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On display on Level 1

Chola dynasty (9th-13th centuries) India
The child-saint Sambandar 12th century Place made: Tamil Nadu, India
Materials & Technique: sculptures, bronze; lost-wax casting
Dimensions: 55.9 h x 19.0 w x 11.5 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1989
Accession No: NGA 89.347
Provenance:
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • The French Institute of Pondicherry holds an archive photograph taken in 1958 that closely resembles this sculpture. The significance of this is being investigated. (updated 2016)
  • with art dealer William H Wolff, New York, 1970
  • who sold it to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1989 for USD 115,000

When Sambandar was three he waited, hungry and crying, for his father outside a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Feeling compassion for the child, Shiva’s consort Uma (Parvati) offered him a bowl of milk from her breast. On his return, Sambandar’s father found milk dripping from the child’s mouth and a golden bowl beside him. Asked where the milk had come from, Sambandar pointed to an image of Uma and Shiva and began singing their praises. From that time, Sambandar dedicated himself to their worship.

One of 63 Shaivite saints, Sambandar spent his life wandering southern India singing and dancing in Shiva’s honour. Sambandar is credited with composing thousands of hymns, many of which are still sung. He died in his teens and is always depicted as a child. In this sculpture Sambandar holds a bowl in one hand and makes a gesture of praise with the other. He is naked except for an infant’s girdle of bells and a necklace of protective tigers’ claws with a central trident. An attribute of Shiva, the trident symbolises the child-saint’s devotion.

This refined image of Sambandar exemplifies the artistry and quality of bronzes created under the Chola dynasty, rulers of much of south India and beyond, to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, from the ninth until the thirteenth century. The Cholas were generous supporters of the arts, and bronzes made under their patronage are considered India's finest.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

When Sambandar was three he waited, hungry and crying, for his father outside a temple dedicated to the god Shiva. Feeling compassion for the child, Shiva's consort Uma, also called Parvati, offered him a bowl of milk from her breast. On his return, Sambandar's father found milk dripping from the child's chin and a golden bowl beside him. When questioned, Sambandar pointed to an image of Shiva and Uma and began singing their praises.


In this sculpture Sambandar is shown with the cup in one hand and making a gesture of wonder with the other. He is naked except for an infant's girdle of bells around his waist and a necklace of protective tiger's claws with a central trident. An attribute of Shiva, the trident symbolises the child-saint's devotion.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label