When Sambandar was three he waited, hungry and crying, for his father outside a temple dedicated to the god Shiva. Feeling compassion for the child, Shiva's consort Uma, also called Parvati, offered him a bowl of milk from her breast. On his return, Sambandar's father found milk dripping from the child's chin and a golden bowl beside him. When questioned, Sambandar pointed to an image of Shiva and Uma and began singing their praises.
In this sculpture Sambandar is shown with the cup in one hand and making a gesture of wonder with the other. He is naked except for an infant's girdle of bells around his waist and a necklace of protective tiger's claws with a central trident. An attribute of Shiva, the trident symbolises the child-saint's devotion.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label