An image of A door guardian (Dvarapala)

Unknown Artist

A door guardian (Dvarapala)

Other titles:
A temple guardian, Dvarapala
Not on display
Further information

The tradition of building and carving in wood has always been popular in Kerala. It has also retained its creative vitality for a long period as is clear from this lively and pleasing figure of a 'dvarapala' or doorkeeper. Generally, doorkeepers are more solemn imposing figures who strike more reposeful postures. But in the south they are sometimes shown as dancing, as is suggested by the posture and gestures of this guardian.

Despite the fact that he is enmeshed in twisting and interlocking jewelleries of all kinds and swirling scarves and tassels, his powerful form is not obscured nor his vigour diminished. He wraps his plump left leg around his club, the toes resting on the hood of a cobra. His right arm swings across his chest and the bent left arm is held up. The gestures of both hands are exquisitely graceful, and his face with bulging eyes and open mouth is expressive.

Pratapaditya Pal, 'Dancing to the flute - Music and dance in Indian art', AGNSW, 1997. pg. 116.

Place of origin
Kerala, India
16th century-17th century
carved wood wall panel
95.2 x 42.0 x 18.0 cm; 100.5 cm with stand
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Purchased 1994
Accession number
Marshall Spink and Son Ltd., 1994, England