Kartavirya (?)


This eight-armed folk bronze inspires awe. It is not somebody who you will mess with, definitely not intentionally.

Kartavirya left

On the left, he is holding three swords and an arrow. Two of the attributes on his right side are missing.  In other hands, he is holding a bow and an elephant goad.

One of the unusual features is the way the arms are radiating at the elbow.  Normally you see the arms separating at the shoulder or attached to the upper arm.

The three-leafed crown, in addition to suggesting the regal nature of the warrior, gives us clues as to the place of origin.

This bronze is possibly Kartavirya Arjuna. The mythology is Kartavirya, the thousand-armed king, stole Kamadhenu the wish-granting cow from Jamadagni, Parasurama’s father. In retaliation, Parasurama cut-off Kartavirya’s thousand arms and killed him.  Miniature paintings of Kartavirya battling Parasurama are not uncommon. Quite a number of the paintings show the Kartavirya’s arms radiating out at the elbow.

This bronze is possibly from Central India/Orissa area. The three-leafed crown, the material and the neck-wears support the attribution. It is about 11.5 cm in height. This may not be earlier than the twentieth century.

3 Aug 2019: B N Aryan Curator of Museum of Folk and Tribal art, suggested that this bronze could be from Himachal Pradesh, as the crown is typical of Himachal Pradesh.

26 Oct 2021: Finally managed to buy a miniature painting of Kartavirya and Parasurama fighting. Parasurama is identified by the axe in his hand and his blue coloured skin. The painting is 11.5 cm by 11 cm.

According to Kanha Vyas, through FB pages, this painting is from Jodhpur School and belongs to the Mansingh period (late 18th century). Thanks.


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