Batara Indra

Woodcarving of Batara Indra, approx. 1970-1975, Njana Tilem Gallery

This statue of Batara Indra – the Hindu deity who rules the sky and unleashes lightning and thunder – was made around 1970 by a woodcarver from the Njana Tilem Gallery in Mas. Indra is depicted in Buddha pose, meditating on a double lotus throne. The carving is very fine. Notice the small decorations on Indra’s crown and skirt and the delicate mudra gesture of his hands.

Batara Indra plays an important role in Balinese mythology. He’s the spiritual father of Arjuna, the hero of the Mahabharata. Indra is also associated with the Pura Tirta Empul (Holy Spring Temple) in Tampaksiring. Legend has it that the natural spring was created by the god to heal his divine warriors with holy water (amritha) after they were poisoned by the demon king Mayadenawa.

Indra was determined to kill this evil king, who had forbidden the people to worship the gods. Mayadenawa fled and tried to disguise himself. When he transformed himself into a boulder, Indra shot an arrow through it and killed the demon. The Balinese commemorate the death of Mayadenawa every 210 days in the Balinese traditional calendar as the day when virtue triumphs over evil in the ritual and ceremony called Galungan.

Tirta Empul, photo: Alexandr Podvalny –

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