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The Great Goddess as Ishwari, with Bhadragaura

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Rajasthan, India, Asia
Probably made in Junia, Rajasthan, India, Asia

c. 1700-1725

Opaque watercolor, gold, and silver-colored paint on paper

Image: 6 5/8 × 8 1/16 inches (16.8 × 20.5 cm) Sheet: 8 × 9 5/16 inches (20.3 × 23.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2004

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The goddess Durga's vahana (vehicle) is usually depicted as a great cat, but just what kind of cat is often unclear. Ancient texts sometimes call it a lion, sometimes a tiger, and sometimes a more imaginary creature. In this painting there is even more ambiguity-the great cat has the thick, striped body of a tiger; the tufted tail, short mane, face shape, and color of an Asiatic lion; and the facial "tear-lines" of a cheetah (now extinct in India but once common and used as a royal hunting animal). The inscription at the top of this painting labels Durga as Ishwari (Sanskrit for a powerful female being) and identifies the dwarflike figure as Bhadragaura, a rare form of the god Shiva.