This contemporary painting rendered in oil on a large size canvas using the timeless idiom of votive iconography and mythological standards represents goddess Lakshmi, an image also manifesting her form as Annapurna, emerging from the ocean riding a fully blown lotus, obviously in the course of churning it. Goddess Lakshmi as Shri is one of the Rig-Vedic deities and three of the ‘suktas’ – verses, of the great scripture are devoted to her; however, the Rig-Veda neither alludes to her anthropomorphic image nor to the incidence of her origin. Though yet not with clarity and definiteness, in the Atharva-Veda Lakshmi begins getting an anthropomorphic or semi-anthropomorphic form. Such perception continues to prevail all across till the Ramayana. The Mahabharata is the earliest known text that alludes to her emergence from ocean and Vishnu taking her as his consort though her Rig-Vedic status as the goddess of prosperity, riches, fertility, abundance, fortune, progeny... ever continued almost unchanged. Goddess Lakshmi also represented sublime beauty, and stood for ‘siddhi’ – accomplishment, peace, strength, balance, auspiciousness, opulence and wisdom.
As is the legend in regard to the emergence of Goddess Lakshmi from the ocean, once the sons of Aditi – gods, and those of Diti – demons, reached an agreement, otherwise always in discord and at war, to jointly discover ambrosia that the ocean – Kshirasagara, hid in its womb. It could be obtained by churning the ocean. The mythical serpent Vasuki offered to serve as the rope for moving the churning rod, and the Mount Mandara, to be the churning rod. Vasuki was known to emit venom along its breathing; hence gods wished to hold the tail part of the serpent. They, however, insisted to hold the upper side. Demons, taking it as their insult to hold the tail, and gods, its mouth, laid their claim to hold the serpent’s mouth. It was what the gods wished. Feigning reluctance they accepted the demons’ claim and let them hold the serpent’s mouth and its upper part. As soon as the churning was begun the ocean’s bottom could not hold mount Mandara due to its weight. Vishnu then took to the form of Kurma – Tortoise, slipped under the Mount, held the Mount on him and then the churning was begun. When the ocean was churned, it yielded fourteen precious jewels, Lakshmi being one of them. She wished to be Vishnu’s consort.
With abundant jewels on her person the image of the goddess of fortune, riches and abundance generates in one’s mind the worldly desire – desire for riches, prosperity and progeny, though endowed with the power to transcend into the realm of spiritual delight the goddess’s image also effects liberation and freedom from all bonds. The image of the goddess is thus the instrument of both, the material desire as also transcendence. The canvas has been divided into two parts, the bottom consisting of dark deep waters that give forth lotuses, and the upper, covered with various kinds of plants, trees, hedges … and with impenetrable darkness. She has been portrayed as emerging from dark waters riding an unusually large lotus, a mythical one as a real lotus could hardly be of the size as is this lotus. As compared to the lotuses growing around – the realistic ones much smaller in size, mythicism of the lotus she rides on becomes evident. Elegantly and in absolute ease the goddess is seated in the lotus as in a luxury couch in ‘padmasana’ – lotus posture.
Contrary to her usual form carrying lotuses at least in two of her four hands this image of the goddess holds lotus just in one hand; in her other upper hand in which she usually holds another lotus she is carrying a ‘purna-ghat’ – pot with a coconut and mango tree-leaves laid over it. The ‘purna-ghat’ is symbolic of all three worlds that Lakshmi upholds. It also symbolises accomplishment. Significantly, from her normal right hand she is pouring some seeds which as food grain symbolise her role as Annapurna – the goddess who feeds all three worlds, and as seeds, Lakshmi as the goddess who stands for progeny and fertility. With her normal right hand she is signalling assurance to sustain. The goddess with gold-like lustrous figure, oval face, large eyes and sharp features is clad in a red silk sari, blue blouse and dark blue waist-band richly brocaded with gold-thread and inlaid with precious jewels. Radiating sun-like her aura takes the form of a halo. Besides her richly inlaid magnificent Vaishnava crown her entire figure from head to feet has been brilliantly bejewelled.