According to Shaivite theology, it is the combined presence of both Shiva and his consort Parvati (Uma) that bestows grace upon an individual soul.
The Somaskanda group - to include a small image of their son Skanda between them which is now missing, while their elder son Ganesha would never be included in this context - is an important and clearly defined iconographic type closely adheared to throughout the Chola period. It distinguishes itself from the north Indian familial equivalent known as Umamaheshvara by a more stylized and formal interpretation.
The present example is particularly well executed with elegantly modeled features; various related examples are in public collections, notably at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, see P. Pal, Indian Sculpture, vol. 2, cat. no. 143, p. 271, with similar treatment of the base, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at the Norton Simon Museum, see P. Pal, Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, vol. 1, 2003, cat. 168, p. 222f.