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Shaiva Saint Sambandar, 12th century

India: Tamil Nadu, 1100-1199
9-9/16 x 3-1/2 in. (24.3 x 8.9 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on View

Sculptures of seventh- and eighth-century saints who wrote popular hymns to Shiva were often created for south Indian temples in addition to images of Shiva and his family. Sambandar is one of the most revered Shaiva saints. He is always depicted as a child.

As a toddler, Sambandar’s parents brought him to a temple. They left him alone for a moment and he began to cry. Hearing him, Parvati appeared and gave him a cup of milk. When his parents returned and asked him who gave him the milk, he pointed at the sky and burst into song, praising Shiva and Parvati. He is depicted here holding the cup that the goddess gave him and pointing upward in response to his parents’ question.

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