This pavilion served as an outdoor shrine [mandapa] in a rural Hindu temple complex. Its roof is decorated with images of the god Shiva, his consort Parvati (Uma) and their infant son Skanda—a representation known as Somaskanda. Flanking the main deities are winged celestial beings, praying devotees and sacred bulls.
Shiva, his hair piled high in a crown-like headdress, sits with one leg folded beneath him and the other resting on a lotus flower. Two of his hands make gestures of blessing and grace while another holds an antelope. There was once a battleaxe in his missing fourth hand. The green-skinned goddess Parvati (Uma) holds a lotus bud. A tiny image of Skanda appears at her knee. Symbolic of divine union and family, Somaskanda imagery is particularly suited to marriage ceremonies.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label