The Half-Male, Half-Female Form of Shiva (Shiva Ardhanarishvara)
This sculpture is of Shiva, originally found in Kerala, southwestern India, shows the importance of religious symbols in Hinduism. Shiva is the one of three principal gods – the destroyer – and is also associated with the opposing idea of regeneration. As evidence of Shiva's divine status, the god was often depicted as male and female at once indicating that Shiva was above and outside the physical world. As a result of the Indian Ocean trading network, sculptures such as these spread to the east coast of Africa as well, showing the role of trade in the distribution of artifacts and religious symbols.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Gift of Samuel Eilenberg, 1987