Durga Mahishasuramardini

DATE:
12th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Phyllite
CLASSIFICATION:
Sculpture
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 32 1/4 x 8 x 20 in. (81.915 x 20.32 x 50.8 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of Asia
LOCATION:
306 HINDU GALLERY
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund
COPYRIGHT:
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.
OBJECT NUMBER:
2009.17

General Description

The Hindu goddess Durga is a form of the Great Goddess, Shri Devi. Her title in this work means “destroyer of the buffalo demon.” The story of Durga destroying the buffalo demon, Mahisha, is one of the best known in India. Although Mahisha was a demon (asura), as a result of his per­ceived piety he was granted a boon by the god Brahma that no man or god could slay him. After a rampage that conquered both the heavens and the earth, the gods were dismayed until Durga, a warlike goddess of great strength, came to the rescue. Each of the gods gave her their weapons and power, so that she might triumph. This 12th-century sculpture from the Pala dynasty in eastern India shows Durga at the moment of slaying Mahisha. Wielding a mighty sword, while still holding all the weapons of the gods in multiple hands, she slices off the buffalo’s head. In a fountain of blood, the actual demon, in human form, emerges from the severed neck. Since she was neither man nor god, but rather a woman and goddess, she was able to rid the earth of Mahisha.

Adapted from

  • "Durga Mahishasuramardini," in_ Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ ed. Bonnie Pitman (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 101.

  • Frederick M. Asher and Anne R. Bromberg, "Durga Mahishasuramardini," in Anne R. Bromberg, The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Have: Yale University Press, 2013), 84.