Bhairava with consort

shiva kali vijayanagara

This is Bhairava, a form of Shiva, with his consort Bhairavi. Bhairava is holding sword, drum, trident and cup in his hands (starting from lower right hand clockwise). Bhairavi is holding sword and cup in her hands. Bhairavi is one of the Mahavidyas, a group of ten goddesses.

As is the convention, the goddess is shown only with two hands when accompanying god. When she is shown alone or with other Mahavidyas, Bhairavi will hold drum and trident as well.

Normally Bhairava and Bhairavi will display their ferocious (ugra) aspects. Here they are shown in their benevolent and boon giving moods. Appropriately, skull garland they normally wear is missing.

Similar bronze is published in T E Donaldson’s Siva Parvati and allied images (Volume I page 303 and Volume II Plate C-82, as well as on the cover). Donaldson identifies them as Uma and Shiva.

What is striking about this is the composition, right from prabhavali (back plate) to guards standing at multiple levels, is the creation of space.

Normally prabhavali from Deccan region (parts of Andhra and parts of Karnataka) will have kiritimuka, Makara or Naga hood. Here you have two Chauri (whisk) bearers framing a flat prabhavali. Unusual in a prabhavali from South India.

Half way to center in the top part of prabhavali you can see drum and trident, mirroring what Bhairava is holding. Not a common feature. The prabhavali is supported by lions at the bottom and extends beyond the base.

Now to the main portion. In front of the deities there are two guards, seated on horses and holding lances. One level below there are two more guards, these on foot, holding lances. Guards and not devotees? It looks like the deities are holding court (Durbar). Yet to see another bronze like this.

The creation of space and depth, through use of multiple levels and  placement of guards, gives us a real three dimensional sculpture. A true rarity among Indian bronzes.

Sometime when you see one-of-a-kind ( I presume) sculptures like this, you tend to think that we have lost learning something more about culture and history as the pieces have moved away their surroundings where they were created.

This is probably from Vijayanagar period (14th -16th century). The place of origin is, most likely, North Karnataka. Its height/width/depth is 12.8 cm/13 cm/7.8 cm.




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