However, whatever the iconographic perception of this masterpiece, rendered pursuing the art style of Malwa in Central India, as it prevailed around mid-seventeenth century, the goddess has been represented in her pioneer role of eliminating a host of demons, all alone and almost barehanded. Except a sword in one of her four hands and a diamond-segmented ring, a disc-like weapon, in another, she is not carrying any instruments of war, suggesting perhaps that her objective and her spiritual strength, not weapons, are her might and power. She is confronting the mighty elephant-demon, perhaps in the line of Gaya, and the horse-demon, perhaps one of Hayagriva’s descendants, with no weapons in hands. Lifted in her upper right hand she seems to toss the elephant-demon to death. With lower right hand she has caught hold of the horse-demon’s throat and is on the point of throttling it. As contends the ‘Dhyana’ related to this aspect of the goddess, after she had killed Chand and Munda, she picked enemy army’s elephants and horses, lifted them into air and flung them into her mouth. Heads, hands, legs and dead-bodies of many others, lying scattered around in the battlefield, portray the havoc she inflicted on the enemy army and its chiefs.
Most texts, especially Puranas like Agni, Garuda, Devi Bhagavata and Bhagavata, talk of Kali’s ferocious aspects. The vision of her in this painting, however, is not in tune with such perception of the goddess. It is rather closer to those texts that consider her as another manifestation or aspect of Durga, and thus Shiva’s spouse, at least in adding feminine grace and softness to her form. Durga too destroyed demons but without ever losing elegance, benignity and feminineness. This modification in her iconographic form in the painting is an artistic innovation, not a disregard to the wide spread Kali worship cult. As one granting success in wars and eliminating enemies Kali is worshipped far and wide and as the independent deity.
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
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