Goddess Bhadrakali Worshipped by the Gods from a tantric Devi series

Historical period(s)
ca. 1660-1670
Basohli Court
Pahari School
Opaque watercolor, gold, silver and beetle wing cases on paper
H x W: 21.7 x 21.5 cm (8 9/16 x 8 7/16 in)
India, Punjab Hills, Jammu and Kashmir, Basohli
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Bhadrakali, Brahma, conch shell, Devi, India, lotus, man, Shiva, tantra, Vishnu, worship, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

The fearsome goddess Kali, the "Dark One," is dressed in splendid garments, adorned with jewels and framed by a halo of fiery brilliance.  An image of both destruction and beneficence, she brandishes a variety of weapons, but in one of her eight hands holds a lotus flower, a symbol of grace and purity. Standing upon a prostrate male, Kali is visualized as the supreme Shakti, or female force.  In recognition of Kali's immense power, the three principal gods of Hinduism--Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva--stand in subservient devotion.

Basohli artists created a unique female type with rounded faces and predatory eyes. Typical of the Basohli style is the use of raised white paint to accentuate pearl ornaments and beetle wings to suggest emeralds.  Also characteristic are the rich, bold colors.

Published References
  • The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. 4 vols., Oxford and New York. .
  • Calendar of Exhibitions. vol. 16, no. 7 Hong Kong, July 1985. p. 62.
  • (Forward) Pupul Jayakar. Festival of India in the United States, 1985-1986. New York. p. 64.
  • Vidya Dehejia, Thomas Coburn. Devi: The Great Goddess: Female Divinity in South Asian Art. Exh. cat. Washington, 1999. p. 127, fig. 2.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. p. 190, fig. 1.
  • Report from America (East Coast). New Series, vol. 31, no. 2, Summer 1985. p. 203.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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