Nandi, Shiva's Sacred Bull

Nandi, Shiva's Sacred Bull

Nandi
Shiva's Sacred Bull
Sculpture
India
Late 16th, early 17th centurys
Museum no. IS 73-1990

Temples dedicated to the deity Shiva, the Hindu lord of creation and destruction are to be found throughout the Indian subcontinent. An essential element in any Shiva temple is the image of Nandi, the sacred bull-calf, whose name means 'joyfulness' or 'blissfulness'. In the ordering of temple space, Nandi occupies an axial position, focusing the attention of the faithful from the outer halls of the temple directly into its spiritual heart, the 'garbhagrha', or 'womb-chamber'. Images of this scale and larger were usually housed in a pillared hall or 'mandapa', which stood independent of the principal shrine and was orientated toward the east, facing directly into the temple, so that Nandi's intimate relationship with Shiva was made explicit.