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Yoga: The Art of Transformation

The five-faced Shiva
approx. 1730–1740
India; Himachal Pradesh state, former kingdom of Mandi
Opaque watercolor on paper

Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Given by Col. T. G. Gayer-Anderson and Maj. R. G. Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, IS 239–1952

Sadashiva represents a high level of the universe in which there are no distinctions among person, body, and world. By meditating on Sadashiva, devotees aim to achieve this essential oneness with the deity.

Sadashiva’s five faces (here, the fifth is hidden behind the others, and the fourth sits atop the rest) signify five streams of knowledge. His other attributes are a third eye, an ascetic’s garb, and, clockwise from top right, a mace, conch shell, discus or noose, lotus, shield, snake, sword, skull cup, drum, and trident.