11th-12th centuries
H. 59 cm

360° view




A skilfully composed battle scene

Sculpted in very high relief, this sculpture with openwork motifs represents a combat scene between a Vyāla and a small character. The Vyāla is a mythical animal, widely represented in India, and is a graceful-looking creature.

Its piercing gaze, its powerful jaw and its tail ending in a flame are all elements that contribute to the ferocity that emanates from this animal. The details of its mouth are strongly protruding, thus contributing to the vigour of the representation.

The contorted, curved body of this Vyāla wears a pearl necklace and its mane is clearly visible. The animal appears to be in motion, its position is dynamic, arched and proud. It seems to be fighting with the figure present, whose hand is in the animal’s jaw, while it seems to be struggling. This position also gives it a very graceful, almost dancing movement and makes it look as if it too is participating in the fight.


The Vyāla, emblem of the Indian fantasy repertoire

This piece is typical of the architectural reliefs that adorned Indian temples in medieval times. Often placed in the recesses of the walls outside the temples, the Vyāla reliefs also supported cornices. Their prophylactic function, brings protection to the faithful when they perform their ritual tour of the temple. A symbol of royalty and strength, this characteristic iconography would have adorned a pillar of a mandapa – a hall with columns – or a Hindu temple gallery.


A refined aesthetic magnifying religious architecture

Carved in very high relief, this Vyāla is a fine example of the ornamental sculpture of the period. The work gives an impression of fluidity and ease in the movements of its protagonists. This impression is reinforced by the play of light and shadow provided by the high relief and the openings, which bring contrast and vigour to the scene. We admire the undulating gestures that perfectly convey the power of the animal and the great agility of the character.