Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and fortune. According to the
pauranik legends, she was born out of the ocean of milk at the time of
the churning. As she emerged from the ocean she captivated all who
watched her. The devas and asuras, alike, showered her with celestial
gifts. Among the gifts was the Vaijayanti Mala, that Lakshmi chose to put
around the neck of Lord Vishnu, accepting him as her spouse.
Lakshmi being the source of all material wealth is almost always
represented in the colours of gold.
Her four arms signify her power, to bestow upon her devotees, the four purusharthas: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. In this beautiful golden brass statue the goddess is represented as sitting in Siddha Hastasana upon a circular lotus pedestal. She holds lotus buds in each of her rear hands. Her right hand is raised in blessing of Abhaya Mudra while the left is pointing downward in a gesture of giving. Immense wealth comes to those who are fortunate enough to earn the blessing of the goddess. Her statue should be kept inside the house. So the wealth remains within.
An excellent brass-cast, absolute in anatomical modeling geometry dragged into for discovering angles, symmetry and all perspectives, and jewels-smith’s tools, for discovering details and its entire ornate character, the statue represents the four-armed Lakshmi, revered since Vedic days as the goddess manifesting riches, prosperity, accomplishment and sustenance, and as one who represented supreme beauty and absolute womanhood. The Rig-Veda has dedicated to her a number of verses under ‘Shri-sukta’ in which the great text – the head source of all scriptures, identifies the goddess as Shri – Lakshmi’s most popular other name, lauding her as the giver of abundance, fertility and plenty of food.
The great text perceives her as one possessed of large breasts full of abundant milk – the inexhaustible source of life, and above all the status of an independent divinity far different from her Puranic transform as the consort of Vishnu, a subordinate status. As suggests the anatomy of her figure, especially her well developed breasts further emphasized by the beauty of the stana-pata – breast-band, the artist has modeled his figure of the goddess on the Rig-Vedic line.
With far deeply rooted Vedic culture in South Lakshmi is in regular worship, enjoys an independent status on par with her status as Vishnu’s consort and has a number of shrines, or sanctums in various shrines, dedicated independently to her; in North, her worship is occasional and sectional. She is the universal goddess for Diwali rituals, and the every morning’s goddess for a trader who with a summary rituals such as lighting an incense-stick before a photo believed to represent Lakshmi’s vision, would commemorate Lakshmi before he began any commercial activity.
However, on Diwali, perhaps the greatest of all Indian festivals, every Indian, rich or poor, and irrespective of which section of the society he belongs to, makes offering to Lakshmi and worships her. Weeks’ long preparations precede Lakshmi-worship : houses are cleaned, renovated, white-washed and electrified for welcoming Lakshmi who is believed to grace by her presence only a house that cleanliness sanctifies, though once she inhabits it she shall bless it for the entire year unless the household defiles it by any foul deed.
The statue represents the goddess in one of her most sacred four-armed manifestations holding lotuses in her two upper hands, the normal right being held in ‘abhaya’ – granting freedom from fear, and the normal left, in ‘varad’ – accomplishment of all desired. The upper hands symbolise the unmanifest source of divine energy that the goddess inherently draws from unseen zones, within her and without.
This divine energy is both, protective and procreative, the two essential roles that the goddess accomplishes and her normal ‘abhaya’ and ‘varad’ granting two hands represent, that is, what she draws by her upper two hands she puts into use by the normal two. Further, representing five cosmic elements : earth, water, fire, air and space, the lotus symbolises cosmos that held in the divine hands is upheld and sustained – the essence of Lakshmi’s being. Cast as lotus seated covering the lotus in full she has been represented as pervading the cosmos, and the symbolic lotuses on her palms and the upwards facing lotus feet suggest that she herself is the cosmos.
Apart that the image is a contemporary work, exceptional in its aesthetic merit, craftsmanship, anatomical proportions and modeling, fine details and image quality the statue classes with great master-pieces of all times. It breathes the sacredness that a sanctum image does but at the same time also the essence of tradition. Not merely its sharp features : thoughtful eyes, arched eye-brows rising from nose-line, sharp nose and cute lips proportionately aligned to the nose above and the chin below, the chin itself finely modeled, a well defined neck and glowing forehead and cheeks, all combined into a rhythm, the image, just nine inches tall, is amazing in discovering the minutest details.
The modeling of breasts breathes a bit of sensualism but with sublimity enshrining her face this too transforms into the universal motherhood symbolic of the timeless divine will to feed and sustain. The image is exceptional in its ornate quality, in details of ornaments, towering Vaishnava crown, large kundalas, breast-band, neck-ornaments, armlets, waistband and the decorative lace laid over her legs in particular, carefully executed ‘antariya’ – lower wear, hair and halo and the anatomy of her figure conceived in every exactness adhering to the model as defined in classical treatises related to Indian aesthetics.
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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