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Exploring the deification of the female divine energy in Indian Art

In Indian traditions, the genesis and the assertion of life are both derived from the goddess (devi). Indian religions in the early days have revered this concept and ideology for the longest of time, and this stands true even to this day. Goddesses were often seen to take on the role of a mother in many of the depictions in Indian art. 

During ancient times, the model for the female torso in the art of sculpture was the vajra, a double-headed thunderbolt that held spiritual meaning or the damaru, a waisted drum, that is known to belong to the Hindu God, Shiva. From this, sculptors created a glorified version of the female form with a narrow waist and broad hips. The arms were shown to be well-proportioned and elongated, alluding to the elegance of a slender, pliant bamboo shoot. The inspiration for their eyes was taken from lotus petals or fish. 

Ancient Indian artists visualised Goddesses with love, this was seen in the frequent representation of the worship of these Goddesses taking on the role of a mother. Artists depicted these concepts with images of mothers protecting their children and women with life-affirming abilities of water. This association is connotative of women being the creators of life. This is seen in the cult of Yakshi, who personified natural spirits in the female form and depicted them as an embodiment of the fertility of nature. This depiction is seen in the early scriptures of Buddhist and Jain worship. 

Another important interpretation of this concept in ancient India is seen in the personification of the important rivers of the Indian subcontinent. The three significant rivers of Northern India, namely, the Ganges, the Yamuna and the Saraswati (that has been lost now) were revered and associated with some of the ancient Goddesses of India. Sri Gaja Lakshmi, the Goddess that represented kindness and affection was often seen to be bathed by a pair of elephants in Indian art. This was used as a metaphor to signify the monsoons as a giver of life. Furthermore, it was later used to indicate opportunity, prosperity and serendipity. Goddess Saraswati was deified by Hindus, Jains as well as Buddhists as the personification of wisdom and knowledge. She is one of the earliest Goddesses in history to have cult images created in her reverence. Ambika, the Jain Goddess represents maternal principles. Durga is often represented in Indian art as the destroyer of evil forces. There are also art pieces that represent her manifestations in other forms such as Kali and Chamumda. 


Q1. Who is the Indian Goddess of art?

Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of art. She presides over all the different forms of art and their manifestations, including music. The earliest mention of her is in the personification of the holy river, Saraswati. 

Q2. Why is Kali often painted blue in Indian art? 

The most common representation of Kali is with the association of the colours black or blue. The use of these colours signifies the sky and the ocean.