Shiva and Parvati Stone Sculpture. Temple to Shiva at Kalinga, Orissa, India. 13th Century. From The British Museum London, England.
This sculpture was given as a gift to The British Museum in 1872 by the family of John Bridges upon his death. From what we know, the sculpture originated with Major General Charles Stuart who acquired the object for his gallery while serving as an officer in the East India Company in the early 18th century. The Major appreciated Indian culture, as he thought his British neighbors should, so he opened up a gallery in his home in Calcutta. Major General Stuart lived out the remainder of his days in Calcutta, until 1829, and is buried in a cemetary there. John Bridges bought much of Major General Stuart's collection at a London auction in 1830. This colleciton included costumes, prints, specimens of natural history, weaponry, and a library.
This life-sized statue of Shiva and his wife Parvati was carved with incredible care and detail. According to Hugh McGregor, the curator of The British Museum this statue would typically have been brightly painted, though it has faded now to the original stone. The body of Shiva typically would have been depicted as white, from the ashes of corpses that he smeared on his body, with a blue throat from where he is holding the poison that emerged from the chrurning cosmic ocean and threatened to destory the whole world.
The sculptor carved the Hindu deities with such precision and passion, and to a life-like scale, because his sculpture is supposed to be a tool for communicating with Shiva and Parvati on Earth. The sculpture likely would have been located at the door of a Hindu temple, ushering worshippers inside as the gods are doing in the sculpture.
We can tell Shiva by his signature trident, and accompanied by his incarnation, the bull Niva. One of his arms is entwined around his wife, Parvati, who is accompanied by her signature lion, at whom Niva stares longingly. The relationship between Shiva and Parvati is a very erotic one, understandably so as they represent the creation. They are also accompanied by their elephant-headed child, Ganesa. According to Hindu tradition, Ganesa was born of the dirt that Parvati washed off herself during a bath and he has an elephant head because that is the head Siva gave him after he decapitated him. The group is accompanied by their worshippers, the patron of this statue and his wife as well as their children.
Local Historical Significance
Orissa is noted for containing literally thousands of Hindu temples. Shiva is the God of opposites, most notably creation and destruction. In keeping with the tradition of opposites, Shiva and Pavarti are actually the physical manifestation of the same person in two opposite forms. They are often depicted in other works of art as a half-man, half-woman hybrid.
Statues of Hindu deities are used to initiate an intimate relationship between the worshiper and the god, as the statue is supposed to be something of an incarnation of the god themselves, to which you can leave offerings or merely sit and bond with for a while. Sculptures such as this one were used to ignite a relationship between beginning Hindus and the deities. As Hindu's grow in their relationship they carry their relationship with the gods with them throughout the day, they are omnipresent.
World Historical Significance
As Islam inflitrated India in the 1200s with the presence of the Mughal Empire, the capital of Hinduism was pushed to south and central India, with thousands of well preserved temples having been found in Orissa on the east coast. It is speculated that Hinduism is the worlds oldest religion, possibly originating in the Indus River Valley, one of the worlds oldest civilizations.
BBC- A History of the World in 100 Images-#68 Shiva and Parvati http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/cn3fuuQCRC2k27batpa0dg
Birtannica Academic Edition http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/546894/Shiva
Blurton, T. Richard. Hindu art / T. Richard Blurton. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1993., 1993
Pal, Pratapaditya. "Indian Sculpture. Vol. 2: 700-1800." In Indian Sculpture. Vol. 2: 700-1800, 1. 1989.