The southern walls of South Indian temples frequently bear a sculpture of Shiva Dakshinamurti. Dakshina means south and indicates the aspect, or murti, of the god responsible for teaching yoga (techniques of meditation), the shastras (religious laws), wisdom, and devotional music to human beings.
Here, the god sits on a rock in a posture of teaching. His front right hand is in the position of exposition, or vitarkamudra, while his lower left hand holds a manuscript written on palm leaves. The upper right hand grasps a serpent, symbolic of the powers of the earth, while the upper left hand supports a flame, the emblem of Shiva's role as god of destruction. His right foot rests on the dwarflike Apasmarapurusha, who represents the ignorance that the god's teaching destroys.
South India, 11th-12th century
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler, s87.0903