Friday, February 19, 2021

Abhayagiri Ardhanarisvara Statue

Ardhanarisvara Statue
Abhayagiri Ardhanarisvara (or Ardhanari-natesvara) Statue is a small bronze discovered from Abhayagiri Monastery Complex, in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka (Wikramagamage, 2004). It is presently on the display at the Colombo National Museum.

Ardhanarisvara is a representation of both Siva and Parvati, two divinities in the Hindu pantheon (Chutiwongs et al., 2013). They are joined together to form one figure depicting half-male and half-female, equally split down the middle. As seen in Indian sculptures, the right half is usually the male Siva while the left half is female Parvati (Chutiwongs et al., 2013). However, this sculpture has the male half on the left side while the female half on the right side (Chutiwongs et al., 2013; Wikramagamage, 2004). 

The statue is 12.3 cm tall and depicted in a dancing posture (Wikramagamage, 2004). The female half holds a conch (Sankha) by her backhand and the front hand directs towards the downside (Chutiwongs et al., 2013). Her head is full of the lock of hairs dropping downwards (Wikramagamage, 2004). She wears a breast band and her lower body is covered by a long dress. The back and front hands of the male half are half raised and a cobra (Naga) reaching from the shoulder is seen on his backhand (Wikramagamage, 2004). There is a Jatamakuta (turban-like matted hair) on his head and a short dress that ends up slightly above the knee covers his lower body (Wikramagamage, 2004). According to the view of Chutiwongs et al., this statue can be compared with the Markandeya description of Ardhanari-natesvara (Chutiwongs et al., 2013). As in that, Visnu is represented on the right half as Mohini while Isvara on the left half (Chutiwongs et al., 2013). Their combination represents the creation of the world through the dance called Tandava, showing the Hari-Hara concept (Chutiwongs et al., 2013)

This statue is considered unique as an object similar to this has not been so far from any other country (Wikramagamage, 2004). Although it was found in Sri Lanka, this statue is believed to be a product of India (Chutiwongs et al., 2013). According to Wikramagamage, the sculptor of this statue is probably of Pandya or Pallava origin (Wikramagamage, 2004). 
This statue has been dated by scholars to the 8th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al., 2013; Wikramagamage, 2004).

1) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2013. Sri Lanka Murthi: Siva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Siva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.120-121.
2) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.118-119.

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This page was last updated on 21 February 2021
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