Through June 2, 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 regarded these deities, totaling some 330 million by some believers’ count, as manifestations of one supreme, universal spirit, known as Brahman.

Similar to Christianity, some Hindus explain this singular entity as a trinity of male forms: Brahma (The Creator), Shiva (The Destroyer), and Vishnu (The Preserver). Other Hindus, however, explain the supreme deity in female form, or Shakti. Shakti manifests herself as a variety of powerful goddesses: Durga, Lakshmi, Parvati, Sarasvati, and Kali. These deities, whether male or female, may manifest themselves in a variety of forms, including avatars.

Explore the world of this Indian sculpture through an exquisite exhibition of such avatars.

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.

Western or Central India, Shiva Ardhanarishvara (The Lord Whose Half is Woman) (detail), 1400s, sandstone. Gift of Peter J. and Caroline S. Koblenzer, 2009.


 The exhibition program at the Museum 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.