Bali is the only island of Indonesia to have retained a distinctly Hindu culture. Wooden carvings of deities and characters from Hindu mythology, as well as real and imagined beasts, are frequently incorporated into Balinese architecture.
This elaborate winged lion (singa) would once have acted as a base supporting the roof post of a Balinese pavilion. The brightly coloured sculpture served both a decorative and protective function. Deliberately intimidating, the bulging eyes, flared nostrils and prominent fangs were intended to help ward off danger and deter evil spirits. While the style of carving is inspired by traditions of Indonesian Hinduism, the winged lion motif also reveals the influence of Chinese culture, an indication of the complex cross-cultural interactions that have occurred throughout Bali’s history.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label