This female figure with absolute contentment enshrining her entire being, cast in brass, a tougher alloy but here in this statueyielding gold ornament like fine details – precise, uniform and highly sophisticated, represents Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva and his‘Shakti’.
Tradition perceives Parvati as Sati, the consort of Shiva, in her new birth. She was born to Maina by Himalaya, the king of mountains.
Sati was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, a god that presided over yajnas, variously seen as Aditi’s son by sage Kashyapa, as also, Aditi herself being born of him, and thus his daughter. Being insulted by her father Sati immolates her in the fire of her father’s yajna. Deeply aggrieved by her death Shiva, with Sati’s corpse on his shoulder, retires to forest and keeps wandering for long one thousand years. Finally, after Shiva’s plight gets unbearable, Sati returns to life in her re-incarnation as Parvati. Initially, Parvati is dark complexioned but on the advice of Brahmadeva she performs penance at Amarakeshvara and after the holy dip in sacred water there and worship of Shiva-ling she gets the colour of her skin changed to white giving her her new name ‘Gauri’. Sage Narada inspires Parvati to marry Shiva but Shiva does not concede. Finally, Parvati, on sage Narada’s advice performs the most rigorous ‘Panchagni-tapas’ – penance in the midst of five fires and wins Shiva’s heart. On the advice of sage Narada Himalaya concedes to wed Parvati to Shiva.
Though manifestations of the same divinity, while Durga inspires formalism mandating the mind for calling her ‘goddess’ far from inspiring a formal sentiment of votive nature the very name Parvati inspires in mind motherly reverence, a personal feeling that a votive image does not generate. Broadly Durga, Uma, Kali … are the manifestations of Parvati; however, in popular perception while Durga represents her evil-eliminating aspect, Uma, erotic, Kali, awful or fierce, Parvati represents a being in a domestic frame : a mother, a consort, an humble housekeeper doing petty things. Hence, as in this statue, and as is often portrayed in Pahari miniatures, Parvati is as a rule a personalized image with normal anatomy devoid of courtly grandeur and magnificence and it is only the womanly grace and the ultimate motherhood that characterize her imagery. In absolute adherence to such perception of Parvati imagery this most puritan form of the large breasted goddess full of milk represents her as the ultimate model of womanhood abounding in luminous beauty, even sensuous, as also of the life-giving and life-sustaining mother. The artist has added a formal element in the form of small halo but in the totality of her iconographic composition it looks like a mere disc comprising the back of her hair ornament, not defining her aura.
Typical to the Indian iconographic tradition that perceives in her motherhood her essential being, this normal two-armed image of the goddess conceived with one hand held in ‘abhay’ blends with her ‘mother’ form the sublime beauty of the timeless maid. The tradition perceives stately grandeur and resplendence as the attributes of the four-armed formal image of Sri or Lakshmi. Vigorous and youthful, this figure of Parvati has been cast as the model of the sensuously inclining paramount beauty. The artist seems to have inherited this form of Parvati from early literary texts, the main among them being the Kumarasambhava by the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa that attributes her timeless beauty and youthfulness to her motherly bearing, her power to feed with milk that she contains in her pot-like large breasts – a reflection of the Atharva-Veda that under similar analogy perceives Saraswati’s all creative faculties in her large breasted form. A gorgeously conceived ‘stana-pata’ – breast-band, a pair of mounds with prominent finials crowning over, lays further emphasis on such aspect of the modeling of her figure. An upright image – a bit taller, it has been conceived with absolute parameters of female anatomy : slender figure, narrow waist, voluminous hips, prominent breasts, well defined neck, fine fingers, round face, well-fed cheeks…, as evolved over centuries of medieval iconographic convention. The statue has been installed on a multi-tiered pedestal – a rectangular hexagon adding to its height perspective. She is clad in a gorgeous ‘antariya’ and is splendidly bejewelled.
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