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Sculptures > Wood > Durga in Ferocious Form Subduing Apasmara
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Durga in Ferocious Form Subduing Apasmara

Durga in Ferocious Form Subduing Apasmara

Durga in Ferocious Form Subduing Apasmara

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South Indian Temple Wood Carving
Artist: R. Chellappan

2.8 ft X 1.4 ft X 0.5 ft
14.3 Kg
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Durga in Ferocious Form Subduing Apasmara

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Viewed 11098 times since 1st May, 2011
A strange blend of different sets of iconographies and regional traditions – folk as well as classical, this wood-sculpture represents a ferocious form of Durga with attributes of Kali and Vaishnavi blended. Essentially an image of Durga, the avenging goddess of battlefield operating against the wicked and her devotees’ tormentors, the goddess has been represented as striking Apasmarapurusha, the demon of inertia, with her trident but unlike the classical art traditions the figure of the goddess does not reveal the necessary force or dynamism as it should have done. This static character of the image even when it portrays an action is the mode of folk arts that perceive in a form far more than what it apparently portrays : action in total inaction, or perfect poise on the face of the figure charging on its opponent in the battlefield. The figure’s modelling, anatomy, proportions and overall finish meet the standards of the art of elite; but in colouring of eyes, eye-brows, ornaments and even the superficially added fangs on either side the image betrays strong folk elements.

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.

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