House facade ornament: singa
- Toba Batak people
- 19th–20th century
This relief dates from the late 11th or 12th centuries. The four-armed male deity carved on the central projection of the relief holds a rosary and a lotus in his right hands, and a port and a mace in his left hands. Beyond pillars that flank the main figure and frame the niche stands a pair of female attendants. The two seated figures at the top of the relief, above the mouths of crocodile-like figure knows as makaras, have their long hair pulled back in the sort of bun sages often wear. Sculptures like this, produced prolifically for medieval temples, served both a narrative and iconic function, engaging and enriching the experience of worship.
Although earlier temples were rather simple, with relatively few figures confined in niches, a change occurred about the beginning of the 9th century over a wide area of northern India. At that time we begin to see elaborate temples with multiple shrines arranged longitudinally and a profusion of figures projecting from the temple surface. This relief would have been part of the temple exterior, one of myriad figures whose precise identity is often difficult to ascertain.
Frederick Asher, "Relief of a male deity," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 57.