Figure of Durga slaying the Buffalo-demon

On display

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  • Catalogue text

    In spite of its small size, this is a notable bronze in its own right, while showing a further development the iconography of images depicting Durgā slaying the asura Mahiṣa, the demon buffalo [see EAOS.64]. The body of the buffalo, although brought to its knees, is horizontal, and its head has been cut off. Through the gaping hole in the neck there emerges the asura (demon) in human form, to be dispatched by Durgā’s trident. Asuras were capable of assuming various forms, human as well as animal, and there is textual authority for the final emergence of the demon as a man from the slain buffalo.

    The goddess has sixteen arms. Already in the 5th century, famous rock-cut image shows her with ten, and the number of arms of some Indian images tends to increase with the centuries. They are particularly necessary in the case of Durgā slaying Mahiṣa, so as to accommodate the panoply of weapons and symbols provided by the gods for her combat. Prominent among them are Viṣṇu’s most customary emblems, the conch shell and the discus, here shown as a ring. The lion, near the buffalo’s hindquarters, has joined in the fray while Durgā, as so often in images of the Goddess in ugra (angry) form, wears a beautiful smile.

Further reading

Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987), no. 62 on p. 51, illus. p. 51

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