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Shiva, c. 925

Cambodia: Angkor period, 900-950
Sandstone
72-1/2 in. (184.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1980.19.S
© 2012 Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Sculptures of the Hindu god Shiva were common during the Angkor period (9th–15th centuries). Shiva’s popularity was the result of the god’s indisputable cosmic power and association with fertility. To this end, Khmer kings of the Angkor period often claimed to be the reincarnation of Shiva on earth. Images of Shiva are easily identifiable by their iconographical attributes, which include the third, vertical eye, symbolic of his ability to destroy desire, and his mound of matted hair, a marker of his asceticism.

Sculptures of Shiva dating to the Angkor period typically reinterpret the god’s dreadlocked hair as a multi-tiered chignon, reminiscent of royal headdresses.

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