Based on one of the most venerated sectarian text known as the Devi-Mahatmya that seeks to describe Devi’s exploits, the painting represents the goddess Durga combating singly with three ferocious demons. With cushioned armour and a dome-like styled tall helmet put on her person the goddess looks as does a warrior in battlefield. In the entire range of the Devi-paintings, especially those portraying her in action against demons, this armour-clad image is queerly strange and rare. She is carrying in her hands sword, trident, mace, bow, arrow, shield, noose and a diamond-studded circular cutter. Her lion has already held one of the three demons in its jaws and the demon seems to have completely given up resistance. The other two are the targets of the goddess’s fury. She is attacking one of them with mace and sword, and the other, with her trident and bow and arrow. A cosmic act, the symbolic representation of the incessant war between good and evil, the entire nature : the terrain and the sky above, seems to surge with the force with which the figures of the goddess, her mount and the demons curve.
Rare composure and serenity, besides her sharp features : a pointed nose, large powerful eyes, cute small lips, perfectly aligning chin, shapely cheeks and broad forehead, as also a beautifully moulded neck, fine long fingers and painted palms, define the goddess’s form, iconography and anatomy. Though with identically drawn figures : feet and ugly large nails, disproportioned figures and two-armed anatomy, all three demons have different body-colours and face-types. The lion’s saffron is also unusual. It does not have the gold’s lustre with which the skin of a lion, especially of one with divine links, glows. The background is of special interest. The turfed graded hills, rising one over the other, might be seen as a natural phenomenon but also as the entire cosmos – perhaps symbolic of human conscience which is contended to be the microcosm of the cosmos, reeling under the conflict of good and evil believed to ever continue beyond and within each one of the human beings.
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 books.