Pierced Window with Kama, God of Love, 12th century
Black stone 24 1/2 in. x 22 in. x 3 in. (62.23 cm x 55.88 cm x 7.62 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase with funds from an anonymous donor2007.126
From the early 9th to the 12th centuries, the Pala Dynasty thrived in northeastern India in the great alluvial plains fed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. The Pala kings are credited with supporting both Hindu and Buddhist establishments, few of which are extant, though an abundance of stone and bronze Hindu and Buddhist sculpture remains.
The male figures carved into the upper and lower registers of the lattice-work of this window represent Kama, the Hindu God of Love. Kama has a long history in India, dating back to Vedic literature, where he is both desire and the power that gratifies desire. He is generally depicted as a young man, rather than as the corpulent figure shown here. In the lower register, he stands deep in thought, leaning on his bow, his primary attribute that, along with the two females, identifies him. Swirling fabric frames and attaches him to the uprights of the window.
On the upper register, his legs akimbo, Kama dances in joyous celebration. His two wives, Rati, who symbolizes sensual pleasure, and Priti, who embodies affection, accompany him. The wife on his left holds a horn that she blows in musical accompaniment, while the object in the other female’s hand is unidentifiable.
This window is only one of a few known carved stone windows from the region, though similarly dated carved windows are found elsewhere in India. The carvings would have faced out, placing the figures in the pantheon of auspicious beings who adorn the exterior of a Hindu temple.