Shiva as Mahesha, Chola period, 10th century, granite. Tamil Nadu, India.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
guidance from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
‘This statue is part of a group of unusual large stone carvings in the round from the Chola period.
They all portray the same deity, long identified as Brahma but now thought to be Mahesha, a form of Shiva.
Shiva’s worshipers believe that he manifests himself in three stages, which move from the abstract to the concrete—
symbolized by the undecorated linga (shaft);
the linga with one or more faces emerging from it;
and, finally, Mahesha. From him are born the other two great Hindu gods, Brahma and Vishnu.
Mahesha is shown here with four faces:
on the right is Brahma; in the center, Shiva; on the left, Vishnu;
and on the back, Rudra (possibly the predecessor of Shiva).
The attributes associated with Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu are on their respective sides.’