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Paintings > Mughal > Courtesan > Beauty and Purity (Physical and the Divine)
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Beauty and Purity (Physical and the Divine)

Beauty and Purity (Physical and the Divine)

Beauty and Purity (Physical and the Divine)

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Indian literature classifies women into four types of which the highest is Padmini, the Lotus Lady whose very breath contains the fragrance of the lotus. Because of its entrancing fragrance, the sweet and pervasive freshness of the lotus is captivating. The honey produced in the calyx is so sweet and maddening that it is believed that the bee forgets to get out of it and prefers to remain veiled inside the lotus through the night.

Ancient mythmakers used the lotus as a common symbol of fertility. The plant was native to many areas of the world, so it occurred frequently in myths and was highly revered by people of many cultures, including the Egyptians and the Persians. It is the very behavior of the flower that gives rise to this symbolism. Sinking to the bottom of the water at night, it rises to the surface in the morning, and spreads its petals on the surface. This awakening and blooming of the lotus at the first rays of the morning sun is a recurrent theme in Indian literature also.

The lotus is the symbol of absolute purity; it grows from the dark watery mire but it is untainted or unstained by it. As the seed of the lotus grows from the waters and from the earth's soil, it is a symbol of divine or spontaneous generation. Birth such as that of the lotus implies an immaculate and uncontaminated conception. Thus the lotus, as divine womb, becomes a potent sexual metaphor. Padma or kamala, meaning lotus in Sanskrit, is a synonym for the female generative organ - it is both soft and open.

Thus by signifying the relation of the sensual to the spiritual, beauty to purity, and the physical to the divine, the potent metaphor of the lotus again emphasizes the inherent sacredness in women.

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