Harihara Sadashiva

India, Himachal Pradesh, Mandi

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 693

In this extraordinary visualization of Shiva, the god is shown in his syncretic ascetic form, or Harihara Sadashiva, which combines in one body the attributes of Shiva (Hara) and Vishnu (Hari). He is understood conceptually to have five heads and ten arms; the attributes of Shiva are arrayed to the left, and those of Vishnu to the right. He wears a garland of severed heads and a leopard-skin waist cloth. His ascetic nature is further signaled by his braided dreadlocks, his garland of leaves from the hallucinogenic datura plant (sacred to Shiva), and his eyes, which are cast upward in a yogic trance. The painter’s patron, Raja Sidh Sen (r. 1684–1727) of the hill kingdom of Mandi, was renowned as a devotee of Shiva. His intense personal identification suggests that this powerful representation may reflect the raja’s own physique.

Harihara Sadashiva, Opaque watercolor and ink on paper, India, Himachal Pradesh, Mandi

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