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This unusual rectangular (almost square) plaque of the god Virabhadra shows the deity with two arms in which he holds a sword and a shield. He stands beneath a protective naga head and all beneath an arch.
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 is Bhadrakali, Virabhadra’s consort. Her hands also are in anjali mudra.
A nandi and lingham adorn the upper sections of the plaque.
Virabhadra’s clothing and ornaments are shown in some detail. He has chest ornaments, earrings, a tiered crown, a skull necklace that falls between his legs, and anklets.
Unusually, the plaque is pierced all over with small, round holes. Possibly, these are to permit small flowers to be inserted as offerings.
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, unusual piece with good puja (prayer) wear. Most probably it adorned a household shrine or a small shrine within a temple.
Pal, P., Art from the Indian Subcontinent: Asian Art at the Simon Norton Museum, Volume 1, Yale University Press, 2003.