A massive figure of goddess Durga in the centre, conceived with deep orange or vermillion red as her body-colour that her mount lion also shares, rhythmically poised eighteen arms and a large halo around her face, dominates the canvas out-sizing all other figures portrayed along. The three-eyed Durga is wearing a lotus crown, has deep black hair and an oval face with slightly pointed chin drawn in vermillion red with forms of eyes, nose, lips and ears portrayed in white. She is clad in a bright blue blouse, printed skirt in yellow shaded with brown, and a large sash in turmeric yellow flaring behind covering the entire breadth – the figure’s one of the most beautiful attributes, and is adorned in a few simple ornaments as defined her womanhood, its supreme model that the goddess is. Her elaborately conceived halo consisting of three rings and inner red zone seems to have mystic dimensions, the inner zone suggesting the goddess’s exploded energies, and three rings, the three cosmic zones radiating with it.
Except the figure of the goddess Durga that rises almost from the bottom to the top covering the entire centre, the horizontal breadth is divided into two registers, each consisting of four figures. In the upper, flanking the goddess on her right, is the four-armed Mahalakshmi, and on the left, Mahasaraswati. In her all four hands Mahalakshmi is carrying lotuses; Mahasaraswati is carrying in two of them ‘vina’ – a stringed instrument, and in the other two, a book and a rosary. On the extreme right there is the figure of four-armed Lord Ganesh in vermillion red riding his mount mouse. While the deity’s right hands are held in ‘abhaya’ – protective posture, and ‘varad’ – the posture granting redemption, the left are carrying a lotus and a goad. On the extreme left of the goddess Durga, there is Kumari, the feminine aspect and the consort of Karttikeya, Shiva’s elder son and the Commander of gods’ army, riding a peacock, the mount of her spouse. The normal two-armed Kumari is holding a bunch of arrows in her right hand, and a bow, in her left.
In the lower register just around the feet of the goddess Durga there is the black-bodied demon Mahisha emerging out of the figure of a buffalo after the goddess severed its head. The animal’s python-like dramatized body, the severed head and the rest wreathing as in pain, is lying around the goddess’s feet. The goddess has overpowered the demon and pierced its chest with her two lances with full force. Before the demon could raise its sword to strike back the goddess’s mount lion grabbed its sword-holding hand and completely disabled it. There is on the right of the demon the figure of Yama, the god of death, riding his buffalo conceived in green, as if arriving for taking the charge of Mahisha. The god of death is carrying in one of its hands a flag, and in the other, holding the reins of its mount. On the extreme left of Mahisha’s figure are Shiva and Parvati with Shiva’s mount Nandi. Lord Shiva has been conceived with a green figure and knotted hair. All five figures in the upper register have lotus crowns on their heads, and those in the lower register, are bare-headed. The theme of the painting being Shaivite, the artist has conceived all figures with a third eye, an attribute of Shiva.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.