Goddess Parnashavari

19th century

Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art

The unusually large dimensions of this painting suggest that it was intended as a mural; the painted cloth would be glued to a temple wall. This technique is most common from the nineteenth century onward. That the deities are set in a common landscape is almost imperceptible due to the almost baroque density of the composition, with deities, halos, and lotuses cut off at the edges of the canvas. The rich jewelry with thick pearls, the flower studded background, the almost abstract rendering of the rocks, and the variety of halo forms used in this painting are also typical of the nineteenth century.

The forest goddess Parnashavari is easily recognized by her distinctive garland and skirt made of thatched green leaves. She is associated with the Shavari tribe of ancient India and is an example of an Indian folk deity who has been absorbed into Tantric Buddhism. She is associated with the practice of healing, particularly curing contagious diseases and suppressing epidemics. Her central face is semi-wrathful with a furrowed brow and bearing tiny fangs. In one of her hands she holds a fan of new leaves, heavy with fruit and flowers. She is here associated with Buddha Akshobhya, represented at the top center, and another wrathful goddess with six arms underneath her.

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  • Title: Goddess Parnashavari
  • Date Created: 19th century
  • Location Created: Tibet
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Rubin Museum of Art, C2003.36.3
  • Medium: Pigments on cloth


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