Lotus was an essential feature of Brahma's iconography, and so were the book and 'japamala' rosary. Obviously, Saraswati inherited these attributes from Brahma in view of her association with him, either as his daughter or spouse. But later, after she gained an independent status, lotuses, carried in her hands, were deleted, and the lotus-seat was sometimes replaced by a vehicle swan, peacock, lion or ram; that is, instead of a mere divine presence, she was now an operative power. In texts, 'japamala' and text continued as parts of her form but in artistic innovations these too were sometimes excluded; she was even conceived, though very rarely, with normal two arms instead of her usual four. 'Vina', in her iconography, was not always a mere decorative element; she is often represented, as here in this statue, as playing on it adding further thrust to her operative aspect.
The Vedas, Brahmans and Puranas perceive the goddess as 'parama jyotiswarupa', that is, as the one who has a form created out of the supreme Light God. Some texts hence acclaim her as born of God's mouth. Hence, she is conceived with golden complexion, vigorous youth and rarest lustre. The Atharva Veda and several other texts visualise her as possessed of large breasts full of milk, for they perceived her as the river of the life-giving milk with endless flow. The artist of this magnificent statue has amazingly adhered to these textual parameters. The entire figure glows with gold's lustre. Her elegantly modeled large breasts have been adorned with flower-motifs; obviously to suggest their life producing and sustaining character. To her beauty adds her sitting posture, which is known in iconographic tradition as 'lalitasana' a posture that reveals beauty of form. This 'lalitasana' posture, with her right leg suspending below her seat and the rest of her figure condensed vertically, not only keeps the viewing eye arrested to that part of her figure face, breasts, belly, and of course the ornaments adorning them, which reveals her supreme beauty but also define her anatomical breadth.
Fully absorbed, the goddess is playing on her 'vina'. Though closed, there floats in her eyes a celestial 'bhava'. She has around her face a divine aura and a sense of unique quiescence. In anatomical proportions, facial features, and over-all composition, the statue is simply unique. The image has been consecrated on a double lotus placed on a 'pitha' consisting of two rows of conventionalised lotus motifs. She is in 'adhovastra' apparel below waist, consisting of a green silk 'sari' and a sash suspending down to the lotus-'vedika'. She is wearing a richly bejeweled frilled girdle and large 'karnaphools', the ear-rings consisting of floral motifs. A Vaishnava 'tilaka' on her forehead and a towering crown on her head reveal south Indian effect. Various conventionalised ornaments often used in votive iconography adorn the figure of the goddess.
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.