India, state of Bihar, ca. 100. Gray terra-cotta. Lent by the collection of Anupam and Rajika Puri.

One of the most striking of a group of early terra-cotta images, this sensuous yet disturbing figure has two serpents wrapped around her body. Her long hair, wound with a braided jeweled fabric, is arranged in a magnificent bun at the back, while her girdle consists of a string of large medallions decorated with a floral design and joined by rounded spacer beads. Despite its diminutive size, the image conveys a striking impression of strength and immensity. The two serpents that casually wind themselves around the body of this superb, although partly damaged, terra-cotta figure suggest her affiliation with semidivine serpent beings, the nagas and naginis. The exact identity of this serpent-related deity is difficult to establish. She seems to be an early prototype of a snake goddess and might be a protective deity invoked for protection again snakes as also against evil and poisons of other kinds.