Architectural element in sculpted wood
140 x 14 x 13 cm
no pública
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Nepal
Donating country Nepal
Donation made to UNESCO by Nepal
© Photo : UNESCO/N. Burke
All rights reserved

Siva is the third of the Hindu trinity. He is the destructor and regenerator of the universe and has several avatars (or incarnations), always marked by the ambivalence of his personality. Like Buddhism, Sivaïsm is firstly an ascetic religion. Siva is the Great Yogin, master of knowledge who liberates people from Maya (illusions). This piece shows him as Siva Yogeshvara: “Lord of Yogis”, or “God of Yoga”. The sculpture is not dated; it does however show signs of previous breaking and erosion. Wood being extremely vulnerable, well-preserved figures only date back as far as the 14th century, during the Malla period (Malla referring to the monarchs who reigned on the Katmandu valley from the 11th to the 17th century). Ever since that period, carved and sculpted wood has been an integral part of Nepali architecture.

Siva Yogesvara is always portrayed whole, alone, and with anthropomorphic traits; he is depicted with only two arms. His characteristics are the chignon (jatamukuta), core of ascetic power, a closed third-eye (because his gaze destroys) and a ring of flames, symbol of both his destructive and his altruistic power. Wearing a simple dhoti in the way many Hindu divinities do, he is also arrayed with bracelets around his wrists and ankles as well as earrings that stretch his earlobes. In his right hand he holds the ascetic rosary and in his left one a partly concealed Nâga (serpent), in this case a cobra, considered an attribute of Siva and a half-god: the Kundalini. Another Nâga (spirit with a serpent body, chthonian divinity and prince of poets) surmounts the figure of the god. Underneath the lotus base upon which he stands is carved a female figure depicted in a combative posture, possibly representing Yogesvari: the feminine energy (shakrti) of Siva, who fights against the devil Andhaka, and is mistress to the seventy Yoginî. The figure may perhaps be a dancer, a Yakshî (half-god of nature) or Apsarâ (Indra sky nymph). Siva himself is also depicted in a dancing posture called Nrittamurti-sthanaka, though not in the posture that characterizes him as the Dancing Siva (Nâtarâja). His position is tributary to the architectural symmetry and implies the presence originally of a second figure of Siva, shown in opposite movement, on the other side of the opening.


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