Shiva as Mahesha
Not on view
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.