5th – 6th century, Gupta or post-Gupta period
Height: 63 cm
The god Śiva, who can adopt various forms (mūrti), appears here in his fundamental aspect. This is the liṅgaṃ, whose shape describes the god’s erect, stylised sex, a symbol of his creative power. The god’s face is calm and meditative. The locks of hair arranged in a bun recall the hairstyle of ascetics (jaṭāmukuṭa). Some locks cascade behind ears adorned with imposing curls. The meditative expression is reflected in the sensitive treatment of the eyes, whose half-closed eyelids are topped by delicately arched eyebrows. His third eye is still visible and he is wearing a necklace of malan rudraksa, gracefully emphasising the features of the three folds of beauty on his neck. The features are still a little heavy, reflecting the heritage of the Kushan period, while the pink sandstone evokes the art of Mathura. Finally, there is the gentle humanity so appreciated in Gupta sculpture.
Installed in a sanctuary of a Hindu temple dedicated to Śiva, the liṅgaṃwas used mainly by Brahmin priests who performed rituals in honour of the god, as the ultimate creator of the world. A liṅgaṃof this size could have been worshipped as the cult image of a Shiva temple.
Provenance : Former English private collection, then collection of Jeremy Knowles since May 1st 2008 (London).