Skip to main content

Durga Copper Plate


Artwork Details

Durga Copper Plate
19th century - 20th century
9 3/8 in x 5 13/16 in (23.8 cm x 14.8 cm);9 3/8 in x 5 13/16 in (23.8 cm x 14.8 cm)
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel.



Plate inscribed with a flying figure of Hanuman holding
a flag, mace, and spear
India, Rajasthan
18th–19th century
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel,

Durga copper plate (middle)
India, Kulu, Himachal Pradesh
19th–20th century
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel,

Durga copper plate with mystic design (right)
India, Kulu, Himachal Pradesh
18th–20th century
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel,

The combinations of divinities with ornamentation in the form
of Hindi letters on these copper plates form yantras, or functional
tools or instruments believed to have talismanic properties. In
India, these mystical diagrams are typically composed of geometric
and alphabetical figures etched onto small plates of gold, silver,
or copper. These devices serve a twofold function: to invoke a
particular god, and to help the devotee focus spiritual and mental
energies upon that deity. They are frequently devoted to the
achievement of health, good fortune, or childbearing, and are
sometimes installed near or under the deity in the temple. In sacred
diagrams such as this one, words enhanced the efficacy of the image,
increasing the divine figures’ protective powers.

The example on the left includes a profile portrait of the monkey-
general Hanuman, who is known to ward off evil portents. The
central and right-hand plates depict the goddess Durga in two
different iconographies. The central image is a fairly conventional
image of the goddess, bearing weapons and sitting atop her tiger
mount. On the right, her appearance is militant and offers the
beholder a fierce and maternal protection: elements of love, care,
and nourishment are present alongside her martial strength. Her
weapons, given to her by the male deities to kill demons they could
not subdue, represent the embodied energies (shaktis) of those gods,
which are here combined in the goddess.

Fall 2022 Gallery Rotation

March 28, 2009
From the seventh century on, goddess worship absorbed a set of esoteric practices that spread across India. These included the repetition of mantras (potent sound syllables), the creation of yantras (magical diagrams), the consumption of the flesh and blood of animals, and performance of rituals associated with corpses. Represented here is a fairly conventional image of Durga, bearing weapons, astride her tiger mount. Yet, the incorporation of letters and words from sacred diagrams alludes to esoteric practices: the syllable om wrapped in two circles, the word shri, and a grid of letters below. In sacred diagrams such as this one, the word enhanced the efficacy of the image, increasing the goddess’s protective powers.
(Label for UMMA South and Southeast Asia Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject Matter:

Labeled as Durga, an umbrella title or classification for Goddess images, she is probably more aptly title as Mujunidevi in Kulu, the place where this was mostly likely produced. That title is used in publication of both Ananda Coomaraswamy and Davidson, p. 103. But the iconography is pan-Indian as the name Durga is fully descriptive. Consistently the goddess rides on a tiger or lion, often apparently a combination of both felines, and carries weapons with which to kill demons. The Goddess was produced to kill demons that the gods could not kill and it was only a creation of the Goddess out of their combined powers that the demons were quelled. Here weapons of a variety of the Gods are present suggesting that collective power.

Physical Description:

An eight armed goddess sits astride a tiger with uplifted tail. She carries a noose, punch dagger, shankha, and trident in her right hands and a bow, ring-like discus, arrow and shield in her left arms. She wears a long garland of either large rudraksa or heads around her heck along with other necklaces and pendants. She sits with legs pendant wearing a long skirt. Behind the figure a Om symbol with the end of the letter twirled around it twice and the word Shri written in Devanagari script. Below the figure a grid of letters forms a sacred diagram. The lines forming the grid all end in trident forms. Each square of the grid houses a different letter in nagari.

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.