This brass-statue, the figure of a horrible looking four-armed goddess, a garland of severed human heads on the neck, girdle of dismembered human arms on the waist, trampling under her feet Lord Shiva lying upright, represents goddess Kali manifesting as Bhairavi, the consort of Bhairava – Lord Shiva in his ferocious manifestation. The figure of the goddess has been conceived with extra long thick hair – otherwise a woman’s beauty, that covering the entire back like a dark backdrop strikes with awe. A few of the locks of hair fall on the front, those on the right covering her breast, while those on the left, her shoulder and arms. The large circular halo composed of flower and bead patterns behind her head, otherwise majestic and artistically composed, being the part of the image’s total iconography, looks strange, if not fearful.
The four-armed goddess has been cast carrying in the upper left hand a suckle-like chopper, in the normal right, a bowl presumablt filled with fresh human blood, in the normal left, a decapitated demon head held by its hair, and the upper right, raised upwards gesticulating triumph or accomplishment of the objective. As Puranas perceived, the goddess’s anatomy has been conceived with a robust build, legs tall and strong, arms with well pronounced muscles, breasts large but not loosely hung as in Kali’s figures, and belly, a bit protruded. The image of the goddess has been conceived with a round face, well fed cheeks, half-shut eyes with well aligned eye-brows, sharp nose, arched forehead, elegant ears, subdued chin merged with circular face, and a heavier neck with less height, beautiful as these features are, except the lolling tongue that adds element of awe, look more like the aspects of Bhadrakali iconography, rather than Bhairavi.
Whatever the Puranic perception of Kali’s image and those of her other manifestations, the artist has sought to add to his image of Bhairavi aesthetic element and minimize crudeness. In most images it is just a string or cord to hang on her breast the severed human heads. In the statue it is totally different. Here it is a wide strip : fabricated of gold or any metal, or a knitted or woven textile on which these heads are appended. The strip looks like a stream, and heads, just floating over its surface. The garland has been aesthetically balanced with dismembered human hands laid around the waist. The suckle’s curved part has been used to align with the elevated apex of the crown that the goddess is wearing and the upright figure of Lord Shiva with legs mutually crossed looks like one comfortably sleeping. Unlike her form in texts as also in the tradition of art this image of the goddess reveals greater sublimity and aura.
Besides the figure of Lord Shiva under her feet along with his snakes, one held in his right hand, and another, guarding the goddess’s right foot, in the ‘Tri-netra’ reveal Shaivite links of the goddess.Her gait suggests that she is in a posture of dance with which she seeks to destroy. A popular tradition contends that once Kali, in whichever manifestation, is in act Shiva quietly retires. In statues in which Kali overwhelms Shiva and tramples him under her feet Shiva is usually represented : prone or upright, as completely inactive, as in this statue. Though her nudity is covered by her ornaments, usually the girdle of severed arms, Kali in any form is traditionally unclad. The goddess stands on the body of Shiva who lies upright on a rectangular pedestal. Lord Shiva is in his usual iconographic aspect : ‘jata-juta’ – matted hair, ‘tri-netra’ – third eye, ‘tri-punda’, the auspicious mark on the forehead, the tiger-skin’s loincloth and a snake in hand.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books. .