Significantly, not merely Saraswati-related, entire divine iconography developed on Puranic lines. In her initial form in Puranas Saraswati was perceived as lotus-seated and as possessing four arms carrying in one of them a 'japamala' – rosary, in two other, lotuses, and in the fourth, a book. Her appearance was described as 'Asina kamala karairjjapabatim padmadhyam pustakam bivrana', that is, she sits on a lotus, carries in one hand a rosary, in two of them, lotuses, and a book in yet another. Lotus, since days much before Saraswati’s iconography evolved, was an essential feature of Lakshmi’s iconography. Subsequently, it was seen as Lakshmi’s distinction. As a result, in the course of time lotus rigidified with Lakshmi’s iconography and was reduced to a subordinate status in Saraswati icons, usually, as here in this statue, to a pedestal’s formal component and sometimes her seat. In subsequent sculptures her figure was hardly ever seen holding a lotus in its hands.
After Saraswati emerged as the patron deity also of arts, dance and music, her iconographic manifestations began incorporating features like peacock that besides being a dancing bird also symbolised arts by the colours of its feathers, and 'vina' – a stringed instrument, which symbolised music, though among them while the peacock, often alternated by the swan motif, the symbol of purity and the ability to choose the ‘best’, and hence suggestive of pure learning, only sometimes comprised her seat, ‘vina’ was more often her attribute. With far greater thrust the ‘vina’ even defined one of her iconographic forms.
In Saraswati’s subsequent icons a ‘vina’ motif was seen enjoying the same status as the lotus enjoyed in the icons of Lakshmi. In her early realisation Saraswati was a mere divine presence. She was subsequently seen as an operative power. The shift from the ‘lotus’ to ‘vina’, one being just held while the other demanding operation, actually defined a shift from mere presence to an operative role. Obviously, it is this Vina-vadini form of the goddess that this brilliant statue represents. In two of her hands she is carrying a vina, while in other two she has the prescribed rosary and book, the attributes she inherits from Brahma, her spouse. Whatever her form, mount or attributes, Saraswati has always been conceived as 'parama jyotirupa' or 'jyotiswarupa' – one possessed of luminous beauty, and as endowed with timeless youth and lustre of crores of moons. It is obviously this Puranic vision of the goddess that this excellent statue seeks to reproduce.
This excellent image, rendered adhering to basic parameters of a votive image as well as aestheticism, is a thing for both, the altar and the drawing hall. Her rounded face terminating in a pointed chin, meditative half shut lotus eyes, arched and prominently conceived eye-lashes, sensuous lips, short neck, hair falling on the neck’s both sides, temptingly modeled breasts half-covered with ‘stan-pata’ – breast-band, further enhancing their magic, long arms, fine long fingers, subdued belly, a broadened waist, besides her ornaments and ‘antariya’ – the garment worn below the waist, all are reminiscent of the golden era of India's sculptural art. In anatomical proportions, facial features and over-all modeling the statue is simply unique. The image appears to emit a melody, but not produced by her fingers playing on 'vina'; rather, it is born of the intense emotionality and life-vigour with which the image of the goddess seems to vibrate.
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.