The stark formalism that defines this statue of the goddess is the
more characteristic idiom of her votive images cast in South Indian
iconographic tradition. The sanctum images of Lakshmi, more often
named Shri or Padmavati, enshrining independently a number of South
Indian temples, are often the similar formally standing icons. In
north such images of Lakshmi enshrine the sanctums only with Vishnu,
the form being known as Lakshmi-Narayana. However, the formal
character of this image, or those in South Indian idiom, is more
pronounced. The Lakshmi images in Lakshmi-Narayana temples are often a
bit emotionalized. Apart the wide open eyes of the goddess looking
straight into the eyes of the onlooker with the power to captivate or
even hypnotize, this image, or even those in South Indian style, do
not have even the faintest trace of emotionalism in her bearing.
Not merely barring emotions, cast in adherence to anatomical and
iconographic models of formal votive images, the figure has neither
been vested with any kind of body gestures nor any inclination to act.
Except a pair of lotuses held in two of her hands, and other two, held
in ‘abhaya’ and ‘varad’ : none indicative of her involvement in an
act, the image of the goddess has not been made to carry anything : an
attribute, weapon …, that represent her operative aspect. The body’s
right and left parts are not merely identically conceived but are also
in perfect symmetry as cast pursuing accurate geometrical principles.
Essentially a votive image, the statue represents the goddess as the
non-operative boon giver in the line of the boon-giving Mother Earth
or mother goddess or any of the auspicious deity, something diagonally
opposed to her form as Mahalakshmi enshrining the great text the
Devi-Mahatmya in the Markandeya Purana that perceives her as prime
force of the battlefield.
The four-armed goddess is holding lotuses in her two upper hands,
while the normal right is held in ‘abhaya’ – granting freedom from
fear, and the normal left, in ‘varad’ – accomplishment of all desired.
In spiritual analogy the upper hands are considered as reaching the
unseen zones, within and without, inherently drawing from there divine
energy and transferring it to the normal ones enabling them accomplish
their pious objectives : the grant of ‘abhaya’ and ‘varad’. The
analogy has further breadth. The lotus held in them comprises five
elements : earth, water, fire, air and space, which are also the
elements of cosmos. Thus the lotus is the microcosm of cosmos. The
symbolism goes further. In upholding lotuses Lakshmi is upholding and
sustaining the cosmos, the essence of her being. Apart, seated on
lotus she has been represented as pervading the cosmos, and with lotus
motifs on palm as herself being the cosmos.
The statue is endowed with rare aesthetic quality : perfect anatomical
proportions and great craftsmanship. The round face with sharp
features : wide open neatly conceived eyes, heavy eyelids with arched
eye-brows, sharp nose and cute lips and the well aligned chin, the
upwards narrowing neck like the neck of a pot, cheeks glowing with
gold’s brilliance and sublimity enshrining her face, all combine to
make the image absolute. The figure’s anatomy : a bit sensuously
modeled breasts symbolic of universal motherhood and her divine will
to feed and sustain, subdued belly, voluminous hips and moderate
height, is highly balanced. The goddess is wearing a towering crown
and normal ornaments. However, the most fascinating component of her
ensemble is her ‘antariya’ – lower wear, with its frontal decorative
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.
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