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Mahisasura-mardini

Mahisasura-mardini

Mahisasura-mardini

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Orissa's Paata Painting Water Color on Patti

2.5 ft X 4.0 ft
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PC13
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This large size colourful painting depicts Devi in her Mahisasura-mardini form. She is seen slaying the demon Mahisasura. Quite strangely, the Mahisasura-mardini form of Devi has been associated here with Mahasaraswati on her left and Mahalakshmi on her right and her two sons Kartikeya and Ganesh below them. As goes the legend in Devi- Mahatmaya and Devi-Purana, she slew Mahisasura almost immediately after she had been created by the gods with the acclaimed objective of killing the demon Mahisasura. In the legend there has not been any time gap for any other legend, or sub-legend to creep up. She is acclaimed to have slain Mahisasura all alone and unassisted, though within her she had the might and, to some extent, the presence of all gods, besides all of her own aspects or manifestations.

Seated inside an elegantly cast shrine with a conventional floor of square patterns this image of the Devi is essentially a votive image, and it is in such character of the painting that the explanation for the unusual vividness of its theme and the scripturally conventional appearance of the Devi might be sought. The ten handed deity equipped with traditional weapons, sword, shield, trident, arrow, mace, conch, noose, snake etc. mounted on her formal decorative white lion is essentially in her deity form. The presence of Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi, Kartikeya and Ganesh on their vehicles respectively the swan, owl peacock and mouse and with their other attributes and that of Mahisasura cast in green consisting partly of the body of a buffalo and partly that of a man collates only such conventional aspect of Devi. Her figure has been clad in red and richly bejewelled, that of Mahasaraswati in white and of Mahalakshmi in a combination of deep red and green. This costume pattern too adheres to the tradition of Devi iconography.

Elimination of Mahisasura is the widest known episode of the Devi legend. Mahisasura, after he was able to acquire from Brahma the boon that he would remain invincible against all men, turned to a cruel demon inflicting atrocities on the innocent. After he had won the entire earth he invaded heaven, the seat of Indra and the abode of gods and expelled Indra and all gods from there. But in the meantime gods came to know that under a boon from Brahma Mahisasura was secured against all men and thus could only be slain by a woman. Hence, under a strategy they created out of their own attributes a female warrior, the Devi, and gave to her all their weapons. Mahamuni Narad in their behalf prayed the newly created Devi to save the abode of gods from the tyranny of Mahisasura and set the earth free from his atrocities. Devi accomplished the prayer of gods and was worshipped by them all and commemorated as Mahisasura-mardini.

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.

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