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Durga Copper Plate

Accession Number

Durga Copper Plate


Artist Nationality
Indian (South Asian)

Object Creation Date
19th century - 20th century

Medium & Support

9 3/8 in x 5 13/16 in (23.8 cm x 14.8 cm);9 3/8 in x 5 13/16 in (23.8 cm x 14.8 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel.

Label copy
March 28, 2009
From the seventh century on, goddess worship absorbed a set of esoteric practices that spread across India. These included the repetition of mantras (potent sound syllables), the creation of yantras (magical diagrams), the consumption of the flesh and blood of animals, and performance of rituals associated with corpses. Represented here is a fairly conventional image of Durga, bearing weapons, astride her tiger mount. Yet, the incorporation of letters and words from sacred diagrams alludes to esoteric practices: the syllable om wrapped in two circles, the word shri, and a grid of letters below. In sacred diagrams such as this one, the word enhanced the efficacy of the image, increasing the goddess’s protective powers.
(Label for UMMA South and Southeast Asia Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
Labeled as Durga, an umbrella title or classification for Goddess images, she is probably more aptly title as Mujunidevi in Kulu, the place where this was mostly likely produced. That title is used in publication of both Ananda Coomaraswamy and Davidson, p. 103. But the iconography is pan-Indian as the name Durga is fully descriptive. Consistently the goddess rides on a tiger or lion, often apparently a combination of both felines, and carries weapons with which to kill demons. The Goddess was produced to kill demons that the gods could not kill and it was only a creation of the Goddess out of their combined powers that the demons were quelled. Here weapons of a variety of the Gods are present suggesting that collective power.

Physical Description
An eight armed goddess sits astride a tiger with uplifted tail. She carries a noose, punch dagger, shankha, and trident in her right hands and a bow, ring-like discus, arrow and shield in her left arms. She wears a long garland of either large rudraksa or heads around her heck along with other necklaces and pendants. She sits with legs pendant wearing a long skirt. Behind the figure a Om symbol with the end of the letter twirled around it twice and the word Shri written in Devanagari script. Below the figure a grid of letters forms a sacred diagram. The lines forming the grid all end in trident forms. Each square of the grid houses a different letter in nagari.

Primary Object Classification
Ritual Object

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area

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4 Related Resources

(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Hindu Gods and Goddesses
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Human-Animal Metamorphosis
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