Durga Mahishasuramardini (“Slayer of the Buffalo Demon”)

Historical period(s)
Central Javanese Period, 9th century
H x W x D: 54.5 × 25.4 × 17 cm (21 7/16 × 10 × 6 11/16 in)
Indonesia, Java
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 22a: The Art of Knowing in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas
Sculpture, Stone

Figure; Hindu sculpture

Central Javanese period (600 - 799), chakra, death, demon, Devi, Durga, goddess, halo, Hinduism, Indonesia, Java, Religion and Philosophy, water buffalo

To 1914
D. Komter, Amsterdam, to 1914 [1]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from D. Komter in 1914 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 520, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

D. Komter (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Goddess Durga was created from the combined energy of the three most powerful Hindu gods--Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu--in order to defeat a demon that was plaguing the universe. This image represents a heroic moment for the goddess: she has just conquered the terrifying demon Mahisha. In order to escape the goddess, Mahisha had taken the form of a buffalo. Durga saw right through this petty disguise and caught him. The four-armed goddess stands on the buffalo's back, her upper hands holding the chakra (right) and conch (left). In her lower hands she holds a rope firmly tied to the buffalo's tail and to the hair of the demon Mahisha. The demon in human form emerges from the wound in the buffalo's neck, with his right leg remaining inside the animal's body. She conveys her triumph with calm certitude, her lips forming the suggestion of a smile. Her chin is tilted upwards and she gazes forwards through almond-shaped eyes. Durga wears an ankle-length sarong tied with sashes and a belt, thick bangles on her ankles and wrists, necklaces, earrings, and a diadem. Her face is framed by a halo roughly carved against a flat back-slab. This form of Durga is called Mahishasuramardini, which means "She who conquered the demon named Mahisha."

Published References
  • Aschwin Lippe. The Freer Indian Sculptures. Oriental Studies Series, no. 8 Washington, 1970. pl. 21.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
F|S Southeast Asia
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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