Chapter 2:
Background Information for Teachers


Why do the deities have multiple arms and heads?

Deities are often portrayed with multiple arms, especially when they are battling cosmic forces. The multiplicity of arms emphasizes the deity's immense power and ability to perform several acts at the same time. The portrayal of a deity in human form but with multiple arms is the artist's attempt to express the deity's superhuman power. Demons are frequently depicted with multiple heads to convey their superhuman power as well.

Occasionally a deity is shown with more than one head in an attempt to describe various aspects of the character of that deity. For example, when the god Shiva is portrayed with a triple head, the central face indicates his essential character and the flanking faces depict his fierce and blissful natures.

(left) Contemporary Indian poster of the goddess Durga

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