Dhulikhel, Nepal, gray limestone, 12th century, Object SS 808, 62.4 cm
The image of the divine couple. Uma-Mahesvara, has been one of the most popular themes among Nepalese stone sculptors for more than a thousand years. It depicts Shiva (Mahesvara) sharing his throne with Parvati (Uma), his spouse, in their abode on Mount Kailash surrounded by family. attendants, and other dieties.
In this example, Shiva is seated in the typical lalitasana pose, his left leg resting on the seat, his right Ieg pendant. He gently caresses Uma with one of his hands. In his upper right hand he holds a strand of his own hair onto which Ganga, the river goddess, pours water from her folded hands.
The bull Nandi, Shiva's mount, peers between him and one of his sons. Karttikeya. who is holding a lance. Shiva's other son, the elephant-headed Ganesah, leads a troupe of ganas who make merry for the divine couple. The top of the relief is shaded by a huge parasol flanked by symbols of the sun and the moon.
Nepal, 17th-18th century,Stone, Object SS 53, 27.5cm
Shiva in his fearful aspect as Bhairab (Bhairava) can inspire terror with just his face or head-as in this sculpture with three glaring eyes, bushy eyebrows, bristling serpent-bound hair, and two enormous serpent ear ornaments. Such images are common in Nepal but usually are made of wood or metal, or are painted representations. One of the most impressive heads is the huge gilt repousse image known as Seto (White) Bhairab enshrined at Hanuman Dhoka in the Kathmandu Darbar Square.
Among the many frightful forms Shiva assumes as the cosmic destroyer of Ignorance and evil, Bhairab (Bhairava) is the most popular in Nepal. In fact, he enjoys the status of a deity in his own right. In this awe-inspiring sculpture, the scowling two-headed avenger, ornamented with serpents and skulls, wields numerous weapons (most now missing) against a pair of demons trampled underfoot. Two more figure, naked and bearing skull cups, crawl beneath the carpted pedestal. Dancing beside the god are the guardians "Singhini" and "Baghini" (Sinhavaktra and Vyaghravaktra), popular Lion- and Tiger-headed demigods assimilated from the Buddhist pantheon. The god dances within a flame-encircled shrine, framed by columns bearing an elaborate arch. At the apex is the winged Garuda, the sunbird, clutching a pair of humanized serpents in his talons. On top of the columns are sea monsters (makaras).
It is not known which particular form of Bhairava this image represents. Traditionally, there are sixty four. each identified by have. But in Nepal there are many more, some of which appear to be Iocal formes.
Nepal,13th-14th century, Bronze traces of gilt., semi-precious stones, Object 509, 19.5 cm
Although seated as a loving couple these are in fact wrathful aspects as denoted by Shiva,s contracted brow, skull and serpent ornantents, and by the serpents and skull cups the deities hold in their hands.The bronze is a superb example of Nepalese metalcraft.
Nepal, 17th-18th Century, Stone, Object SS 659, 54.5 cm (without tenon)
This Shivalinga bears four busts differentiated by coifffure, crowns.and other insignia. Each represents a subtle aspect of the god. South is the dread Bhairava, a fearsome form of Shiva. His expression is calm but he wears an identifying serpent earring and displays a cresent moon, an attribute of Shiva, in his curls. East is Mahadeva and West is an aspect named Nandin. This name is applied not only to Shiva's mount the Bull but to Shiva himself. Opposite Bhairava is a Nepali interpretation of the northern face: half represent, Shiva, the other half, his spouse, Uma. Known as Ardha-narishvara (the Lord Who Is Half Woman), such joined images of the two deities are popular in Nepal.
As is typical of Nepalese "face lingas" the four carved aspects all carry the primary emblems of the Hindu yogi: a rosary composed of sacred seeds from the rudraksha tree and a hand-carried water vessel.
Although referred to as four faced (chaturmukha), this and all "four-faced" lingas are understood to be five-faced (panchamukha) because an invisible fifth on the top faces the zenith.