Tyeb Mehta, one of India's most celebrated artists, was part of the vanguard Progressive Artists Group that drew stylistic inspiration from European masters while re-interpreting distinctly Indian themes post-Independence in 1948. Mehta was particularly influenced by the macabre distortions of Francis Bacon, as seen by his treatment of the figures' faces. Mehta's overall body of work is limited due to his meticulous and exacting standards. Often working on a single canvas over an extended period of time he has destroyed many a work in progress.
Hindu mythological themes are prevalent in Mehta's later work. The 5th century text, Markandeya Purana, relates the traditional Hindu tale of the Warrior Goddess Durga slaying the Buffalo Demon, Mahisha. However, Mehta's interpretation brings to the forefront the ambiguous dichotomies between the masculine and feminine, the divine and mortal, and the human and the bestial, while also tying into a grander Liebestod theme of consummation and destruction. The twisting figures depicted in diagonal planes overlap and blur into each other in a manner that is both violent and overtly sexual. Art critic, Ranjit Hoskote notes, "The bodies of the protagonists slip and knot over one another, entwined as though in some exalted act of yogic origami; the disembodiment, the torsion and the inflammation become tropes of war and love." (Tyeb Mehta: Paintings, New Delhi, Vadehra Art Gallery, Winter 1998, unpaginated) Mehta, distilling the highly complex religious themes of this story to a single frame, has recast Mahisha as a sympathetic figure in a seductive embrace with Durga. In Mehta's view, both figures are besotted and both fully aware that she will vanquish him. Eventually after 10,000 years, Mahisha is slain by Durga. However Mahisha's prior acts may also be seen in a self-sacrificial light, and as a general metaphor for the spiritual transformation that comes as a result of union with the divine.