This brass-cast, a small artifact but outstanding in discovering even the minutest of details of wears, folds of sari in special, jewellery, tresses and various other parts, besides the attributes she carries in her hands or on her person, represents the eight-armed Durga riding her mount lion. The artist has taken special care in modeling her mount, its anatomy, body posture and expression on face. The goddess is holding her normal right hand in ‘abhaya’, while in the left she is carrying, in a gesture of protecting it, a lotus, a product alike of the earth, the ocean and the sky, and thus representing the cosmos – the life and the beauty. Such engagement of her main hands is suggestive of her primary role which consists of upholding life and beauty and assuring freedom from fear. In other six hands she is carrying disc, trident, sword, mace, bow and arrow, the instruments of war, and a full blown lotus, further emphasising that she destroys to let life, good and beauty prevail.
Essentially a votive icon, the artist has represented the goddess in her absolute form, not an aspect of her engaged in this or that act, or one of her many manifestations. Seated in ‘lalitasana’ – the posture revealing beauty and ease, with her left leg suspending down, while the right, placed horizontally on her left in semi-yogasana posture, she assures of protection by her mere presence, not by any of her acts. Initially the Divine Female, the Devi, the Great Goddess, was perceived as being three aspected : ferocious, valorous and lovable or beautiful, that subsequently concretised in her three manifest forms, named Kali, Durga and Parvati; Kali, manifesting ferociousness, sought to destroy; Durga, manifesting valour, effected sustenance, and Parvati, manifesting beauty, love and service, represented absolute womanhood.
In her role as sustainer Durga too was required to destroy, in particular the evil that threatened life and cosmic order, though not in Kali’s ferocious form but rather in her benign appearance and feminine softness, the aspects of Parvati. Thus Durga’s form that evolved in the tradition synthesised the forms of Kali and Parvati too. Her lion symbolised her valorous aspect and her might, and the attributes of war that she carried in her hands, her ability to destroyed, but she is not conceived as always in action as is Kali or Mahishasura-Mardini like her own manifest forms. With her greater breadth the lion-riding, and usually the eight-armed, Durga emerges in the devotional tradition as the most widely worshipped form of the Devi and perhaps a votive form that outstands all others.
A tiny icon, the statue has well defined anatomy and facial features, a rounded face, sharp nose, wide open eyes, prominent cheeks and forehead and an elaborate neck. This effulgent form of the goddess sitting on her mount in full ease has been lavishly bejewelled. She is wearing an elegantly plaited sari and an luxuriantly embroidered blouse. Though she is putting on her head a large magnificent crown inlaid with precious stones and a halo-like circular disc attached to it on its back (see reverse image), her tresses lay beautifully exposed covering her shoulders and back. Besides the usual ornaments on her neck, breast, ears, nose, arms, wrists, feet and other parts, she is also putting on a large ‘vaijayanti’ – a garland of fresh Parijata flowers reaching down her ankles. The soles of her feet reveal marks of divinity. The statue has been installed on a dual pedestal, the lower part being a usual moulding but the upper one on which stands the goddess’s mount comprises a hilly terrain.
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.
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