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This wood-statue represents the four-armed goddess as playing with two of her hands on ‘vina’, a stringed musical instrument now long associated with her iconography and has almost rigidified as her exclusive attribute. Her fingers seem to move along the strings of the instrument and there emerges on her face the ‘bhava’ – sentiment, perfectly corresponding to its notes. In her other two hands, the right upper and lower left, she is carrying a rosary and a book – manuscript, symbolic of the Vedas. Saraswati whose forms almost exploded subsequently in various theological traditions, Buddhist, Jain and Brahmanical, was one of the two significant deities, the other being Lakshmi, to have a place in the Rig-Veda. In the Rig-Vedic Suktas Lakshmi has been hailed as Shri, and Saraswati, as Vak. The text that the goddess carries in her hand is symbolic of her same Vedic links, as also of her links with Brahma, her consort, who is acclaimed to have written Vedas.
Most of Saraswati’s contemporary images are goose-riding, or at least with an icon of goose around. This, however, was not the Puranic perception of her image. Puranas perceived Saraswati as lotus-seated, the same as Lakshmi, and as possessing four arms carrying in them a 'japamala' – rosary, ‘pustaka’ – book, and in other two, lotuses. '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 in the fourth, a book, was the Puranic vision of Saraswati. Subsequently, lotus, an attribute more akin to Lakshmi’s iconography so much so that she was often called ‘Lotus-goddess, completely shifted to Lakshmi’s domain and in Saraswati’s iconography a ‘vina’ alternated it. This statue of the goddess adheres to this classical perception of Saraswati’s image except that the ‘vina’ alternates lotuses. Not merely that she is seated on a lotus or the lotus-seat has been installed on a lotus pedestal, even the Prabhavali that she pervades by her presence consists of lotus motifs. As portrays this wood-carving, the goddess, fully absorbed, is playing on her 'vina'. She is possessed of timeless youth and luminous beauty as define terms like 'parama jyotirupa' or 'jyotiswarupa'. Though it shall sanctify by its divinity any sanctum, the statue seems to have been conceived primarily for aesthetic delight. Her slightly elongated face with a chin striving to discover its form, half shut eyes, arched eyebrows, sensuous lips, temptingly modeled breasts which the Atharva Veda perceived as the river of life-giving milk with endless flow, long arms with broad shoulders, subdued belly, besides her ornaments, towering crown and large 'karnaphools' – ear-rings consisting of floral motifs, and the ‘antariya’, all attribute to her figure rare beauty. In anatomical proportions, facial features and over-all modeling the statue is simply unique. The beauty of her form is further multiplied by the rhythm that her sitting posture, known as ‘lalitasana’, creates. She has around her face a divine aura and a sense of unique quiescence.
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.