Gum tempera and gold on paper
20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of Nancy and Wayne Hunnicutt 2020.431
This Devi painting is from a series made in the Pahari Kingdom of Mandi. The CMA also has another from the same series, 2014.650.
Showing her utter superiority over the male god, the blue-skinned goddess, Devi, lunges with fangs bared and tongue lolling on the supine body of Shiva, stretched on a burning pyre. In one hand she holds the sword she used to decapitate the demon whose head she triumphantly grasps in her left hand. In the other two hands she holds shears and a noose. Her garment is a tiger skin; her garland consists of severed heads; and her torque is a cobra. As the personification of divine energy—shakti in Sanskrit—Devi appears active, while the male principle, personified as her consort Shiva, is like a corpse (shava).
The scene is set in a cremation ground, complete with body parts, jackals, and bones. Contemplation of paintings such as this assists followers in overcoming fear of death. In this image, the dead body is overlaid with the dual principles of the divine in Hindu thought: male and female, passive and active, matter and energy, light and dark, and Shiva and Shakti in the copulative act of generating new creation even in the context of death and dismemberment.
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