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Analysis of a Pala–Sena Metal Durga Mahishasuramardini Shrine

This article analyses the composition, structure and style of a unique sculptural masterpiece from medieval northeast India—a metal shrine of the Hindu goddess Durga killing the buffalo demon Mahishasura (Fig. 1). According to the Hindu tradition, the demon had terrorized the universe and created an existential threat to the gods. He had already defeated them individually, and was only overcome when they fused together to form Durga, who embodied all of their various powers. As the demon crept up on her in the guise of the buffalo, Durga, her multiple arms each bearing a different weapon, decapitated the beast and, grabbing the demon by his hair as he emerged from the buffalo’s neck, speared him in the chest. In the task of dispatching the demon, Durga is typically assisted by her lion vahana (‘vehicle’), which, in different versions, bites either the demon’s elbow, knee, toe or buttocks.

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July/August 2020
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