Not merely its sharp features : thoughtful half-shut eyes, arched eye-brows rising from nose-line, sharp nose and cute lips aligning to the shape and size of the nose, receding pointed chin and a well defined neck, all composed to create a rhythm, the image, not even twelve inch tall, astonishes by its ability to discover even the minutest of details. Perfect anatomy blending sensuous modeling of breasts with sublimity enshrining her face, rhythmically gesticulated figure revealing dramatic curves and gesture of hands, carefully executed details of wears, the sash unfurling on sides and the frontal decorative ‘patta’, an ornamental band, worn in front of the ‘antariya’ – lower wear, in special, and ornaments, whether those on the breasts or waist, everything has been conceived and created by masterly hands. The image has been installed on a three-tiered pedestal, two comprising octagonal base embellished with stylised lotus patterns, and the upper one is an inverted lotus on the circular base of which the figure of the goddess stands.
Lotus is an essential feature in the iconography of Goddess Lakshmi, though while in the North it is a mere attribute carried in one, and sometimes in two, of her hands, or a form of her pedestal, in the South, having mythical context lotus is her essence, for defining which the South Indian tradition uses for her name the term ‘Padmavati’ meaning one endowed with ‘Padma’ or lotus. As the mythical tradition has it, one day when Vishnu, deserted by Lakshmi, his spouse and love, for becoming the instrument of her disgrace at the hands of sage Bhragu, was wandering pining for her, he realized that within him there sprouted a lotus and to his utter delight from the lotus emerged Lakshmi, he was pining for. Thus, different from Lakshmi who had emerged from Kshirasagara Padmavati was born by realisation. In view of her emergence from ‘Padma’ – lotus, the goddess became known as Padmavati. In her icons in the South this thrust is portrayed by associating with her form a larger number of lotuses, not merely what her votive iconography necessitated, as is seen in this image. Besides her seat which comprises lotus moulding for its base and lotus podium for its apex and two lotus flowers with tall stems carried in her upper hands, the palms of other two hands have imprinted on them the symbolic lotus motifs.
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.