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    Indian Brass Virabhadra Plaque

    India, probably Karnataka
    18th-19th century

    height: approx. 25cm



    private collection, UK.

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This fine Virabhadra plaque cast in brass shows much attention to detail.

    Virabhadra, an incarnation of Shiva, was created after Shiva’s wife, Sati, was not invited to a great sacrifice given by her father Daksha. Sati, being greatly humiliated, went to the banquet and threw herself on the sacrificial fire. When Shiva heard of his wife’s death, he tore a hair from his head and threw it to the ground. Virabhadra, a great hero-warrior, arose from this hair. He cut off Daksha’s head in his rage and hurled it into the sacrificial fire. After the other gods calmed Shiva down, Daksha’s head was replaced by that of a goat or in this case, a ram. Daksha later became a devotee of Shiva.

    Virabhadra is shown in this plaque with four hands in which he holds a bow, an arrow or a staff, a sword and a shield. The sword is constructed from a separate piece of cast brass that has been applied, as has the rectangular shield. Both these jut out from the plaque in relief.

    Virabhadra wears a striped dhoti and ample jewellery. A further dagger is slipped into his waist belt. He wears paduka shoes on his feet. Severed heads adorn each side of his legs.

    He stands under a leafy arch topped by a hooded cobra head.

    On each side of the cobra head is sun and a crescent moon motif.

    Daksha, whose human head was replaced with a ram’s head, stands on Virabhadra’s right, his hands in anjali mudra. Daksha’s original head most likely is one (or all) of the heads that now adorn Virabhadra’s legs.

    To Virabhadra’s left is an elevated figure of Ganesh.

    The plaque has a good, varying, dark patina.


    Pal, P., Art from the Indian Subcontinent: Asian Art at the Simon Norton Museum, Volume 1, Yale University Press, 2003.

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