Karaikkal Ammaiyar, Shaiva Saint

Chola period (880–1279)
ca. late 13th century
India (Tamil Nadu)
Copper alloy
H. 9 1/8 in. (23.2 cm); W. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm); D. 5 1/4 in. (13.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edward J. Gallagher Jr. Bequest, in memory of his father, Edward Joseph Gallagher, his mother, Ann Hay Gallagher, and his son, Edward Joseph Gallagher III, 1982
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 240
Ammaiyar, a sixth-century South Indian Shaiva poet saint, achieved her emaciated state after beseeching Shiva to free her from all her worldly encumbrances, including her famed beauty. He granted her wish, transforming her into a withered old woman, and she delighted in devoting her life to composing hymns in praise of her Lord. Here, she is seen singing Shiva’s praises, accompanying herself with a pair of cymbals. Her hymns celebrate Shiva’s predilection for cremation grounds and for his wild dancing form as Nataraja.
Christian Humann , New York (by 1977 until d. 1981, estate sale by Ellsworth to MMA); [ R. H. Ellsworth Ltd. , New York, 1982, sold to MMA]
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Sculpture of India: 3000 B.C. to 1300 A.D.," May 3, 1985–September 2, 1985.

Art Institute of Chicago. "The Sculpture of India: 3000 B.C. to 1300 A.D.," October 19, 1985–January 6, 1986.

New York. Asia Society. "The Cosmic Dancer: Shiva Nataraja," March 9, 1992–June 28, 1992.

Honolulu Academy of Arts. "The Cosmic Dancer: Shiva Nataraja," September 16, 1992–October 25, 1992.

New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "The Cosmic Dancer: Shiva Nataraja," February 7, 1993–April 11, 1993.

Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Dancing to the Flute: Music and Dance in Indian Art," June 12, 1997–August 24, 1997.

Washington, DC. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Devi: the Great Goddess," March 7, 1999–September 6, 1999.

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Chola: Sacred Bronzes from South India," November 11, 2006–February 25, 2007.