On View: Asian Galleries, Arts of South Asia, 2nd floor
The Hindu gods Brahma and Vishnu are depicted here flanking the god Shiva, who appears in the form of the lingam, his phallic emblem. The placement of the Shiva lingam in the center emphasizes the god’s importance. Shiva is a quintessentially masculine deity, symbolizing physical power, energy, and self-discipline. Despite Shiva’s defining role as Destroyer, however, he is also a physically powerful progenitor; the phallic symbol represents his ability to “inseminate” and provide the seeds for new creation. It is believed that the lingam offers a more evocative emblem of Shiva’s power than a figural representation of him could because human qualities would limit the viewer’s understanding of the god’s abstract yet generative potency.
early 8th century
7 5/16 × 6 5/16 × 2 3/8 in. (18.5 × 16 × 6 cm) (show scale)
A. Augustus Healy Fund and Asian Art Acquisition Fund
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Brahmanical Triad, early 8th century. Chlorite, 7 5/16 × 6 5/16 × 2 3/8 in. (18.5 × 16 × 6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund and Asian Art Acquisition Fund, 78.209. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 78.209_SL1.jpg)
overall, 78.209_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Brahma and Vishnu with personified attributes flank Shiva in lingam form. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva constitute the principle deities of Brahmanism. Traditionally, Brahma is considered to be the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Here, at left, the four-armed Brahma is shown as an ascetic Brahmin priest with matted locks and large hoop earrings, wearing monastic robes and carrying a staff and water pot in his left hands. Two geese are shown at his feet. At the center is a lingam, the phallic symbol of Shiva. To the right, stands four-armed Vishnu, accompanied by his personified attributes: the female to the right symbolizing the mace and the male to this left representing the wheel of law. He also carries the conch and lotus in his upper hands. A miniscule image of an earth goddess is shown between his feet.
Condition: The surface is abraded along the edges of the relief, but generally it remains in fine condition. The face of the left figure and his two left hands are void and the front of the lingam is rubbed. The top of the relief has been worn unevenly as is the base on which the deities stand, but there are no recent breaks or abrasions.
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