Luxury Design, Past & Present
North Eastern India or Bangladesh
Circa 10th/11th century, Pala dynasty
40 x 18 in. [100.3 x 45.7 cm]
Ex-Collection Wasim Zaman, Waltham, MA, USA before 2001
In this marvelous sculpture we see the three-headed, six-armed, pot-bellied deity standing in alidha position, treading upon the heads of two prostrate male figures, both with small-pox marks on their bodies. The attributes in her six hands, clockwise are an elephant-goad, an arrow, a thunderbolt, a leafy branch, a bow, and the threatening gesture (tarjani mudra). She wears a skirt tied with a girdle of leaves (hence her name: parna-shavari). The five transcendent Buddhas, Amoghasiddhi in the middle, are shown on top. An animal-headed male figure is running away at her proper right, and a two-armed female figure riding a donkey (Shitala, the deity of small pox) is shown disappearing at her proper left. Interestingly a two-armed elephant-headed image crawling below the lotus seat of the goddess holding a sword and shield is shown defeated by the goddess. Although often identified as the Hindu deity Ganesha, in this instance this curious figure most likely personifies vighna or obstacle.
Few examples of this extremely rare subject are known, and fewer still of the quality of this beautiful work. One other image, strikingly similar is in the collection of the National Museum of Bangladesh, illustrated in ‘Ganesh the benevolent’ (Marg Publications, 1995) as fig. 7 on page 73 [scan attached]. One can easily see the similarities between these two powerful and graceful works, down to each minute detail of the secondary and tertiary figures in both compositions. Most definitely the same workshop created both splendid images of this fierce goddess.