Panchayatna (Saivite)

This is standing Shiva and Parvathi. Shiva is identified by the drum and Trishul in his rear hands. Identification of Parvathi is by association.

Shiva’s lower right hand is in Abhaya mudra (Protection) and his lower left hand is holding Parvathi by her lower back. Unusual display of intimacy for a folk Vigraha.

This Vigraha is interesting on many counts.

Normally the female consort is smaller than the male figure (Dasa Tala Vs Nav Tala). But not in this case and Parvathi is as tall as Shiva and definitely holding that position.

On the pedestal, there is Ganesha, Nandi, Linga, a Cobra and a rooster. In this case, the rooster represents Karthikeya, the second son of Shiva and Parvathi. I understand the tradition in Maharashtra is women are not allowed to worship Karthikeya. A way to get around that tradition is to replace Karthikeya with his Vahana, a rooster.

Some, especially in the Maharashtra region, call this group Panchyatna. Originally Panchyatna concept was introduced to counter sectarianism. Panchayatna referred to the group Ganesha, Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Sakthi. Now the term has come to mean any grouping of Gods.

Incidentally, this group Shiva, Parvathi, Ganesha and Karthikeya is the only family of Gods that is worshipped together.

Parvathi is holding an offering plate. It looks like it is meant for the Linga on the pedestal. It is interesting that while standing next to Shiva, Parvathi is making an offering to Linga, the aniconic form of Shiva.

This Vigraha is about 14 cm in height and it is from Maharashtra, The folk bronzes tend not to be very old and the practice of melting damaged Vigrahas to salvage metal is a lot more common in rural areas. This may be dated to the nineteenth century.

Note: An example of Panchayatna, a painting in my collection, is below. So far I have not come across a bronze group depicting the traditional Panchayatna. An interesting aspect is Vishnu is replaced by Radha and Krishana, as some sects see Vishnu and Krishna as one and the same.

Note 4 July 2022: According to Vithal C Nadkarni “

This is a straightforward Panchayatana ….I have seen similar iconography in many such examples from the Maharashtra-Karnataka region. This Panchayatana consists not of the Shiva family but of Siva/ Devi/Ganesha/Vishnu and Surya.

The cobra stands for Ananta/Vishnu/ Ganesha too is on the base as is the Nandi. The Surya is on the lintel/Prabhavali along with the moon and the trishul-bearer Shiva is flanked by Annapurna (Devi) with her plate of eternity or cornucopia (akshaya thal/patra). ”


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