Groups with Parvati (Camundi) and Bhairava

The large image of Parvati is interesting because it shows a group of related images with Parvati in the centre and four minor deities sitting on the lotus flowers growing next to her. The minor deities in this group are: Skanda (above, to the left of Parvati), Bhairava (below, to the left of Parvati), Ganesha (below, to the right of Parvati), and an ascetic type with a water vessel (kamandalu) (above, to the right of Parvati). Skanda (also known as Kartikeya) and Ganesha are sons of Parvati, and Bhairava is a fierce manifestation of Shiva, while the image with the water vessel may be an ascetic manifestation of Shiva, her husband.

Group statue of Parvati, Skanda, Bhairava, Ganesha and ascetic

Having a group of images on one stele is not very common in Javanese art. However, this arrangement is more often found during the Singosari period. Another well-known example is the stele showing the group including Amoghapasha Lokeshvara, who King Kertanagara sent from Java to Sumatra. It shows Amoghapasha Lokeshvara centrally, his four companions standing next to him, and the Jina Buddhas and their Prajnas higher up on the stele. This group is also represented in a smaller bronze. Together they form the pantheon at Candi Jago, where the same images were also found separately.

Statue of group with ParvatiStatue of group with ParvatiStatue of group with Parvati
Details of the group statue with Parvati

On the basis of such comparisons, Stutterheim has suggested that the Bhairava (now in Leiden) once formed part of a group of deities centred around Parvati that were all housed in Candi B. One weak point in his theory, acknowledged by Stutterheim himself, is the fact that none of the other images seem to have survived. On the other hand, images do go missing. The Camundi was smashed to pieces and buried in the ground because it was thought to contain a bad spirit. This image was rediscovered and restored, but others may never be found. Also, we know that some of the images transported to the Netherlands by Reinwardt lie on the bottom of the ocean in a shipwreck.

Statue Amoghapasha Lokeshvara

A similar group of images is found with that of Camundi, another manifestation of Parvati. In this group, which was found near to Singosari, Camundi features in the centre, flanked by Ganesha dancing on skulls to her left and Bhairava dancing on skulls to her right. This suggests that Bhairava was closely associated with the worship of the goddess (Parvati/Camundi) and that he played a secondary role as a minor image in her group.


This unfinished statue shows a standing female deity with her lower hands in the gesture of meditation (dhyanamudra) and her upper hands raised and holding unfinished attributes that are impossible to identify. Her long loincloth is decorated with a pattern of circles and diamonds. It is held together by a belt with a monster head motif (kala) in the centre. Two shorter male figures stand to either side with their hands folded in respect (anjalimudra). Four small figures decorate the upper part of the back support. The lower one on Parvati’s right is Ganesha. He sits with the soles of his feet touching. An axe (parashu) is visible in one of his left hands. The lower one on Parvati’s left is Bhairava, almost a miniature copy of the Leiden Bhairava, and also closely resembling the Bhairava on the Camundi sculpture. The upper figure on the same side is Skanda (also known as Kartikeya), Parvati’s other son, sitting on his mount, a peacock. The upper figure on the other side is more difficult to identify. It is holding a water vessel and may be one of Shiva’s more peaceful manifestations. The entire image clearly represents a Shaivite group and not, as has been previously suggested, a Mahayana Buddhist group with Tara in the centre.


The image of Camundi was found in Ardimulyo village, about two kilometres north of Candi Singosari, in 1927. A farmer found the statue, but after its discovery he often had nightmares and suffered from misfortune in life. Therefore, he believed that this statue had given him bad luck, and he smashed it to pieces. The broken statue was almost bought by a Dutch collector. With incredible patience, and aided by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, whose director was Jan Fontein, the fragments were eventually put back together and the statue reconstructed, despite the fact that many pieces were missing. The statue is currently in the Trowulan Museum in East Java.

The back support of the statue has an inscription. On the basis of this inscription, several scholars, especially L.C. Damais, have identified the goddess in the image as Camundi. In South India Camundi is another manifestation of Durga (Kali). In North India she is called Camunda. Camunda/Camundi belongs to the group of the Seven goddesses (sapta matrika), and is the consort (shakti) of Bhairava, Shiva’s tantric manifestation. The statue is therefore an expression of Shaiva tantric worship.

Here she sits cross-legged on top of two dead bodies, which represent defeated demons. Part of both legs and one of the dead bodies is missing. Part of the face and chest are also missing. The head of the statue is encircled by an oval shaped halo. She wears a garland of skulls as a necklace. She has eight arms. Her left hands hold a noose (pasha), a bow (dhanus), a severed head (of one of the demons) and a skull cup (kapala). Her right hands hold a trident (trishula), a damaged attribute, a sword (khadga) and an arrow (bana). She is accompanied by Ganesha (on her right) and Bhairava (on her left), both dancing on a row of skulls. The Bhairava seems to be an exact copy of the Bhairava that is now in Leiden. On the support plate around the main statue we can still see carvings of a small image of a goddess seated on the back of a big fish and a decoration of floral motifs.

The Indian text Devi Mahatmya explains that Durga became very angry when she fought the two giant brothers, Canda and Munda. From Durga's forehead emerged Kali in a very terrifying manifestation, holding a sword, a noose and an arrow, and wearing a tiger skin cloth and a necklace made of human skulls. She had red eyes, her tongue sticking out and a skinny body, and was uttering a very scary scream. In the battle against the giants Canda and Munda, Kali was victorious. Since that time Kali has been known as Camunda/Camundi.


The large statue of Bhairava in Leiden is certainly one of Singosari’s main curiosities and mysteries. Its original location is unknown and this has led to considerable discussion. The Bhairava is an amazing and, almost, unique sculpture. Very few images of Bhairava have been found in Indonesia and, of these, only two are monumental statues: the Bhairava of Sungai Langsat (West Sumatra) and the Bhairava of Singosari. The Bhairava of Singosari is represented sitting on his dog. In his four hands, he holds a trident, a knife, a skull cup and a drum. His wild, curly hair is floating behind his head. He is depicted naked, with the exception of some jewels. His bulging eyes and his fangs denote his demonic character, as do the skulls and severed heads adorning his crown, earrings and necklace. Like Ganesha, Bhairava stands on a row of skulls.

In Hindu mythology, Bhairava represents the destructive manifestation of Shiva. This is probably the most violent representation of Shiva, since it is linked to the myth of the decapitation of Brahma, the creator of the Hindu triad. The story is told in the Puranas. Brahma, wanting to be recognized as the supreme deity, asked Vishnu to worship him, since he was the creator of the universe. Brahma’s pretence angered Shiva, who considered himself as the creator of all. Shiva’s anger was incarnated in the form of Bhairava. Bhairava beheaded one of Brahma’s heads, but his deed made him guilty of slaying a brahmin. To expiate his crime, Bhairava was condemned to wander as a hermit and survive by begging until he was cleared of his sin in the holy city of Varanasi (Benares).

The image at Singosari most probably features Bhairava during his wandering period. He is depicted as a naked man. The skull cup may represent Brahma’s skull which, according to the myth, no sacrifice could fill. The knife in his hand is a sacrificial knife for blood offerings and the skulls on which he stands are reminiscent of his meditation on cremation grounds.

Bhairava is the annihilator of the worlds, but destruction is also salvation: the destruction of a world preludes its re-creation. This aspect of Shiva is also manifest in the microcosm. Bhairava, then, embodies the destruction of ignorance and illusion, freeing men from the material world. The worship of Bhairava will grant his devotees triumph over rivals and worldly success.

Even though the early documentation by Engelhard seems to suggest that the image comes from Candi Singosari (Candi A), it is not exactly clear how accurate this information is. The statue could also have come from the direct surroundings of Candi Singosari, or even from slightly further away, from one of the other temples.