Origin: Hindu mythology

Type: Buffalo headed demon

Mahisha threatened to throw the cosmic order off balance, polluting the earth and sea. The goddess Durga came to defeat him, and in his arrogance sent her a marriage proposal. The goddess replied, “I will only marry he that defeats me in battle.”

Their battle shook mountains and oceans. Mahisha transformed first into a lion, and then an elephant. Armed with Shiva’s trident and Vishnu’s discus, Durga smashed Mahisha’s horns, sheared his lion’s mane and slashed the elephant trunk. She kicked him with her holy feet, and drove the trident into his heart, killing him.


The narrative of the Hindu goddess Durga—her assembling the weapons of all the gods and overcoming the demigod Mahisha, who endangered the order of the world—is represented here at the moment of her victory. Having chopped the bull’s head off, Durga pulls the body of the demigod from the animal by the hair and stabs him before he can even draw his sword. His two companions kneeling before her, their weapon-bearing arms dropped in defeat, have a vajra (left) and a disk (right) piercing their chests.

Gilt copper alloy
Rubin Museum of Art