India, Madhya Pradesh, probably Gwalior region
H 41,5 cm x W40 cm x D21 cm
Collection Simon Ray 2008
Collection The Late Bruno Cooper
This sandstone architectural fragment depicts a miniature North Indian temple tower or Shikhara. Two female attendants or possibly river goddesses at each side emerge from the mouth of a pair of makaras. The pink glow in the sandstone suggests the region of Gwalior in the north of Madhya Pradesh as the place of origin. Makaras are mythical aquatic creatures with the body of a crocodile and the trunk of an elephant. They are often seen at the entrance of the temple, and considered by the Hindu’s to be auspicious and purifying by their association with water. This fragment was probably located above a niche on a temple façade. It has been skilfully carved, creating depth and dynamism.
The combination of two beautifully jewelled and dressed goddesses issuing from the mouth of two makaras portrays an image of pronounced sensuality, and ensures a protective auspiciousness for the small shrine.
A similar miniature shrine can be seen in Gods, Guardians and Lovers, Temple sculptures from North India A.D. 700-1200, Vishaka N.Desai, the Asia Society Galleries, New York, 1993, p. 142