Goddess Durga Slaying the Buffalo Demon (Mahishasuramardini)
Angkor period, 10th century
67.1 x 38.5 x 21.0 cm (26 7/16 x 15 3/16 x 8 1/4 in.)
Restricted gift of an anonymous donor; Cheney Foundation, Mrs. Daniel Green, Lawrence R. Phillips, and Oriental Travel Purchase funds; Avery Brundage, Frederick and Natalie Gookin, and Louise Lutz endowments, 1996.32
After an interminable battle, all of the Hindu gods were defeated by a titan called Mahishasura (buffalo demon). To avenge this humiliation, they combined their energy into one force and created the goddess Durga. Her name means "impossible to overcome." As the collective shakti (female energy) of all the gods, she defeated and killed the demonic titan.
Durga is most often depicted with multiple arms holding weapons bestowed upon her by her divine male creators. She stands serenely after battle, crowned and clothed in the elegantly carved sarong of a Cambodian queen. The sculpture is possibly a portrait of a member of royalty represented as a divine figure. The base of the sculpture depicts a buffalo under the goddess's left foot and her lion transport (a vahana) under her right. The story of Durga's struggle—that of divinity against ignorance, chaos, and evil—is documented in the fifth-century epic Devihahatmya (The Glory of the Goddess). Durga's annual festival in autumn is one of the most important religious observances in India.