In the Gandharan context it is not uncommon for popular deities of antiquity to be incorporated into the Buddhist pantheon - Herakles, Poseidon and Atlas for example - as well as the Brahmanic divinities. More remarkably, the Hindu god Shiva also appears in this context. Images of this type are extremely rare. They represent among the very first anthropomorphic images of the deity in the Indian subcontinent and their historic significance cannot be overstated.
Shiva is characterized by the third eye on his forehead, the crescent moon in his hair, and his erect phallus concealed by the drapery of his dhoti. The three heads represent an unusual early iconography also found in the few other known examples in Gandhara.
In a fascinating parallel evolution to Buddhist worship, Shiva is at first represented in powerful abstract iconic images, while anthropomorphic images emerge around the first century. Images of Shiva further appear on coins during the reign of Kanishka I at the beginning of the 2nd century.
Only a handful of Gandharan sculptures depicting Shiva appear to be known; beside the two present examples a notable example is the four-armed three-headed Shiva relief at the Museum für Indische Kunst, see M. Yaldiz (et. al.), Magische Götterwelten, 2000, cat. no. 25.