This rare item from Rajasthan is a large cast brass box with a hinged cover designed to hold offerings to be taken to the temple. The offerings could be for the deities of even food to be presented to the temple staff and priests. It comprises the base and a hinged lid and is in the form of a life-sized version of the head of Ardhanarishvara, (Sanskrit: ‘Lord Who Is Half Woman’) – a composite male-female figure of Shiva and his consort Parvati, with an equal split down the middle.
One side of the face can be seen to be male (Shiva) and the other side is clearly female (Parvati) Accordingly, the face has a moustache over the figure’s right lip and the left lip is unadorned, but the nose on the left side sport’s a woman’s nose ring, and so on. Both ears have earrings but one is floral and for a woman, the other is typical of those that used to be worn by men in Rajasthan. The hair is beautifully delineated on both sides.
Ardhanarishvara symbolises that the male and female principles are inseparable, that totality lies beyond duality, and that there is duality in unity, the underlying principle of which is a sexual dualism.
The box has been beautifully cast and is in excellent condition. It is a rare and special item.