Indian and Himalayan Art
The Great Goddess Durga Slaying the Buffalo Demon (Mahishasuramardini)Made in Kota, Rajasthan, India, Asia
Artist/maker unknown, India
Opaque watercolor and gold- and silver-colored metallic paint on paper
Currently not on view
1994-148-390Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994
LabelThe most common image of a buffalo (mahisha in Sanskrit) is Mahishasura, the buffalo demon. Son of a buffalo, Mahishasura gained power over the world and plunged it into chaos. To destroy him, the gods pooled their energies to create the great goddess Durga. Here the many-armed Durga leaps from her feline vehicle and slices through the buffalo's neck, from which the green, horned demon emerges in human form. The water buffalo is thought to embody ignorance, laziness, and pollution; it is associated with blood and is the vahana (vehicle) of Yama, God of Death. Although domestic water buffalo have long provided milk, agricultural power, and meat across India, ancient texts describe them as a nondomesticated species, representing the chaos of wilderness--and thus the absence of cosmic order.