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Viewed 9838 times since 22nd Nov, 2015
The painting, a delightful combination of contemporary idiom and mythicism – the theme from ancient scriptures and the medium of representing it from the contemporary world, represents Devi, the divine female manifesting primordial female energy that made the cosmos emerge. The divine form might also be identified as Santoshi Mata, now one of the most worshipped deities of the Hindu pantheon. As for Devi to a contemporary mind the term is applicable to any female divinity; this, however, is not the position in early texts. Though some female deities with specific names begin appearing since Rig-Vedic days, or in the Rig-Veda itself, in simultaneity Devi as the manifestation of primordial female energy that instrumented and pervaded the creation – a deity form by name, also forms the part of the early Hindu pantheon. Even sage Markandeya who in his Purana perceived Devi as three-aspected – parallel to three aspected male Gods-trayi – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and devoted a subsection to each of such aspects, chose to laud the Divine Female primarily as Devi – ‘Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu …’ – Devi that pervades the entire cosmos. To sage Markandeya in her all three forms Devi’s role was the same : demon-slaying, again the unity of her being affirmed.
The three aspected manifestation of Devi that sage Markandeya lauded as Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati subsequently occupied the main space in the pantheon and Devi reduced into a reverential term used alike before every one of them. Later in popular usage while Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati : mostly as Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati, occupied the main space and the term Devi reduced further and began denoting any female form believed to enshrine divinity. Later the term was used for showing respect towards any woman. Subsequently, not just names and their identical role which confined to elimination of evil, each of the Devi’s manifest forms emerged as an independent divinity with an independent iconographic form – physiognomy, attributes, mount and even adornment, nature, hymns, legends, mythicism and role. However, as always, the term Devi continued to denote a wider presence beyond a specific form, the ultimate divinity and the ultimate power.
The goddess seated in ‘padmasana’ with her lotus-like glistening feet held upwards, a ‘padmasana’ – lotus-posture in its truer sense, is a divine form enshrining great divinity but is different from either of Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati or any of the subsequent female deities. She carries a trident, Shiva’s infallible weapon, and a naked sword but war and blood-shed is not at all her choice as is that of Kali or any of Durga like other Shaivite deities. This image carries instruments of war but none of its inclination in her bearing. With abundant jewels on her person the goddess is more like Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, riches, abundance, prosperity and progeny; however, the trident and sword, her attributes, upset the equation. These are not Lakshmi’s attributes at least after her battlefield role was deleted and she was the goddess of riches. Apart, lotus is the essence of Lakshmi’s iconography but except her own lotus-like glistening feet or a lotus holding the ‘purna-ghat’ as its base, lotus is not her image’s component. A widely different set of her attributes apart this image form is completely different from the form of Saraswati. Obviously, this image represents Devi in her primordial form that blessed not by her act but by her sheer presence –‘Ya Devi sarva bhutesh’ – Oh Devi, thou art everywhere present.
Richly adorned with ornaments composed of precious stones – rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, pearls, coral beads … embedded in purest of metals, the gold, this ‘padmasana’ seated image of Devi has been installed on a gold throne composed of similar gems as her ornaments, a rich velvet cushion to seat on and a backrest behind. As much the giver of fortune, abundance and wisdom as of release from worldly desire and transcendence, the face of the goddess glows in great divine aura, the lustre forming a halo like look behind her crown, its magnificence multiplied millions times. Her figure revealing a strange sense of geometry – right and left to an imagery central line conceived in perfect symmetry and absolute balance, seems to have been modelled more on aesthetic lines rather than sectarian. Position of her feet, modelling of her arms carrying in upper ones a trident and a sword, and the normal left, a bowl carrying rice, and normal right, held in ‘abhaya’, besides every component of the image, create a delightful geometry. The gold-complexioned figure of the goddess has been conceived with an oval face angular towards the chin, large brownish eyes, well defined nose and other features, and neck perfectly aligning with the face above and shoulders and rest of her figure below. The goddess is clad richly in a reddish deep pink sari extensively brocaded with gold thread, and golden blouse. The ‘purna-ghat’ motif, symbolic of all known and unknown worlds, placed before the goddess, imparts to all her protection that the gesture of her normal right hand assures.
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.