Like Ardhanarishvara, Uma-Maheshvara is also considered as an ontological symbol, but it more often symbolises cosmic unity of Purusha and Prakriti, spirit and matter, and essence and substance, that is, adveta oneness, of the apparent dveta two. In Ardhanarishvara form it is the two-ness of one. It is only with Uma or Parvati that Shiva is Maheshvara, the all accomplishing great god. The otherwise simple Shiva has as Maheshvara a majestic form, wears a Vishnu-like towering crown and is usually in a seated posture. He is the presiding god of love, but because he has associated with him Parvati, the love incarnated. Maheshvara is also Yogeshvara. Hence, one of his legs is in yogasana, while the other in lalitasana, one representing yoga, and the other, love. Uma-Maheshvara is one of the holiest divine forms, as in one form a devotee realizes the two great god and great goddess, love and yoga, and mundane and spiritual.
In its artistic quality and innovation, the statue is unique. In its theme it adheres to scriptures; in its style, to classicism; and in its over-all character, to various traditions of sculptural art that prevailed in early Orissa, Karnataka and Andhra from folk getting its vigour and strength and from classicism its elegance, minuteness of details and finish. In large wide open eyes of Shiva and Parvati and blend of varied elements, there reflects strong folk influence. Most strange is the inclusion of Kamadhenu, the celestial cow, as their vehicle. Kamadhenu, the wish-accomplishing cow, is neither Shiva's vehicle nor Parvati's. Kamadhenu has been modelled as half woman and half animal. Except for horns, the forepart of Kamadhenu comprises a woman's face with prominent humanised features and well-modeled breasts, and the hind part with thuds and characteristically placed tail of a cow. Prabhavali, the most beautiful element of the statue carved with exceptional ingenuity, reveals, in its vigorous thrust and strength, great folk influence. It not only assimilates in one form varied types of foliage and flowers but also birds, fish and auspicious Shrimukha. The two banana-buds, around the shoulders of the divine couple, are modelled to serve both, banana-buds and a pair of auspicious fish.
Neelakantha, the blue-throated Shiva, has been transformed here as blue-complexioned Maheshvara. The otherwise simply bejewelled great Lord a simple lace of beads, a few ornaments on arms and feet, and a huge snake forming the main necklace, wears a majestic towering crown. He is in loin cloth and has Uma seated on his left thigh. Sharp features, angular chins, small lips, well defined necks and tall slender figures are features common to both, Uma and Maheshvara. Uma, with her deep navel, long fingers, narrow waist and elegantly moulded breasts, has been modelled with an anatomy and iconography prescribed in texts for a Nayika.
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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