The Goddess Durga Slaying the Buffalo Demon (Durga Mahishasura Mardini)
India (Himachal Pradesh, probably Chamba Valley)
H. 22 1/2 in. (57.2 cm); W. 13 in. (33 cm); D. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm)
Funds from various donors, 2008
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 238
Functioning as an altar shrine, complete with a lustration basin, this icon depicts the goddess Durga in the act of conquering the buffalo demon Mahishasura. Durga crushes the beast with her foot and impales him with her trident, whereupon the demon reveals himself in anthropomorphic form and pleads for mercy. In each of her eight arms, Durga holds a weapon lent to her by the male gods expressly for this task. This shrine, with its distinctive temple towers, evokes the architecture of Himachal Pradesh, as does the lotus-petal nimbus framing the goddess’s head, a motif specific to imagery of the Chamba Valley region.