Represented as the wandering mendicant in mid-stride, this sculpture’s iconography relates to the punishment of Shiva who according to the Lingodbhava myth decapitated the god Brahma for refusing to admit Shiva’s supremacy. Shiva was cursed to wander the countryside as a naked beggar and accordingly is clad only in wooden sandals and a beggar’s bowl, is said to represent the head of Brahma. Wherever Shiva wandered as a beggar, women who gave him alms fell in love with the inexplicable radiance of his form. Artists and poets stressed the manner in which the garments slipped off the maidens’ bodies as they were overcome with desire for the beautiful Lord:
Listen my friend, / yesterday/ in broad daylight / I’m sure I saw / a holy one, / as he gazed at me / my garments slipped / I stood entranced / I brought him alms / but nowhere did I see / the Cunning One / If I see him again / I shall press my body / against his body / never let him go / that wanderer / who lives in Ottiyur.
Executed soon after the golden age of the Vijayanagara Empire, the present piece retains the best of this culture’s sculptural achievements which persisted into the Nayak period. With its buoyant, sensual and almost whimsical modeling, the image captures in the essence the mysterious splendor of the handsome Lord of the forests.
 Vidya Dehejia. Art of the Imperial Cholas. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. Pp. 110-111.
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