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Shiva as Chandrashekhara

Asian Art

On View: Brooklyn Museum, BMA, EXHIBITION-2, Asian 2W41
Shiva is one of Hinduism’s most powerful and charismatic deities. He builds up great reserves of energy through the practice of yoga and then uses that energy to propel the cosmos. This sculpture shows the god as Chandrashekhara, meaning “having the moon as a crown.” His battle-axe and the small antelope emphasize his role as protector, especially of the animal kingdom. Although he stands straight and still, his broad shoulders and lively hand gestures suggest his potential for action.

Bronze casting reached an apex of achievement in southern India under the patronage of the Chola dynasty (circa 850–circa 1279). We can see that this image was repeatedly touched during worship, because the front is far more worn than the reverse.
MEDIUM Bronze
  • Place Made: Tamil Nadu, India
  • DATES ca. 970 C.E.
    DYNASTY Chola dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 25 3/4 x 12 x 7 3/4 in., 50.5 lb. (65.4 x 30.5 x 19.7 cm, 22.91kg)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Asian Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Brooklyn Museum, BMA, EXHIBITION-2, Asian 2W41
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2007.2
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Asian Art Council in honor of Amy G. Poster; additional funding from bequest of Dr. Samuel Eilenberg, by exchange; Bertram H. Schaffner Asian Art Fund; and gift of Dr. Andrew Dahl, David Ellis, Benjamin S. Faber, Martha M. Green, Dr. and Mrs. Eugene Halpert, Stanley J. Love, Anthony A. Manheim, Mabel Reiner, and Chi Tiew-lui, by exchange
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Shiva as Chandrashekhara, ca. 970 C.E. Bronze, 25 3/4 x 12 x 7 3/4 in., 50.5 lb. (65.4 x 30.5 x 19.7 cm, 22.91kg). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Asian Art Council in honor of Amy G. Poster; additional funding from bequest of Dr. Samuel Eilenberg, by exchange; Bertram H. Schaffner Asian Art Fund; and gift of Dr. Andrew Dahl, David Ellis, Benjamin S. Faber, Martha M. Green, Dr. and Mrs. Eugene Halpert, Stanley J. Love, Anthony A. Manheim, Mabel Reiner, and Chi Tiew-lui, by exchange , 2007.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007.2_front_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE front, 2007.2_front_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Bronze icon of the Hindu god Shiva in his form as Chandrashekhara, or Lord of the Crescent Moon. The figure has four arms, the upper two holding a battle axe and a prancing deer, the lower two making gestures of reassurance and teaching. The figure wears his hair piled high in the chignon of matted locks that identifies Shiva, with curling locks draping over his shoulders in the back. A crescent moon is just visible at the front of the chignon, pointing upward. He wears jewelry typical of Chola-period sculpture, including "hand-shaped" armlets, a tight dhoti, and various collars and belts. It appears that the dhoti originally flared outward at both sides but because of damage or casting problems, the flaring elements have been removed and polished away. The figure stands on a flaring lotus base with square holes pierced through the front and back to attach the sculpture to a litter or cart for transport during temple processions. Shiva Chandrashekhara is worshipped primarily in southern India, where he is often displayed with his consort, Parvati. The straight posture of this icon suggests that it was either worshipped without a consort image (couples often lean in toward one another) or that the consort image was cast and displayed somewhat separately. The battle axe and deer make reference to an episode in which Shiva was attacked by non-believers and he caught both the weapon they threw at him and the wild stag that they sent to attack him. The deer became one of his great devotees and it represents the god's role as Lord of Animals. We can tell that this icon was worshipped because the front of the image is substantially more worn than the back. Touching and annointment are important elements of Hindu icon worship, and clearly this image was touched often at some point in its history. Bronze icons were made for display and worship on shrine altars inside temples but were often displayed during temple processions as well, and were occasionally transported to different temple buildings on special occasions. Bronze casting reached an apex in India in the tenth century under the patronage of the Chola dynasty of Tamil Nadu. Although masterful bronzes were made in this area for several centuries thereafter, those made in the tenth century are particularly prized for their balance of organic and ornamental qualities.
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