Height: 17.5 cm, Width: 9.5 cm, Depth: 4.5 cm

Object history note

Given by Mary and Douglas Barrett.

Historical context note

The Goddess Durga killing the demon Mahisasura disguised as a buffalo is a recurrent subject in Hindu sculpture from the Kushan period onwards. This form of Durga goes through an elaborate iconographic evolution that may be traced through rock-cut and freestanding versions of the subject. The regional distribution of this form of Mahisasuramardini was limited to northern India, centred on Mathura and extending across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Durga during the post-Gupta period became increasingly identified with Shiva as his shakti, having formerly been associated more closely with Vishnu. Durga was already the subject of large-scale stone and metal sculptures by this period, as witness in Madhya Pradesh at Udaigiri and elsewhere; this small-scale terracotta has been crudely modelled for use perhaps in a household or wayside shrine.

Descriptive line

Durga Mahisasuramardini, terracotta, Uttar Pradesh, northern India, mid-7th century

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

Barrett, D., Oriental Art,Vol xxI, no 7, 1975, pp64-7

pp.204-5, Cat. 2:51
Willis, M. (ed.) India: the Art of the Temple, Shanghai Museum, 2010
p.65, Cat.30
L'escultura en el temples indis : l'art de la devoció : exposició organitzada per la Fundació "La Caixa" i el Victoria & Albert Museum, Londres. [Barcelona: Obra social, Fundació "la Caixa", c2007 Number: 9788476649466
p.158, pl.178
Guy, John Indian temple sculpture . London: V&A Publications, 2007

Production Note

Uttar Pradesh, North India




Moulding; Incising

Subjects depicted





South & South East Asia Collection

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