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Poorna Shiva, or Shiva the Absolute

Poorna Shiva, or Shiva the Absolute
Item Code: XE89
White Marble Sculpture
14.5 inch X 8.5 inch X 4.5 inch
8.25 kg
This magnificent marble statue, a saint-like poised figure with divine quiescence on his face, represents a form of Shiva with which he is often meditated on and is vested with in scriptures and worship traditions but hardly ever visually realised, not at least in ancient or medieval art. This form, which assimilates aspects of Vishnu and Brahma and in which his own image completely transforms, might be classified as Poorna Shiva or Shiva the Absolute. Different from Sadashiva, a form contextual to time denoting that he is beyond time : an entity ever present the time scaling it in him, Poorna Shiva is his absolute image, an all-accomplishing form, anything taking place being his act. The artist seems to have packed into the image the totality of the divine role related to creation, sustaining or annihilation, that is, a role he does not accomplish as one of the aspects of Great Tri-Murti but himself being Tri-Murti. Apart, modeled to reflect a benign saint the image also assimilates in it the entire divine role that any of Tri-Murti has ever accomplished in any of his various human births.

A form conceived with ‘tri-netra’ – third eye, ‘jata-juta’ – matted hair, river Ganga emerging from his coiffure, snake crawling around his apex, crescent adorning his head, another snake – a larger one with its hood majestically raised, enshrining his neck and shoulder, a lace of large size stone beads on his breast and the bands of similar beads on arms and wrists, a tiger skin, his mattress, and tiny figure of his mount Nandi, his emblem, quietly resting around his feet, the statue represents a more accomplished form of Lord Shiva. What distinguishes this image from his other forms is the absence of his most characteristic attribute trident as also his ‘damaru’ – double drum, his instruments of annihilation. The flames of fire that sometimes associate his image have been alternated here with rays of divine light radiating from his luminous halo.

Though always with a face endowed with the child-like innocence and hence Bholenatha – the Innocent Lord being one of his epithets, Shiva is basically the embodiment of act and his images are invariably operative. Visual arts have innovated hundreds of his forms but a form like Vishnu reclining on the serpent Shesha or Brahma like lotus seated is not known to have ever emerged in his imagery. In this image he is seated in absolute ease, a posture defined in the iconographic tradition as ‘lalitasana’, though instead of revealing beauty that the ‘lalitasana’ does this image reveals grace and ease. The artist seems to have taken this form from the images of Shirdi’s Sai who is invariably sculpted as seated in the similar position on a rock now consecrated in an independent chamber at Shirdi’s Sai temple. Some of Sai’s devotees revere him as an incarnation of Shiva. Maybe, this kind of mindset inspired the artist to seek his image of Shiva in the image of Shiva’s incarnate as also in him his humanized saintly demeanour.

The image’s right hand held in ‘abhaya’ and the ‘kamandala’ – pot with handle and spout, carried in the left, not known to have ever been the aspects of Shiva’s iconography, are the elements that the artist has added to this image with a definite mind. “Abhaya’ is an element of Vishnu’s iconography and an aspect of sustainer-protector that is Vishnu, not Shiva’s, the annihilator. ‘Kamandala’, an essential attribute of Brahma, is an instrument of yajna and ritual performance, not of the destroyer of yajna. By adding these aspects with the image of Shiva the artist has on one hand merged the roles of Vishnu and Brahma in Shiva, and on the other, has transformed the annihilator into the sustainer-protector and the yajna-performer. The image has been conceived to represent in Shiva the aggregate of Tri-Murti. Elegantly sculpted the image is unparalleled in aesthetic beauty.

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.

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