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, the aniconic pillar symbol emblematic of the Hindu god Shiva, symbolizes his essential generative powers. Here, the form is phallic, addorsed with Shiva’s face in a style reflecting iconographic innovations of the region as well as inherited design conventions from fifth-and sixth-century Gupta north India. The Shahi kingdom flourished in eastern Afghanistan only from the seventh to the ninth century, yet it produced a highly distinctive corpus of Hindu religious imagery. Typically sculpted in white marble, these works reflect links east, most notably to Kashmir for Shaiva imagery, and west, as seen in the flying locks of hair inspired by Sasanian royal imagery.