great goddess who was born out of a lotus flower, and was endowed with all the
qualities of a lotus- beauty, purity, newness, and abundance finds a
representation in this Tanjore painting that is befitting of her status as the
one who rules over all the material and spiritual wealth. Her form is sheathed
in gold and reminds us of her earliest mentions in the Sri Suktam, a Rig Vedic
verse whose first word describes Lakshmi as ‘Hiranya-varna’ meaning, "one whose
skin is like the color of pure gold."
verse goes on to mention that as Lakshmi emerges from the depths of the
Kshirsagar, as a result of the churning, she is welcomed by two celestial
elephants, who sprinkle upon her water from golden pots. This appearance of
Lakshmi and her consecration by the elephants also finds a mention in the
Vishnu Purana, which tells us that Lakshmi was seated on a fully blossomed
lotus and carried a lotus in her hand. Accompanied by Gaja (elephants) this
form of the Devi is called Gaja-Lakshmi.
glorious representation of the goddess of wealth, we see two decorated
elephants anointing her with Mangal-Kalash (auspicious pots of water, along
with mango leaves which are considered purifying in Hinduism). The giant
animals look tiny in front of the magnificent mother-goddess, who sits regally
on a throne, supported by a Masanad (cushion) decorated with pleasing ethnic
designs. Her gleaming face is highlighted by the bright red aura which is held
by two Makara (mythical animals) on each side, and the bejewelled gold crown
placed on her head. Her heavenly ornamentation is underlined by the artist with
the use of tiny gemstones in red and white, giving her a semblance of a queen.
The saree that Lakshmi is wrapped in is all gold- because what else will the bestower
of divine splendour wear? The fan-shaped folds created in the front by the
pleats of the saree are unbelievably exquisite. Brining the softness of fabric
into the painting, the maker deserves an accolade. Just under the pleats are the petals of Devi’s
Kamalasana- lotus seat- each petal drawn with a precision that shows.
Gajalakshmi holds a pot full of gold and her hands are raised in the gesture of
fearlessness (right) and of bestowing boons (left). Another bowl carrying gold
coins or asharfis can be seen near Devi’s throne, whose leg rests are shaped
like two stylized birds. An intricately made floral garland with two semi-open
lotuses, in the end, frames her body. The dazzling manifestation of the goddess
is made even more attractive, thanks to the dexterously drawn lines and shades
that immaculately bring out the beauty of Gajalakshmi’s moon-like face, supple
hands, and lotus-like feet. Enclosed in an elegant wood frame, this Tanjore
Gajalakshmi painting is suited for being worshipped in your home shrine.
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