Indian Sculptures: Avatars of the Hindu Gods

Western or Central India, Shiva Ardhanarishvara (The Lord Whose Half is Woman), 15th century, sandstone. Allentown Art Museum. (2009.23.8)

Wed, 02/14/2018 - Sun, 06/02/2019
Payne Hurd Gallery

As Hinduism developed in India, it enveloped a vast range of local deities into its pantheon; many new deities also emerged over time. Many Hindus regard these deities, totaling some 330 million by some believers’ count, as manifestations of one universal spirit known as Brahman, while others explain the supreme deity in female form, or Shakti.

When these deities appear in the world to offer guidance to humans or right wrongs, they take a material form, or avatar. The sculptures in this exhibition show some of the infinite avatars in which these deities can manifest, and recount stories from Hindu tradition.

Curated by Dr. Ingrid Furniss

With thanks and appreciation to Professor Michael W. Meister, W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania, and his students (Nachiket Chanchani, Sarah Gibbons, Rubab Qureshi, and Steven Vose) for their assistance in research. With special thanks also to Dr. Henri Schildt, Independent Scholar, Helsinki, for his research and reattribution of the sculpture of Subrahmanya.

Indian, Skanda, Son of Siva (chariot panel), 17th century, teak. Gift of the Jaipaul Family, 2001 (2001.22.12)



Indian Sculptures: Avatars of the Hindu Gods is supported through the generosity of the Harry C. Trexler Trust, Julius and Katheryn Hommer Foundation, The Century Fund, Bernard and Audrey Berman Foundation, Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment, Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Friends of the Museum.