A Hindu tantric goddess with a lion’s head, Pratyangira is worshipped in the pursuit of personal gain rather than spiritual merit. She is credited with being able to create rain, cure disease and transfer magical powers, including the ability to fly, to become huge or tiny and to control minds. Pratyangira is a protector of armies and bestower of victories. When enraged, the goddess is capable of inflicting illness, destitution and death.
Pratyangira has a passion for dance and is here shown poised with right foot raised, beating a rhythm on the drum held in one of her four hands. The sensual form of the goddess’s human body contrasts dramatically with her fierce head, with its bulging eyes and flame-like mane. She wears a short hip cloth, is draped in precious jewels and holds a trident, an attribute associated with the great Hindu goddesses and the god Shiva. Pratyangira’s trident points downwards, indicating her subversion of mainstream religious practices. With her upper left hand she makes what may be a gesture of wonder. Given the esoteric and tantric nature of this goddess image, the missing hand probably held a severed head or a skull bowl for blood.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008