I worship Devi
shines like a thousand rising suns
is attired in red garments
wears a garland of heads,
has breasts besmeared with red sandalwood
holds (in her two hands) the rosary and the book
(and the other two hands are in the mudras of)
boon-conferring and protection,
has three eyes adorning her lotus-face,
has her forehead bedecked with the moon and
the bejeweled diadem,
is seated on the lotus.
Jagadamba is transcendental
to be known by the Vedas,
she dwells in the Vindhya mountains
the nourisher of the universe
the mother of the Vedas
Vishnumaya produces an illusion of limitation
even to Vishnu who is limitless,
has the universe for her pleasure.
In moments of trial and suffering, the tendency is to turn to our mother, assured of succour even when everyone and everything else fails us. She who has borne and nurtured us is the surest and most loving resort. Why should not the devotees, therefore, remember the very source of the universe, nay, and the greater cosmic energy, which manifested as Jagadamba, the mother of the universe? In the dhyana shloka the devotee - the poet - describes her as being as 'lustrous as a thousand rising suns' and the artist has tried to suggest this by color. Indeed, in the sensitive rendering of the calm face glowing with a golden luster, the artist has surpassed the poet.
The setting is idyllic. In the forefront is an expanse of water bedecked with lotuses. In the background is an open sky tinged with orange at the horizon. Trees frame the side of the painting in the center of which sits Jagadamba on a full-bloomed lotus. Consummate artistry has gone into modeling the breath-taking delicacy of her serene form. She is wearing a garland of skulls around her neck and carries a rosary covered in a silken bag in one hand and a book in another. Her third hand is in abhaya mudra, i.e., the openpalm position of the hand, signifying her capacity to grant freedom from fear. The fourth hand is in varada mudra, i.e., an open palm facing downwards indicating the generosity of the mother of the universe in granting boons to her devotees, be they the gifts of dharma (righteousness), artha (material goods), kama (emotional fulfillment) or moksha (salvation). The rosary invisible to the eye because of its covering signifies a silent and heart-felt prayer for the welfare of all. In our more troubled moments, we often question the divine mother's concern for our welfare, but the covered rosary is a reminder to us that she labours dedicatedly though silently for our welfare even if this may not always be obvious to us. The rosary covered in a silken sheath is also an indication that prayer when sincere need not necessarily make an exhibition of itself by way of ritual and tradition, rather it gets intensified by withdrawing into a quiet dialogue between the devotee and the deity where no one else intrudes. The book in Jagadamba's hand is representative of knowledge of the Shastras (scriptures). She, as stated in the verse at the head of this description, is Vedajanani, the Mother of the Vedas, hence, also vedaidya, i.e., one who can be known by the knowledge and understanding of the essential truths of the Vedas. The hand in abhaya mudra reminds us that such knowledge of the real, of the indestructible self within makes for fearlessness in the face of all adversity.
Jagadamba's three eyes indicate that she is the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient force behind the created universe. The crescent moon on the forehead of the mother of the universe indicates her sovereignty over the celestial spheres, whereas the lotus she is seated upon tells us of her command over the earthly domain. The lotus flower also has a deeper significance. Though it grows on marshy ground, it yet preserves its pristine beauty despite its unfavorable surroundings.
Jagadamba sitting on a lotus brings home to us the truth that a man who has realized truth lives in this world of sound and fury yet remains steeped in the calm of the eternal self. Hence, the devotee prays to the divine mother:
the gods and demons with their bejeweled crowns bow at thy feet,
give the form, give the victory, give the fame,
kill the enemies.
Of Related Interest:
Sarvambikesha or The 'Complete' Goddess (Miniature Painting)
Every Woman a Goddess: The Ideals of Indian Art (Article)
Goddess Lakshmi (Sterling Silver Pendant)
The Book of Devi (Book)
Usha, the Goddess of Dawn (Oil Painting)
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