The form of the goddess inherits from the Bengal tradition of the Great Goddess its round face, well-swelled cheeks, wide open eyes, thick overdone eyelashes, thicker eyebrows and body-colour, though in other things, especially its folk character, figure’s modelling and its Vaishnava links it is close to Orissa art school. The Great Serpent Shesh has its five-hooded head extended over the figure of the goddess like a canopy with which she looks like Vaishnavi, the consort of Lord Vishnu; however, the deity’s identity as Durga and her Shaivite links reveal with far greater thrust and beyond every doubt. This blend of different sets of elements continues however further. As the Shaivite goddess, too, she blends the elements of both Shaivism and Skaktism, and further, some from the iconography of Kali.
Though under Shakta cult Shakti is contended to be possessed of Shiva’s all attributes and powers, at least two of his attributes, the flames of fire that burst from his body – the manifestation of his dynamic energies when he is on the peak of Tandava, and Apasmarapurusha over whose figure he performs this dance of dissolution are exclusively Shiva’s. It is only sometimes that he shares these features with Kali when she dances for dissolution. Thus this form of Durga inherits at least these two elements, the flames of fire and Apasmarapurusha, from Kali, if not direct from Shiva. Apart, this image of Durga has been conceived with two fangs, uneven and somewhat flabby breasts and a ferocious bearing which again are the elements of Kali’s iconography.
This image of Durga has been conceived with six arms, carrying in upper two the ‘damaru’ – a double drum, and noose, in those in the middle she is holding a trident and is striking with it Apasmarapurusha, in the lower right she is holding a ‘shula’ – a pointed rod, and in the left, a serpent, all being essentially the Shaivite attributes. She has under her a tall lotus seat which she is occupying in semi-sitting posture, that is, supporting her form on her left foot fixed on the seat and the entire figure hung over it. With his head supported on his left arm Apasmarapurusha is lying on the podium on which lay the lotus seat of the goddess. She is wearing a tall crown and large ‘kundalas’ – ear-ornaments, the features of Vaishnava iconography, and various other jewels and a deeply pleated ‘antariya’ – lower garment. The goddess has a round face with large wide-open awe-inspiring eyes, inflated cheeks, cute small lips, though with their aesthetics distorted by two fangs projecting on both sides, flames of fire emitting from around her head and a ferocious bearing.
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.