Chamunda, 907/1053, Chola Dynasty, India, Hinduism, Granite, 46x 30x 18 inches, Weight approximately 1000 pounds,
The Detroit Institute of Arts , Founders Society Purchase, L.A. Young Fund (57.88)

Descriptive Analysis
This relief sculpture depicts the Hindu deity Chamunda Kali and was carved during the Chola Dynasty. The Chola Dynasty began in the late 9th century C.E., after the surrender of Pallava ruler Aparajita in 897 C.E., and ended during the late 13th century C.E., when they were superseded by their long enemies, the Pandyas to the south. In the early Chola Dynasty, sculptures were carved out of stone. As such,
Chamunda is made of carved granite and measures 46" x 30" x 18". This over-life-sized image weighs approximately 1,000 pounds (450 kg).

Southern India during the Chola Dynasty.
An Indian temple.

Chola Dynasty sculptures were often of Hindu deities and their spouses. They were found in niches of temples, also made of stone and at gopurams (gateways) and done under strict canons of measurement and iconography. Manuals existed describing proper techniques called shilpa shastras which included guidelines for the proper proportions, symbols, and architecture in Hindu iconography. This image of Chamunda, carved following these shastras, has pieces missing, including several of her limbs. The face has cracked, bits of stone have broken off, and it is quite weathered and distressed.

al and Contextual Analysis
The Chola Dynasty was one of the Tamil Dynasties. It originated near the valley of the Kaveri River. They became a military, economic and cultural power in Asia, under the reign of the great king Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola I. The Chola Dynasty left a legacy of literature, architecture and sculpture.

Chamunda, like other Chola sculptures, is influenced by both the Pallava and Mauryan Periods. Pallava sculptures are also found with multiple limbs, often portraying Hindu deities. In the relief of Durga as Mahisasuramardini, the belief that male potential needs a female power to become active is shown through the relief of Vishnu sleeping. This belief is echoed in Chamunda, by having the deity resting her foot on her husband, Shiva. Like figures of women found during the Pallava Period, Chamunda’s hips and breasts are larger. Chola sculpture also reiterates the simple, elegant nature of the Pallava period, but the Chola figures have a tension that gives them a greater vitality. The jewelry and decorative elements are also in direct contrast with the otherwise flowing simplicity. The Chola Dynasty can also be linked to the Mauryan Period by Asokan inscriptions. The nudity of Chola sculptures, like Chamunda, is similar to the nude figures found during the Mauryan Period.

The deity Chamunda stems from Hinduism, the religion of the Chola Dynasty. Hinduism is a religion of many gods. These gods have various natures and take many different forms. The different forms suggest the all pervasive nature of the Hindu gods. Chamunda, also known as Kali, or the Black One, is a “wrathful manifestation” of the Hindu Mother Goddess, Devi. Kali won the name “Chamunda” from Devi, after she had over powered and beheaded the two demon generals, Chanda and Munda. It is Chamunda’s job to combat and defeat demons.

An illustration of Kali Chamunda
A stone Chamunda relief.

The Mother Goddess, Devi, is seen as a restorer of the stability and balance in the world. Chamunda Kali is an aspect, or talent, of Devi. She is associated with the darker and warring side of the Goddess along with death and destruction. However, this duality is an important part of Hinduism, believing that the gods and goddesses must periodically destroy the universe so that it may begin anew. Nonetheless, because of Chamunda's fearsome qualities, her sanctuaries are usually placed far from villages.

However, Hindu women in childbirth worship her. She is the ultimate representation of a woman’s life-giving power and protection of her young. Her devotees are like the child, and she is the mother.

Chamunda Kali is commonly depicted as emaciated and black in color. She is represented with four arms, a sword in one hand and a demon head in another. Her other two hands are blessing her worshippers, making a “fear not” gesture. She has two dead heads as earrings, a string of skulls as a necklace, and her clothing is a girdle made out of human hands. She can be identified by her fangs and a serpent winding around her waist and over her shoulder. She stands with one foot on her thigh and another placed upon a figure of Shiva, lying beneath her.

There is a lot of possible symbolism within the image of Chamunda Kali. Her black complexion could be a symbol for her own all-embracing nature. The Mahanirvana Tantra states that “just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her.” The garland of fifty heads around her neck could be symbols for the fifty letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, signifying her infinite knowledge.

A depiction of Kali Chamunda surrounded by other mythological figures.
A temple to Chamunda.

Though they were thought to empower the temple they resided in, stone sculptures like Chamunda could not be moved. During the 8th century C.E., the Chola Dynasty began creating bronze images that could be carried in and out of the temple, so that the deities could take part in more public roles.

Text Sources
Craven, Roy C. Indian Art: A Concise History. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London. 1997.
Huntington, Susan L. The Art of Ancient India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain. Weather Hill, New York. 1985
Kleiner, Fred S. and Christin J. Mamiya. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: 12th edition, Volume II. Wadsworth/Thomson Learning Inc., Belmont CA. 2005.

Online Sources
Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit Institute of Arts
Learning Vedic Astrology

Tamil Nation

Image Sources
Chamunda Kali

Detroit Institute of Arts
Hindu God Photos
Indian Architecture
Indian Temples and Iconography Matrikas
Tantra - The Many Faces of Kali
Tamil Nation

Art Lesson 1
Lesson Plan Title:
Chamunda and the Personality Traits of Devi
Grade Level: Middle School
Time: 3-5 class periods (50 minutes)

This lesson meets the following National Standards for Arts Education:
VA.5-8.1 Understanding and applying media, techniques and processes (1 & 2)
VA.5-8.3 Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas (1 & 2)
VA.5-8.4 Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures (1)
VA.5-8.5 Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others (3)

This lesson meets the following National Educational Technology Standards for Students:
1. Creativity and Innovation (b)
3. Research and Information Fluency (b & d)

Key Concepts:
  • Hindu deities as parts of one another
  • Deities reflect the people who worship them (i.e. humans have dynamic personalities)

Students will be able to...
  • research Chamunda and other Hindu deities on various wiki sites.
  • compare and contrast the Hindu deities Devi and Chamunda.
  • brainstorm about their external and internal personality traits.
  • associate metaphoric objects with various aspects of their personality.
  • create an oil pastel self-portrait representing two or more of their personality traits.
  • explain their creative decisions in an artist statement.

Teaching and Learning Activities:
Activity 1 - Research and Comparison (1-2 class periods)
Have students access the Chamunda page from TeachArt Wiki website ( Chola Dynasty) and ask them to answer the following questions:
  • Who is Chamunda?
  • Who is Devi?
  • How is Chamunda related to Devi?
  • What is Chamunda's role in the Hindu faith?

After the students have completed the questions they should discuss their answers and explore the concept of gods and goddesses as aspects of one another.

Allow them to view other traits and manifestations of Devi at the Devi Wikipedia page ( Note that while Devi is considered the "divine mother" of Hinduism, the wrathful, demon-slaying Chamunda is still a part of her. Have students compare and contrast images of Chamunda from the TeachArt Wiki to the images of Devi on the Wikipedia page. Ask the questions:
  • How do Chamunda and Devi differ in appearance?
  • How are they similar?
  • What objects seem to be associated with Chamunda? What do you think they represent? Why?
Have students also compare Chamunda's relationship with Devi to other characters with multiple aspects in popular culture. Some examples could include Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Incredible Hulk, Two-Face (from Batman), and the Mayor from Nightmare Before Christmas.

Activity 2 - What Am I Made Of? (1 class period)
Have students brainstorm various "aspects" of themselves. The list should include obvious external characteristics (appearance, personality, etc.) identified by others along with subtle internal traits that others would not readily know (inner thoughts, feelings, secrets, etc). Have them consider the wrathful, destructive, Chamunda side of their Devi. Additionally, students should relate an object or image to each of their aspects.

Activity 3 - Multiple-Aspect Self-Portrait (2-3 class periods)
Begin work on the oil pastel multiple-aspect self-portrait. First have students fold their sheet of paper in half. Each side will represent a different aspect of themselves - one external, one internal. If they wish, students may fold their paper into thirds or fourths and portray more than two aspects of themselves. Students can also be given the option of depicting themselves in a head shot or full-body pose. Each aspect should include at least two objects that relate to that aspect - suggest they give themselves multiple arms like Hindu deities! Have students sketch out their portrait in pencil before using the pastels. When it comes time to use color, students should use colors that relate to their aspects. For example, light, warm colors for a happy, cheerful aspect and dark, cool colors for a more introspective aspect, etc. Have them include an artist statement describing what each aspect in their portraits represents to them.

Scoring Rubric
Points Possible
Points Earned
Student researched Chamunda and other aspects of Devi through wiki-pages and answered questions successfully.

Student created a list of their personality traits accompanied by objects that represent those traits.

Student created a self-portrait displaying two or more aspects of their personality. Each aspect is represented by at least two metaphorical objects with appropriate use of color. The portrait has a creative and meaningful composition.

Students wrote an artist statement describing their creative decisions and explaining what each aspect in their self-portrait represents.


Bibliography Chola Dynasty