This 54 inch tall brass statue, an artefact of auspicious nature, which can beautify a large drawing hall by its unique craftsmanship and sanctify a house by its auspices, is a representation of the auspicious Deepalakshmi. Different from what its name suggests, Deepalakshmi is not a deity, or an aspect or manifestation of the Goddess Lakshmi.
Deepalakshmi does not have a legendary past, or an ancient tradition of
art, literature or faith. It came in prevalence around the later half of the
16th century only. Diwali was one of India's main festivals and people
celebrated it in full exuberance. Not only that they illuminated their
houses with lights but also gifted and exchanged lighted lamps with friends,
relatives and others in contact. This formed a significant part of the
Diwali celebration. To reap profits, the craftsmen of Vijayanagara and
Madurai, known for their independent art styles, namely, the Vijayanagara
and Nayak, developed some artistic varieties of lamps for gift and exchange.
They cast in metal and clay statues of damsels with celestial look holding
the auspicious Diwali lamps in their hands. Initially, such female figures
had normal two arms but later they began having more than two also to carry
in them more lamps. Out of reverence people equated a woman with goddess
Lakshmi. This deity like multi-armed appearance cast in these statues
further strengthened this practice and gave to the rendered figure Lakshmi
as its name. With deepa in hand, the cast figure came to be known as
The tradition of embellishing a Deepalakshmi statue with finest
ornamentation and minutest of details goes back to its initial days. In
casting their statues, both the Vijayanagara and Nayak art styles laid great
emphasis on rendering minute details, sharp features, tall figures, a
blissful composure and demeanour on faces, well moulded and proportionate
figures adorned with elegant jewelry and gems and on the beauty of eyes,
neck, belly and breasts. Deepalakshmi statues were cast without crown and
halos but their hair were so styled that they assumed the look of a crown.
The figures were rendered semi-nude with upper part either fully exposed or
covered partially with ornaments. It was only in the costume part that the
two art traditions, the Vijayanagara and Nayak, deviated from each other. In
Nayak tradition, the costume went up to figure's breasts, while in
Vijayanagara it confined only up to waist.
This excellent Deepalakshmi statue is obviously a great manifestation of
the legendary Vijayanagara art style. Besides what it traditionally
prescribed, figure's face brims with emotion. Her features, style of
dressing, its artistic folds, body build with moderate height, and ornaments
are typically Andhrite. Her hair beautifully float on her shoulders and a
gentle smile on her lips. The highly auspicious Kirtimukha motif adorns not
only her both arms but also lay like a buckle upon her waist along her
girdle. The sash suspending along her waist on both sides balances the width
of the statue.
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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