What gains the special attention of the viewer here is the astounding amount
of jewelry ornamenting her body. According to the Indian aesthetic, adorning
the visible, material body satisfies a universal longing for the
embellishment of its intangible counterpart, namely the human spirit.
Complementary to such thought is the conventional view where the graceful
form of a woman is said to epitomize the ideal beauty and mystery inherent
in nature. Thus befittingly each and every part of the feminine physique
including the head, torso, limbs, and between the appended parts - have
consistently been used to support ornaments, often in ingenious ways. The
Indian idea being that only things covered with ornaments are beautiful.
Poetry must overflow with rhetorical ornaments (alamkara), metaphors,
alliterations, and other musical effects. The verb alam-kara, "to adorn, to
decorate," means literally "to make enough": for the simple appearance
without ornament is "not enough"; it is poor, disgraceful, shocking, except
in the case of an ascetic. Hence the stress on adornment of the women, who
are but the poetry of nature.Also, it was believed that just as a woman
beautifies her home so should she her body. Such a combination was supposed
to invite blessings and prosperity from the gods.
Thus is her sensual form bedecked here with karn-phools (flower-earrings)
and numerous anklets, armlets and bracelets. Her hair too is parted in neat
coils with the long tika diving it into two. In addition, her small neck
(incised with three curving lines, signifying that her speech is as sweet as
the sonorous sound of a conch-shell) is adorned with a large number of
collars (chokers) and long necklaces, one of which cascades down the cleft
between her bare breasts, crowned with well-defined nipples. In ancient
times, a woman, with her necklaces resting on her full breasts was compared
to a sloping hill with a sunlit cascade coursing down its sides.
Such ornamentation not only serves to please the eyes of the beholder but
also fulfils an auspicious purpose. The impulse to adorn stems from a deep
rooted sensibility to mark every occasion of life with auspicious symbols,
designs and figures to obtain good fortune and protection from evil. Thus a
fully bedecked woman evokes in the viewer a deep and ingratiating feeling of
tranquil contentment, springing from an intuitive realization that evolving
before him is an image of perfect beauty, symbolically conveying the
richness and completeness which is but natural to nature.
If it is true for humans that to beautify the mind is to beautify the body,
the converse is equally true: to beautify the body is to beautify the soul.
Creative Indian psychology nurtured a positive attitude. The desire to
cultivate physical beauty was not considered shameful and superficial. The
philosophers of love, like Vatsyayana in the Kama Sutra, advise that the art
of makeup be practiced as a ritual. Even the 'plainest' woman adorns
herself, she doe not resign herself to her fate that either one is beautiful
or not, and there is the end to it.
The essential significance of the above exegesis can be summed up in the
fact that in the canons of Indian art, whenever a lady was represented in
the nude, i.e. without any trace of clothing, her glorified physical form
always carried the same weight of jewelry which she would have worn, when
Thus rightly said A.K. Coomarswamy, noted authority on Oriental Art:
"One needs to be an Indian woman,
born and bred in the great tradition,
to realize the sense of power that
such jewels as earrings and anklets
lend their wearers; she knows
the full delight of swinging jewels
touching her cheek at every step,
and the fascination of the
tinkling bells upon her anklets"
This artwork was sculpted in Thammapatty, Tamil Nadu.
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