John C. Huntington huntington.2 at OSU.EDU
Mon Jan 26 16:17:27 UTC 2009

It is my understanding (largely from the Durga Mahisashura myth and  
bhavachakra representations of ashuras that they are apparently  
conceived of as fundamentally humanoids but with morphing abilities.  
Bhavachakraa paintings usually represent them as human warrior and  
yaksha and yakshis which are a sub class of  ashuras are also  
represented as humans.  Thus, albeit much later than the materials  
that I usually deal with, I suspect that the ashura as humanoid in the  
painting is just revealing, by force of Krishna's power, his true  
form, which according to my understanding of the Durga sequence, is  
the only form in which a ashura can actually be destroyed.



On Jan 26, 2009, at 2:31 AM, Valerie J Roebuck wrote:

> What an interesting painting! This version is quite different from  
> the ones I was thinking of, which had the demon body emerging  
> upwards from the conch-shell. Moreover they were Avatara scenes,  
> while this one appears to be of a series of incidents from the life  
> of Krsna.
> Valerie J Roebuck
> At 9:08 am +0200 26/1/09, Alexandra Vandergeer wrote:
>> The demon then seems more like some sort of hybrid of mainland  
>> taxa, not
>> much 'invertebrate' parts. Maybe the idea is that the demon merely  
>> hides
>> in the/a conch, like some mini-lobsters do? That would explain the  
>> tiny
>> horns, though horns are of course an excellent feature of any  
>> demon. The
>> whole animal gives the impression of a horned macaque. Even the  
>> number of
>> legs is non-invertebate.
>> Thanks for the enlarged version!
>> Alexandra
>>> Dan Ehnbom is the curator of the South Asia collection at the
>>> University of Virginia Museum. I told him about our discussion
>>> about this painting and asked him to comment. He sent me a better
>>> image of the painting, which I have posted to
>>>, and
>>> offered this comment:
>>> <begin quote>
>>> Here is a better picture of it.  Sankhasura is the demonic figure
>>> to the left of center at the bottom.  Because Indian art, as
>>> Coomaraswamy said, is an art of statement rather than
>>> description, he is not very conch-like, except perhaps for the
>>> blob-like form on his abdomen.
>>> Possibly this is the demon assuming his true form at the moment
>>> of his death.
>>> <end quote>
>>> Bob Hueckstedt
>>> Valerie J Roebuck wrote:
>>>> I can't see any conch-demon in this picture. The nearly central
>>> figure
>>>> in the water looks like a demon with an ass's head or similar,
>>>> plunging head first.
>>>> Valerie J Roebuck
>>>> At 12:57 pm -0800 23/1/09, Stefan Baums wrote:
>>>>> Dear Valerie et al.,
>>>>>> The conch-demon is S'ankhaasura ... depicted in painted sets
>>> of
>>>>>> Avataras from the 18th-19th century, but I haven't got an
>>> example to
>>>>>> hand.
>>>>> here is an example from the University of Virginia Art Museum
>>> (second
>>>>> image from the top):
>>> /Asi
>>>>> an/India.html
>>>>> Unfortunately rather small, and I'm not sure I see the conch,
>>> unless
>>>>> it is the orange object floating in the river in the bottom
>>> left of
>>>>> the painting.
>>>>> All best,
>>>>> Stefan
>>>>> --
>>>>> Stefan Baums
>>>>> Asian Languages and Literature
>>>>> University of Washington
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