13. Uma Mahesvara

13. Uma Maheshvara
Copper alloy
Height: 9.8 cm
Tenth century
Catalogue number 13.
Accession number 89.141.

Uma and Maheshvara, that is Shiva and his bride Parvati, are the paradigmatic husband and wife team of the Hindu pantheon. He is the lord of the universe, and in particular, of death and destruction. His trident is shown wrapped by a snake and ornamented with a skull. Through the power of his third eye and his meditation, Maheshvara sets entire worlds ablaze at the end of cosmic time cycles. Uma is the beautiful young daughter of the Himalayan mountains. Here they are shown in dalliance in his palace on Mount Kailasha.

Today it is believed that when Maheshvara is angry he wreaks havoc on the world, but when appeased and calmed, he is the model husband. Young Bengali girls are taught to pour water over images of Maheshvara to cool his anger, to observe fasts to win his favor, and to dedicate themselves to his service in order to win a husband who meets Maheshvara's ideal. They are also taught to model themselves after Uma, who served Maheshvara faithfully and suffered his rages patiently.

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