Linga with Face of Shiva (Ekamukhalinga)

Period: Shahi period

Date: 9th century

Culture: Afghanistan

Medium: White marble

Dimensions: H. 22 7/16 in. (57 cm); W. 13 3/16 in. (33.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1980

Accession Number: 1980.415


The linga (phallic emblem of Shiva) symbolizes the great generative force of the universe. It is usually the most sacred object in a temple dedicated to Shiva and is housed in the main sanctum. When plain (simply phallic), the linga represents Shiva in his most abstract form. In this example, Shiva's face has emerged from the central shaft. He is adorned with earrings and a necklace and his hair is worn in a double bun with a crescent moon on one of the buns.

This sculpture was made during the short-lived Shahi kingdom (seventh—ninth century) of eastern Afghanistan, which produced a small number of extraordinary sculptures. They were carved in a distinctive white marble and their style derived from sculptural traditions of northern India and Kashmir.