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Paintings > Hindu > Goddess > Devi Dhumavati, The Most Unusual Of The Mahavidyas
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Devi Dhumavati, The Most Unusual Of The Mahavidyas

Devi Dhumavati, The Most Unusual Of The Mahavidyas

Devi Dhumavati, The Most Unusual Of The Mahavidyas

Dhumavati is nothing like you would imagine a Hindu devi to be like. One of the das mahavidyas that the great Sati split into in order to contain Her husband, Shiva, Dhumavati is not characterised by the celestial splendour associated with even Her fellow mahavidyas. Her skin is smokey (dhuma is the Sanskrit word for smoke) and She wears the coarse colourless saree of the Hindu vidhva, as opposed to the resplendent youth and thorough shringar (the mark of the sadhva) of the Others. No living being is Her vahana. She rides a horseless chariot and is accompanied by a bunch of jet black crows, which are scavengers and widely believed in India to be the harbinger of bad news. In this muted portrayal by artist Kailash Raj the mahavidya's oddities are so lucid, the colours used so limited yet precise that if one gazes into this watercolour long enough one could almost hear the ominous cackling of the crows that flock to Her.

The Devi's iconography is a powerful depiction of Hindu widowhood. Apart from the highly symbolic white saree that drapes Her aged figure, Her unkempt tresses and no-makeup look convey keen existential sorrow. A bunch of akshamalas on Her neck, arms, wrists, and ankles is Her only shringar. A strange sense of hungering lines Her face. The eyes are listless. Static kula in one hand, the other raised feebly in varada mudra (gesture of blessing), Dhumavati is the very image of tamaguna. However, Dhumavati also implies an alignment of widowhood (an imposition, involuntary) with sanyasa (voluntary renunciation of one's wordly obligations). The Indian widow is no longer constrained by the demands of householding; she is is free to walk the spiritual path in pursuit of moksha. She stands for adversity that serves to build character.

In this light, Dhumavati is the bestower of siddhis. She is invincible and steady in the face of misfortune. The soothing background of the painting brings out the drama of the mahavidya's presence. Gently undulating mounds painted the palest of pastel green rise against the atypical hue of the sunset. It matches the colour of the chariot in the foreground, done up in tints and shades of gold, standing on the flower-studded grass beneath. Note the divinity exuded by the contrast of the gold of the chariot roof against the dimming blue of the twilight skies.

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Water Color on Paper
Artist: Kailash Raj

8 inch X 10.5 inch
Item Code:
HJ84
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