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7. Shiva Jnana Dakshinamurti
India, Tamil Nadu, Vijayanagar
15th century
Bronze, cast in the lost wax method
Height: 13cm
Shiva Jnana Dakshinamurti

Shiva, the powerful Hindu god of destruction and creation, appears in this fine sculpture as the Supreme Teacher, known as Jnana Dakshinamurti. Jnana means wisdom and dakshina means grace; only through Shiva’s infinite wisdom and grace one can attain supreme knowledge and be liberated from the bondage of the phenomenal world. The god is seated on his sacred mountain Kailash represented by a stylized rock design placed on a rectangular throne.

A snake and a crescent moon embellish his beautiful coiffure of matted locks, curling locks of hair fall onto his shoulders, and on his forehead he bears a third eye. Emphasizing his ascetic nature, the god is adorned with flowers above his ears, necklaces, bracelets and ornaments, and the yajnopavita is shown diagonally across his torso. The two earrings consist of a small kirthimukha ornament and a circular ring. His right leg crushes the childlike dwarf apasmara purusha, who symbolizes ignorance, and his left foot is raised on his right knee. The four-armed Shiva, surrounded by his vehicle Nandi and by four rishi figures, holds a naga and a flaming torch in his raised hands, and holds his lower hands in lola and jnanahasta, the teaching gesture.

The Vijayanagar empire, established in 1336 and lasting till 1646 CE, emerged from Chola traditions. Characterized by a high level of casting and artistic conviction, the bronzes of the period are among the finest works southern India produced. This small but extremely fine image of Shiva bears the typical characteristics of the period and is distinguished by the detailed casting of every element – each exquisitely rendered. Shiva is depicted in a convincing solid posture beautifully contrasting with the movement of his legs and arms, enhancing his appearance as the Supreme Teacher.

Collection Dr. J. R. Belmont (1896-1981), Basel, before 1967. Collection John F. Keane, 1967-1973.
Collection Günter Heil, 1973-1989. Private collection, Germany, 1989-2016.

Sotheby's, London, 27-02-1967, lot nr. 77.

P. Pal, The Sensuous Immortals, a selection of sculptures from the Pan Asian Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1977, pp. 133-135.
C. Sivaramamurti, South Indian Bronzes, New Delhi, India, 1981, fig. 93a.
B. N. Goswamy, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Essence of Indian Art, no 214, p. 263.

all text, images © Marcel Nies
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