This phallic representation of the god Shiva appears as a columnar head placed on a base with two rounded moldings on top of a series of square ones. His neck is fully cylindrical and the face is modeled on that cylinder. The eyes are wide open and a bow shaped eyebrow curves over them. He has a flared nose and luxuriant moustache over a narrow but full lips and a short ball like chin. A ‘U’ shaped element consisting of lines and a pearl motif probably represents his beard, perhaps held up in a tight net. His forehead is decorated with three raise lines that go straight across and his crown is basically flat over his hear decorated with a bunch of peak forms in the center with a finial surmounting the whole. His ears fan out almost like handles to a jar and are decorated with stylized arabesques. A five-headed snake hood rises behind the head and has a rib down its center and scale motives incised towards the bottom an ‘S’ shapes t denote the cobra ‘eyes’ to each side.
Artist Unknown, India, South India
19th century
Shiva is often worshipped in his aniconic form of the linga, a representation of the creative power of the phallus. Often the form is quite abstract, being a simple shaft with lines representing a formalized glans penis. But in many cases the shaft is decorated with a face of the god, mukha meaning head and can be seen as eka (one) or sometimes at catur (four) facing the cardinal directions: hence we find ekamukhalingas and caturmukhalingas as well as lingas that are totally plain. A snake hood acting as a canopy over the linga is also very common, adding sanctity to the image. Snake symbolism reflects ancient pre-Hindu religious practice and was absorbed into a number of religions that developed in India.
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel
Saturday, August 13, 2022