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    Categorised as a samhar murti, or a destructive form of the god Shiva, Andhakasuravadha represents the episode in which the king of demons Andhaka is killed by an enraged, multi-armed Shiva wielding a trishul. References to the figure of Andhaka occur in the Vedas, Puranas and and the Ramayana, although in the latter he is said to have been killed by Kali. 

    Most scholars agree that the Andhakasuravadha episode begins with his performance of various austerities, following which the god Brahma grants Andhaka a number boons and blesses him with immortality, making the demon extremely powerful. When the devas (gods) are made aware of the danger that the demon’s newfound power poses for them, they approach Shiva for help. Meanwhile, an infatuated Andhaka abducts Shiva’s consort Parvati. Some sources have suggested that by doing this, the demon triggered a clause in his vow that assured his destruction if he ever desired the ideal woman, a term often used to describe the goddess Paravati. Shiva, adorned with the serpents Vasuki, Takshaka and Dhananjay as his belt and bracelets, impaled Andhaka with either his trishul or a bow and arrow. Although Andhaka was mortally wounded, more demons from the drops of his blood that fell to the ground. In an effort to control the demon’s multiplicative ability, Shiva created the shakti Yogeshvari who was joined by the saptamatrikas to catch and consume the demon’s blood before it fell to the earth. Eventually, the demon sought forgiveness, and according to some sources, was spared and referred to as Bhringisa or Bhringirishi. Other sources identify Andhaka as Shiva and Parvati’s blind son who was conceived in a world of darkness, after Parvati in a playful mood, covered Shiva’s eyes.

    The most common depiction of the episode of Andhakasuravadha shows Shiva with eight arms, two of which grasp a trishul that pierces the body of Andhaka. In some instances, the emaciated figure of the goddess Yogeshvari or Kali is depicted holding a curved dagger and a cup to collect the demon’s blood before it falls to the ground. Shiva too holds a kapala or skull filled with the demon’s blood, along with his other iconographic attributes such as the damaru or double-barrelled hand-held drum and the khadga or sword. His other hands carry an elephant skin, referring to the elephant demon Nila’s attempt to kill Shiva. In iconographic representations of the episode, Shiva may be found donning an elephant skin which he received from Virabhadra as a hunting trophy. In some sculpted panels Shiva is depicted with serpentine adornments, and a raised leg placed on the demons born from Andhaka’s blood. 

    Representations of Andhaka’s death may be found at different temple sites. In Cave 16 at the Kailasanatha Temple in Ellora in present-day Maharashtra, India, a ten-armed Shiva is depicted in his terrifying aspect alongside his consort Parvati and the saptamatrikas. The sculpted panel, composed in the eighth century CE, depicts Shiva holding elephant skin. The episode is illustrated through an eight-armed Shiva in Cave 29 where Shiva bares his fangs and is depicted impaling the demon Andhaka with his weapon, whilst holding a cup underneath to contain the demon’s blood. This figure of Shiva is akin to an earlier sixth century CE depiction of Shiva slaying Andhaka at Elephanta in present-day Maharashtra, where Shiva is seen holding the demon in one of his hands. An ornately carved image of a fourteen-armed Shiva piercing Andhaka with his trident alongside a smaller image of an emaciated devi in her terrifying form is depicted in the twelfth-century Chennakeshava Temple in Belur in present-day Karnataka.   

    The episode of Andhakasuravadha represents the metaphorical victory of spiritual enlightenment, advanced by the combined efforts of the gods, over Andhaka, who is seen as a representation of blindness and ignorance. 


    Gupte, RS. Iconography of the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. D. B. Taraporevala Sons & Co. Private Ltd., 1972.

    Kramrisch, Stella. Manifestations of Shiva. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1981.

    Rao, T. A. Gopinatha. Elements of Hindu Iconography. Vol. I. II. Madras: The Law Printing House, 1914.

    ———. Elements of Hindu Iconography. Vol. II. I. Madras: The Law Printing House, 1914.

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