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The Seven Mother Goddesses (Saptamatrika)

12th century-13th century


Unknown Artist


In Puranic literature, the Seven Mothers (Saptamatrikas) emerge to aid Shiva in his battle against the formidable demon, Andhaka. According to the legend, Shiva strikes Andhaka; but with each drop of blood that falls from the wound, a replica of the demon arises. Seeing Shiva faced with thousands of Andhakas, the other male gods send their ‘shaktis’, in the form of the Seven Mothers, to stop the blood from falling to the ground and prevent the multiplication. With the help of the ‘matrikas’, Shiva overcomes his foe. In the famed ‘Devi Mahatmya’, the Saptamatrikas again perform a similar function and help Durga vanquish the demon Raktabija (see cat. 67).

The stele shows Shiva, seated on the far left, accompanied by the Seven Mothers. From left to right, the goddesses are Brahmani, who emerges from the god Brahma; Maheshvari, who emanates from Shiva; Kaumari, the counterpart of the warrior god, Kumara; Vaishnavi, the female energy of Vishnu; Varahi, the partner of Varaha, the boar incarnation of Vishnu; Indrani, the ‘shakti’ of Indra; and the fierce, skeletal personification of energy, Chamunda. The panel’s intricate carving and richly embellished figures are stylistically typical of Hoysala period sculpture.

Chaya Chandrasekhar, ‘Goddess: divine energy’, AGNSW 2006, pg.108.


Other Titles

Hindu Deities

Shiva and the Matrkas

Alternative title


Place where the work was made

Karnataka India


12th century-13th century

Media category


Materials used

black chlorite schist


40.5 x 98.0 x 18.5 cm, 126.5 kg.

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Sir James Plimsoll 1978


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: South Asia', pg. 288-297, Sydney, 1999, 290 (colour illus.).

David R Kinsley, Hindu goddesses: visions of the divine feminine in the Hindu religious tradition, 'Chapter 10: The Matrkas - The early history of the Matrkas', pg 151-160, Berkeley, 1987, 151-160.

Jackie Menzies (Editor), Goddess: Divine Energy, Sydney, 2006, 108 (colour illus.). cat. no. 65

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The Realm of the Hindu Gods', Sydney, 2003, 20-21 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 21 is a detail of this work.

Jackie Menzies, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 177 (colour illus.).

Jacqueline Menzies, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian', pg. 72-93, Sydney, 1988, 88, 90 (illus.).