Lion vahana, mount of Goddess Durga

Polychrome wooden sculpture, 20th century, Tamil Nadu, India 

We have just given this lion pride of place in the South Asia Collection. He has been relocated from the rear of the gallery to the very first display case by the entrance. Situated just below a newly installed welcome sign, our friendly lion waits to greet visitors to the museum! 

This majestic lion was designed to carry the deity Durga during Durga Puja, an important Hindu festival. Durga is the mother goddess who battles the evil in the world. The lion represents power, will and determination and in riding the lion, Durga symbolises her mastery over all these qualities. This lion comes from Sivakasi, a small town near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India, but Durga Puja is celebrated throughout India.

The move, which involved four strong members of staff and numerous others helpfully directing, allowed us to give the lion a spring clean before installing him into his new home.  Cleaned gently with a conservation Museum Vac, he is now looking particularly dazzling.  We hope you will be able to pop in and see him soon