Standing Three-Headed Shiva
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Standing Three-Headed Shiva
Work Type
sculpture, figure
Karakota period, circa 700-900
Creation Place: South Asia, India, Kashmir
Karakota period, c. 7th-9th centuries
Level 2, Room 2590, South Asian Art, South Asia in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras
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Physical Descriptions
Dark gray chlorite
66.7 x 25.2 x 11.4 cm (26 1/4 x 9 15/16 x 4 1/2 in.)
[Spink and Son Ltd., London, (by 1989-1990)] sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1990.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane Fund for the Acquisition of Oriental Art
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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.
Publication History

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

32Q: 2590 South and Southeast Asia, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

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This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at