Standing Three-Headed Shiva

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Standing Three-Headed Shiva, Karakota period, circa 700-900
, Figure
8th-9th century
Karakota period, c. 7th-9th centuries
Creation Place: Kashmir, India
Dark gray chlorite
66.7 x 25.2 x 11.4 cm (26 1/4 x 9 15/16 x 4 1/2 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane Fund for the Acquisition of Oriental Art
, 1990.1
Label text from exhibition “Re-View,” an overview of objects drawn from the collections of Harvard Art Museums, 26 April 2008 – 1 July 2013; label text written by Kim Masteller, Assistant Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art:

Standing Three-Headed Shiva
India, Kashmir, Karakota period, 8th–9th century
Dark gray chlorite
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane Fund for the Acquisition of Oriental Art, 1990.1

In the early centuries of the medieval period, Kashmir was a flourishing center of Hindu and Buddhist practices where several cults developed, including localized forms of Shaivism, the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. This work depicts a common icon in the Kashmiri Shaivite tradition, a three-headed form of Shiva known as Maheshvara (great lord). His smooth, rounded form, squat proportions, and flattened features closely resemble the artistic style that developed just before and during the rule of the Kashmiri king Avantivarman (r. c. 855–83). Kashmir was at the cross¬roads between India and the provincial Hellenistic region of Gandhara to the north. The suggestion of musculature in Shiva’s torso reveals the lingering influence of Gandharan styles upon Kashmiri art.
A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, Spring 2000), p. 7

Exhibition History
Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/26/2008 - 06/01/2013