Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Art of India and Southeast Asia

What common images are found in Hindu iconography?

Hindu art includes a wide range of images, especially of important deities. The following table explains four important Hindu deities and their iconography.

Deity Description Representation in Art
Shiva Personifies both creation and destruction; embodies all of existence; has over one thousand names; is often represented as Lord of the Dance Often depicted as a phallus or pillar; if shown as human, can feature multiple limbs, matted hair, and a crescent moon above the head. Sometimes shown with a third eye and a trident; wears a serpent as a scarf. As Lord of the Dance, is shown surrounded by a ring of fire
Vishnu Preserver of order and balance in the universe; takes the form of Krishna, a divine lover who battles the demon Kansa Often depicted with blue skin; shown riding Garuda, a large bird. Wears a tall crown and jewelry; takes many different animal forms including a boar and a tortoise. Can also take the form of Krishna or Buddha.
Devi Multiform female goddess worshipped as Parvati (wife of Shiva), Lakshmi (wife of Vishnu), and Radha, lover of Krishna. She also personifies anger as Durga. Takes numerous forms, each with a different identity. As Durga, she rides a lion.
Ganesha Son of Devi (as Durga); worshipped as the Remover of Obstacles. Shown with an elephant head.


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