The oldest surviving brackets date from the 13th century. They typically portray a beautiful goddess standing cross-legged under a tree in the classic pose of Indian fertility goddesses known as 'Yakshis.' As depicted in this bracket, such tree-goddess' are supported by a crouching gnome under their feet.
The association of women with trees is an ancient Indian concept which celebrates the fertilizing aspect of all womanhood. The sculptor has very skilfully brought alive this affiliation in his creation. The goddess's right hand is raised and gently grips a branch of the fruiting tree above her. The idea being that by their mere touch, the fertilizing power of a woman is transferred to a tree, which then bursts into flowers. All things that arise from the earth in the form of vegetative life mirror the great generative function of the Goddess. The process of transformation that is possible in mortal woman mirrors the miracle of growth that occurs in nature.
Such figures emphasize the importance of fertility and its associated elements of bearing and nourishing children. The artist has sought to make explicit this aspect by highlighting the voluptuous yet graceful form of the fertility goddess. The awesome perfectly symmetrical breasts are evident pointers to her nourishing potential and the ample abdomen and hips tapering down to the sensuous thighs relate to her child bearing capacity.
There is also the suggestion that a tree is vulnerable to careless handling like a woman. A tree that has come to flower or fruit will not be cut down; it is treated as a mother, a woman who has given birth. Thus the metaphoric connections between a tree and a woman are many and varied. A relevant one here is that the word for "flowering" and menstruation is the same in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit a menstruating woman is called a 'pushpavati', "a woman in flower". Menstruation itself is a form and a metaphor for a woman's special creativity. Thus a woman's biological and other kinds of creativity are symbolized by flowering. It is interesting to note here that decoctions made from the bark of the Ashoka tree are used to soothe menstrual cramps and excessive blood loss during menstruation. The bark decoction also relieves the pain and tension related to menopause.
This masterpiece comes from Bhaktapur, a small town 13 kilometres off Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.