Shiva as Mahesha




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.’