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One of the most striking characteristics of the Hindu religion is the importance of goddesses. Fertility goddesses were an important component of early Indian nature cults and were eventually assimilated into the symbolic repertoire of late Indian religious art. The prototype for the female torso was the damaru, the waisted hourglass-shaped drum held by the god Shiva. Following such models specified in ancient texts, sculptors produced an idealized form with narrow waist, broad hips, high, rounded breasts, shapely arms elongated to resemble the slender pliant bamboo shoot, and eyes modeled on the lotus petal or the fish. These young, beautiful, sensuous figures personify fertility, maternity, and Indian ideals of feminine beauty.

In the Hindu religion, Parvati, the goddess of the Himalayas, is the archetypal mother goddess and fertility image. She is the consort of Shiva and the mother to Ganesha and Skanda. In this role, she benevolently mediates between the worshipper and the divine. Standing in tribhanga (thrice-bent) pose, the graceful divinity is represented as an ideal beauty. She wears a tall conical headdress with a chakra (wheel of light) in the back that functions as a halo. Her diaphanous skirt with jeweled belt emphasizes her shapeliness. This delicate bronze would have been placed inside a temple, probably alongside an image of Shiva. During temple festivals, the sculpture would have been carried in a religious procession so that devotees could see and engage with the deity.


(N. V. Hammer, Inc., New York);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1969.