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Paintings > Hindu > Goddess > Shodashi as Tripurasundari
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Shodashi as Tripurasundari

Shodashi as Tripurasundari

Shodashi as Tripurasundari

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Watercolor on Paper
Artist: Kailash Raj

6.5" X 8.5"
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This miniature represents a Devi-form which combines Sodasi, one of the ten Mahavidyas, and Tripurasundari, considered sometimes as one of the Matrikas, otherwise the paramount beauty in the three worlds – a transformation of Trailokyamohini. Sodasi, who in Tantrika way has been contemplated as the embodiment of sixteen shades of desire, is a young girl of sixteen. In some texts, enumerating ten Mahavidyas, Sodasi has been identified as Tripurasundari. Strictly considering, this Devi-form is neither the representative form of Sodasi nor of Tripurasundari, though in its iconographic perception and attribution it has some features characteristic of Sodasi and other, of Tripurasundari. It is hence more likely that this blend of two Devi-forms represents Sodasi as Tripurasundari. In this blend the artist has attained two ends. The sixteen years' age, which defines Sodasi, brims with vigour and beauty of youth, and beauty and grace are inseparable partners. Sodasi, a young girl of sixteen, should have had both vigour and beauty, and of course, grace, though in her prescribed form vigour reveals dually but beauty and grace have not been taken care of. Seated astride on Shiva's prone body Sodasi looked Kali-like mature, more like one of Kali's forms, not a goddess with her independent identity. Tripurasundari abounds in supreme beauty but lacks in vigour and activity and does not manifest various shades of desire. Puranas talk of her only rarely. This Devi-form, a blend of two, enshrines vigour, beauty and grace in one frame, distances Sodasi from Kali's routine iconographic form and maturity, and attributes Tripurasundari with further mythical aura.

Texts allude to Sodasi as the goddess with red complexion seated astride on Shiva's prone body with whom she is having intercourse. The pedestal on which they lie is made of the figures of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra. Her activity apart, her complexion – the colour of hot iron, reveals Sodasi's exceptional vigour, though activity becoming the primary concern in her iconography her beauty loses its thrust. One of the female deities of Brahmanical pantheon, Tripurasundari has been in worship since ages, though in texts her significance is much less. Allusions to her name apart, not a single text, a canto, or even a chapter in any notable text, has been devoted to her. Endowed with beauty capable of enchanting all three worlds Tripurasundari is often identified as Trailokyamohini- enchanter of three worlds. A deity in Shaivite line, as is Sodasi, Tripurasundari combines in her being Kali's determination and Durga's charm, grace and complexion. She has a third eye on her forehead. Usually four-armed and clad in red, the richly bejewelled Tripurasundari sits on a lotus seat laid on a golden throne. She carries in her hands various Shaivite attributes. An aura of royalty characterised her overall bearing and ambience.

Seated under a gems-studded golden umbrella, on a fully blooming lotus laid over a golden throne, on a terrace, the six-armed Devi carries in her hands red and blue lotuses, goad, bell, bow and quiver full of arrows. Red and blue lotuses are symbols of worldly passions and transcendence; bow and arrows, of ambitions and desires always tending to shoot and soar despite that they appear to be contained; bell, of awakening; and, goad, of control – obviously, divisible on two lines, one defining passion or desire which Sodasi represents, and other, Tripurasundari's Kali-like determination. The entire setting – large terrace, gold-painted marble pavilion with a lush green garden in the background, a huge bolster behind, and the gold-framed halo around her face, all reveal Sodasi's transformation as Tripurasundari. For representing vigour, Sodasi's hot iron-like complexion has been retained but her activity aspect – intercourse, deleted. Instead of, she has been represented as nude, or even as nudity being partially covered with ornaments and seating posture, which seeks to negotiate between grace and her passion to cohabit. Whatever her complexion, on her face enshrines such beauty as becomes painting's focal point, nudity being subordinated. Bewitching large eyes, round face, sharp well defined features, perfect modelling with amply developed ball-like shaped breasts, long fingers, and entire anatomy, reveal exceptional beauty.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.

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