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Indian Bronze Shiva as Virabhadra

Western Deccan, India
Vijayanagar period, circa 16th century

height: 21.5cm, width: 11.5cm, weight: 1,091g



UK art market

This well-cast and good-sized image of Shiva as Virabhadra shows the deity standing beneath a cusped arch surmounted by Kirtimukha face. He holds weapons (a bow, an arrow and a sword) and a shield in his four hands, and wears a necklace of what are probably skulls. He has a tall, conical crown, and wears paduka sandals on his feet. These are particularly high – the detail of the padukas is an especially pleasing aspect of this fine bronze.

Daksha, whose human head was replaced with a ram’s head, stands on Virabhadra’s right, his hands in anjali mudra.

The figure to Virabhadra’s left probably is Bhadrakali, Virabhadra’s consort. She holds a sword and shield in sympathy with Virabhadra.

The group stand on a raised, rectangular plinth.

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.

Overall, this is a fine piece with obvious age and puja (prayer) wear. It is particularly well cast with Virabhadra’s pose and stand showing fine fluidity. The image is particularly three-dimensional in the round.


Jain-Neubauer, J., Feet & Footwear in Indian Culture, Bata Shoe Museum/Mapin, 2000.

Nagaswamy, R., Timeless Delight: South Indian Bronzes in the Collection of the Sarabhai Foundation, Sarabhai Foundation, 2006.

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

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