Durga (Mardhini)

This ten-armed Mahishasuramardini ( The slayer of the demon Mahisha) is portrayed in the act.

Here Mahisha, who had taken the form of a Buffalo, is emerging out of the Buffalo’s body after Mardini severed the buffalo’s head. Mardhini’s left foot is resting on the buffalo. The buffalo head is lying between Mahisha and the lion, Mardini’s vahana. Mahisha is in the act of drawing his long sword to confront Mardini. The lion is attacking Mahisha, whereas Mardini is serenely looking towards her devotees and her Trishul finds its mark, Mahisha’s chest.

Though the Vigraha is still sharp, not all attributes in her hands are discernible. According to Dr S K Mahapatra, ‘Mahishasuramardini in Art, Iconography and Cult Practices‘, there are, at least, ten different texts that prescribe her attributes. Prescribed attributes do not overlap, hence guessing the attributes is not an option.  The mythology as to how Mardini got the attributes may be found in another blog on this site.

On her left, next to Mahisha, is two-armed Karthikeya riding his vahana, a peacock. According to Bengal tradition, Karthikeya is one of Mardhini’s children. Other children are Ganesha, Saraswathi and Lakshmi. For more information on this see another blog on Mardhini.

Below is a comparison of the Mardhini with one from Odisha. Similar in composition and yet different.

Following the theme, similar in composition and yet different, below is a comparison with a Durga in the British Museum (the one on our left) and it is attributed to the Punjab region, now in Pakistan. The museum number is 1959,1118.1 and it is dated to the 12th/13th century.

This vigraha is about 14 cm in height. It is from the Bengal region. The five-leafed tiara with a central protrusion and her son, Karthikeya, accompanying her are the indicators. This may date to the 17th or 18th century.


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