GOAT-HEADED DEITIES IN ANCIENT INDIAN SCULPTURE
Starting with the oldest preserved monuments, depictions of animals used in a religious context are quite common in Indian art. For the record, two such main groups can be distinguished: 1. whole animal figures (copied in accordance with nature); 2. hybrid representations in which part of the image is human and part animal. Most often, in the latter case, the animal element is the head or face. An example is Varaha – one of the incarnations of Vishnu, undoubtedly the most widespread hybrid image in India. In this analysis, however, I would like to focus on less popular figures, whose importance in the Indian tradition must have been considerable at the time – judging both by the number of surviving figures and by their presence and importance in various traditional religious stories. Moreover, among the entire group of images that in ancient Indian sculpture we can associate with fertility, practices of offspring granting and child protection, these spirit-deities stand out due to the way they are represented (among others, they are the only ones that can be identified one hundred percent on the basis of just a single element – the animal’s head). The heads are most often referred to in the literature on the subject as a goat, and sometimes also a ram, the latter attribution being denied by some researchers. In my paper I refer mainly to works from the art centre in Mathura in northern India, due to the richness of its representations and the unquestionable ability to set trends in the religious iconography of ancient India. [...]
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