Shiva and Parvati (Uma-Mahesvara), Indian, about 1150
Shiva and Parvati (Uma-Mahesvara) once adorned a temple in Halebid, India. This sculpture depicts the Hindu gods Shiva, his wife Parvati, and their two sons: the elephant-headed god Ganesha on their right, and the peacock god Karttikeya on their left. The Sanskrit term Uma-Mahesvara refers to images of this divine couple.
Shiva and Parvati likely graced the outside wall of a temple dedicated to Shiva. The god’s knee is particularly shiny, most likely as a result of the temple’s visitors rubbing it in passing for good luck.
Sculpture has decorated houses of worship for thousands of years, from the façades of ancient Greek temples, interiors of Renaissance cathedrals, to modern-day mega-churches. Much like the faithful in the Western world, Hindus portray their gods, goddesses, and other important religious figures in sculpture.
Halebid (Halebidu), a city in the Karnataka region of southern India, served as the Hoysala Empire’s capital from about the 10th to the 14th centuries. This empire supported the construction of temples and the arts.
One of Shiva and Parvati’s most striking features is the contrast between the smooth bodies and the ornate carvings that surround them. Hoysala artists are known for their deep, precise, and intricate carving, unique to this period of Indian art history. The combination of the carvings, dark stone, and natural light created dramatic and intense shadows around the sculpture.
—Leta Woller, education – visitor engagement intern 2012-2013
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