This brilliant marble statue, an example of rare ingenuity and great skill as perfected in generations of pursuance, represents eighteen-armed goddess – Devi in her initial form. The goddess might have taken to this eighteen-armed form for holding attributes of various gods when they created her out of their own spiritual power and with all their attributes. In visual representations this manifestation of the goddess is often represented as Mahishasura-mardini – the goddess charging against the demon Mahisha, often riding her mount lion. However, in some visual traditions, and more logically, her initial form has been seen as a non-operative sublime presence. Soon after gods had amassed their spiritual powers and attributes for their delight, as also for creating among them confidence, the goddess took a form and appeared. This manifestation of the goddess was ultimate and different from her operative manifestations that were four-armed, six-armed, ten-armed … carrying an alike number of attributes, not all that she was endowed with. As such the statue represents her absolute image.
As contends the myth of her origin, the demon Mahisha, born of the demon king Rambha of his buffalo wife and had hence the name and appearance of buffalo, was highly ambitious. He had in mind the design to overthrow gods and evict them of Devaloka – Heaven. He hence underwent rigorous penance and pleased Brahma who granted him the boon that no male shall ever be able to kill him. Mahisha thought that he now invincible as no female could have the power to defeat and kill him. On the height of his arrogance he grew more and more atrocious and cruel. He grabbed the entire earth and also invaded heaven and defeated Indra and all other gods forcing them to flee. Gods approached Brahma and knew from him about Mahisha’s boon of invincibility against all males. He revealed that a female alone could kill him. Gods, a male community, felt helpless. On Brahma’s advice they went to Shiva, and finally to Vishnu. After due deliberations Vishnu suggested that they should create out their aggregate divine lustre, a female power to kill Mahisha.
As Lord Vishnu advised, instantly all gods, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, Varuna, Kuber, Yama, Agni, Vayu, Vasu, Moon and Earth among others released the essential aspects of their beings, which soon transformed into an eighteen-armed youthful woman possessed of astonishing beauty, rare feminine grace and divinity such as had never enshrined a female form. Obviously, her eighteen-armed form was her aggregate all other forms being its ‘ansh’ – part. Essentially a manifestation for battlefield the goddess also represented absolute womanhood on the earth. Then gods gifted to her their weapons, as also all other attributes and even divine costumes and ornaments. It is obvious that it was for holding a wide range of attributes that she had to resort to an eighteen-armed form.
The sculptor has wondrously managed the most cumbersome anatomy of the goddess with eighteen arms, nine branching from each shoulder. The figure’s iconographic features with round face, large protruding eyes extending across the face, proportionate nose, cute fine lips, well-aligned chin and elevated neck, and a highly balanced figure, minimize the figure’s cumbersomeness making it look like an anatomy of a normal human being. Marble, or any stone for that matter, is an uncompromising medium not easily yielding details, such as were required in distinguishing one attribute from the other especially when many of them were identical in appearance. The artist has displayed rare skill in identifying each, though identity of some of them is not clear. The goddess is holding her normal right hand in ‘abhay’ while in normal left, she is carrying a trident embedded with diamonds; in those on the right side she is carrying a threaded ‘danda’ – rod, elephant goad, mace, conch or hammer, lotus, bow, rosary, and ‘kamandala’ – pot; on the left side she is carrying sword, ‘shakti’? bowl, ‘mustika’, another kind of ‘mustika’, rope, dagger, and noose. The uniformity of the stone’s colour and its knots and cracks-free texture and the colouring using light sandal tint, besides pink and golden, creates a magic rarely seen even in marble statues.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet.