We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.





Kalighat style


circa 1830 – 1930

  • Details

    Other Titles
    The five-faced Mahadev
    Siva or Punchanan the Destroyer of the world
    A five-faced Shiva
    Alternative title
    Place where the work was made
    Kalighat Kolkata (Calcutta) West Bengal India
    Media categories
    Painting , Watercolour
    Materials used
    watercolour with silver paint on paper
    43.8 x 27.2 cm (irreg.)
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased 1959
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Kalighat style

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Images such as this are known as Kalighat paintings, after the famous Kalighat temple in Kolkata (Calcutta) dedicated to Kali, the fearsome goddess of time and death. From around 1830, distinctive, quickly painted souvenirs were produced in large numbers for visitors who flocked to the temple. The images were intended to aid domestic worship and typically illustrate Hindu deities. Later, mass-produced prints replaced Kalighat paintings.

    Here, the Hindu god Shiva appears as Panchanan the Destroyer of Worlds. As with other Kalighat paintings, the composition is based on an archetype where the blue-skinned, five-headed, four-armed god is seated on a throne with a tiger skin wrapped around his waist. His fifth head is turned upwards and is surrounded by protective cobras and a small image of Shiva’s vehicle, Nandi the bull, can be seen seated in his lap.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 6 publications

    • Kate Brittlebank, TAASA Review, 'Unexpected Connections: An Australian Kalighat Album Reunited', pg. 4-5, Sydney, Mar 2006.

    • Kate Brittlebank, TAASA Review, "Postscript: Kalighat's Missionaries', pg. 23, Sydney, Jun 2006.

    • Kate Brittlebank, Journal of the History of Collections, 'Anthropology, fine art and missionaries: The Berndt Kalighat album rediscovered', pg.127-142, Oxford, May 2008.

    • Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Folk Paintings and Souvenir Pictures', Sydney, 2003, 48-49 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 49 is a detail of this work.

    • Haema Sivanesan, Indian painting, 'Indian Painting', verso of poster., Sydney, 2001. cat.no. 5.2

    • Jill Sykes, Look, 'Artworks from India under the British Raj...', pg.30, Sydney, Jul 2010, 30 (colour illus.).

  • Provenance

    Lucy Thompson, 1890-1951, Adelaide/South Australia/Australia, purchased in Kolkata between 1890 and 1913.

    Hans Heysen, pre 1953, Hahndorf/South Australia/Australia

    Stefan Heysen, Jun 1959, Hahndorf/South Australia/Australia, by descent

    David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, 24 Jul 1959, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 July 1959

Other works by Kalighat style

See all 9 works