India - Chola Period

The art of India is influenced by religion and philosophy. India is a country in which three of the world's major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, are practiced, which influences the art of the region. This Hindu sculpture depicts the god Shiva and his companion or consort, Parvati, dancing. Shiva, a major deity in Hindu religion, is the god of both destruction and rejuvenation. When Shiva and Parvati are shown together, as in this sculpture, they symbolize the blessing of marital happiness and unity. How does dancing still hold significance and meaning in our lives today?

Although people were able to see representations of their gods as decoration on the outside of religious buildings, sculptures such as the one seen here, were the first sacred artifacts seen by people outside of the temple. Most of the time, they were only seen by the temple priests inside the private, innermost chambers of the temple. However the rings at the bottom of this object allowed temple priests to carry the sculpture in religious ceremonies. Therefore, the common people were able to see their deities and the deities were able to see their devotees. At all times, the sculpture was elaborately decorated with jewels and flowers, such as marigolds. Priests poured gold infused water and milk over the sculpture to serve as a ritual washing.

Shiva and Parvati, 1200/1299 CE
Unidentified Maker, India
(Chola Period)

Copper alloy
15 inches H; 12 1/4 inches W; 6 inches D
Museum purchase in honor of David T. Owsley

World Events

3000 BCE Hinduism becomes the major religion of India.

118-125 CE The Pantheon is constructed in Rome.

220 CE The Han Dynasty in China comes to an end.

720 CE Islamic Caliphate invades India; Islam practiced in India.

1325 The Aztec civilization founds Tenochtitlan, modern day Mexico City.

1617 British East India Company is given permission to trade in India.


Shiva is often depicted in Hindu art with multiple limbs and a third eye on his forehead to represent his all-seeing and supernatural powers.


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