Durga Battling the Buffalo Demon (Durgamahishasuramardini)



Durga Battling the Buffalo Demon (Durgamahishasuramardini)




ca. 900 AD


Rajasthan, India


45 x 25 x 7 in. (114.3 x 63.5 x 17.8 cm)

Object Number



This extraordinary stone relief depicts a serene and powerful goddess overcoming Mahisha, the buffalo-demon of illusion. As the myth tells us, Mahisha had defeated all the gods. In response, the gods chose to concentrate each of their energies into a single being, who took the form of the goddess (Devi) called Durga. Each of the gods presented her with his weapon-Vishnu the discus and mace, Shiva the trident, and Brahma the lotus. Here, the demon's neck is exposed as she attacks it, and the lion, the goddess' vehicle, bites him from behind as she holds him with her foot.

A worshipper would have encountered this image on the side of a temple, and would have meditated upon Durga's spiritual act of destroying illusion. She is smiling peacefully as she grabs his throat in one hand, and subdues him with the weapons held in others. Her triple pose (tribhanga in classical traditions) communicates gracefulness. Even the buffalo looks almost like a peaceful calf, suggesting the ancient Indian idea that to be killed by a god is the ultimate grace and gift.

Credit Line

The Ester R. Portnow Collection of Asian Art, a gift of the Nathan Rubin-Ida Ladd Family Foundation


MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2004 - Present
Janet Kamphorst, In Praise of Death: History and Poetry in Medieval Marwar (South Asia) (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008), 240.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 123.|
Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger, Everyday Hinduism (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 29, Figure 1.2.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2004.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Durga Battling the Buffalo Demon (Durgamahishasuramardini),” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed December 11, 2018, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7844.

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