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India, Tamil Nadu
Chola Period, 10th-11th Century
Copper Alloy
H. 35 in. (88.9 cm)

Parvati is the wife of Shiva and the daughter of the Himalayan Mountains. She represents one manifestation of Devi, the Mother Goddess. Like her husband Shiva, Parvati has both kind and fierce forms.

Hindu mythology recounts how Parvati was sent to Shiva as a prospective wife. However, she was unable to win his attention because he was absorbed in meditation. After many unsuccessful attempts to attract him, Parvati decided to practice Shiva's asceticism, and while she meditated on a mountain peak, Shiva finally realized that he loved her. When Parvati came down from the mountain they married. Eventually Shiva and Parvati became the parents of two children, the warrior god Karttikeya (Skanda) and the elephant-headed Ganesha.

Parvati is often portrayed as a caring and kind-hearted mother and is often depicted alongside her husband, though she is sometimes worshipped as an independent deity.

This image was created in South India (in what is now the modern state Tamil Nadu) during the Chola period (880-1279), an era of great Hindu piety in that region. The Chola rulers were particularly devoted to Shiva, especially in his role as "Lord of the Dance" (Shiva Nataraja), and they built great temples in his honor. Parvati is commonly shown alongside Shiva in this role because she witnessed him performing his heavenly dance, and so she is often depicted as one of his attendants in imagery related to this story.

How to look at this work
Hindu images are both visual theologies and visual scriptures. They are visual narrations of traditional myths. We may identify individual deities by the objects that they hold, by what they wear, by their hairstyles, and by the other beings that accompany them.

Parvati is represented here as follows:

  1. Headdress
    Parvati wears an elaborate cone-shaped crown with tiers that alludes to her derivation from the mountains.
    On her headdress is a trident, which is a common attribute of her husband, and shows her relationship to Shiva.
  2. Pose
    Parvati stands in a triple-bend (tribhanga) pose, with bends at her hip, knee and ankle. Parvati is commonly depicted in this pose when she accompanies her husband and this posture is one indication that this sculpture once stood alongside a representation of Shiva.
    In this pose, Parvati's left arm and hand rest along her side and her right hand is positioned in a way that signifies holding a flower because the flower is a common attribute of the goddess.
  3. Clothing and Ornamentation
    Parvati wears a long garment that clings to her body. Her garment is simple, falling in a series of even pleats.
    She wears much jewelry, including a multi-layered necklace, armbands, bracelets, and anklets. On her upper arms are two tridents, again recalling her relationship to Shiva.

Large scale bronze images like this sculpture were (and still are) generally intended for temples. Devotees would visit a temple to be in a space sacred to the deity. The god is understood to inhabit the sculpture and therefore worshipers treat the sculpture as they would a god. In the act of worship, devotees can see the god and the god can see the devotees. Worshipers bathe and perfume the god, dress the image in robes, and ornament it with jewelry and flowers. During festivals, the deity might be taken out and carried in processions.

Images of Parvati in this form were often placed to the left side of Shiva in his form as "Lord of the Dance." Though Parvati is often worshipped as an individual deity, temples dedicated solely to the goddess are rare, and so most images of Parvati come from temples devoted to her husband.

How this object was made
This image was created using the "lost-wax" technique.

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