--------------Devi Mahatmya (2.8 - 12).
The painting here portrays the creation of Devi by gods attributing to her all their powers. Devi, the Adi Shakti or the proto energy, known and worshipped in India by several names, is in metaphysical contemplations the female principle and the dynamic factor of the cosmos. In rituals, however, she has been personified as a female accomplishing various functions in her human form. Indian religious texts come out with several legends of her birth and exploits against demons and assign to her a role which many a time even the trio of gods- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, failed to accomplish. According to Markandeya Purana, which in its chapters on Devi, known as Devi Mahatmaya, elaborates various events of her birth and exploits, one of the missions she was created or begot for comprised of killing the great demon Mahisasura, invincible even to the combined forces of all the gods.
As the legend in Markandeya Purana has it, a demon known by the name of Mahisasura once ruled the earth. After he had strengthened himself on earth and was invincible to anyone born of man, he decided to invade heaven, the seat of Indra, and consequently in a war against Indra Mahisasura was able to overthrow him and compel him to flee from heaven along other gods assisting in the war. Mahisasura had a boon from Brahma by which he was invincible against all men, that is, against a male. After the gods learnt that only a female could kill Mahisasura, they decided to create by their attributes and powers a female deity, the Devi.
Born with celestial beauty, charms and female graces and all godly attributes and weapons this female deity had to represent the absolute womanhood as well as the most accomplished warriorship on earth. As per legend, her head was created with the powers of Shiva, her hair with those of Yama, her arms, waist, feet, toe-nails, finger-nails, nose, teeth, eyes, brows and ears respectively with those of Vishnu, Moon, Indra, Brahma, Sun, Vasu, Kuber, Prajapati, Agni, Twilight and Vayu. Ocean gave her glittering jewels and Shesh a necklace inlaid with invaluable celestial gems. She was further attributed by Shiva with his trident, by Vishnu with his disc, by Varuna with his conch, by Agni with its dart, by Yama with his rod, by Vayu with its bow, by Surya with his quiver, by Indra with his thunderbolt, by Kuber with his mace and drinking pot, by Brahma with his rosary and water pot, by Kala with his sword and shield, by Vishvakarma with his battle ax and by others with different other weapons. The mountain Himavana gave her his lion to ride. After she had been conceived, the gods all conjointly worshipped her and consecrated her as the supreme divine power above them all.
This painting very characteristically portrays this event of the birth of Devi. She radiates with a huge circle of light built with rays reaching it and radiating from various gods. Most of the gods are without their attributes as these have already been diffused into the form of the Devi. With folded hands they all stand in her worship. .
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.