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A strange blend of the iconographic features of all three main feminine divinities : Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, Durga, in the image’s war-like attributes, Lakshmi, in lotus as the prime element of the image and in the goddess’s sitting posture – ‘lalitasana’, and Saraswati, in the figure’s sensuous modeling and exceptional beauty, the statue represents Devi : Adi-Devi, the divine ‘female’ in her primordial form, not one of her aspects. Now used as a common noun for ‘goddess’, the term ‘Devi’ initially denoted a particularized cosmic deity, a definite divine presence that at times operated and took to anthropomorphic form, the same as did her male counterpart the ‘Trinity’ gods. The term did not denote the generalized aggregation of the feminine aspect of the divine cosmic power as it now does. In subsequent worship cult the Devi’s variously manifesting aspects, each perceived with an independent image form, set of attributes and myths, dominated the devotional mind, though a large section of devotees still perceives her in her primordial Devi form, a form representing all forms as represents this magnificent wood-image.
The image of the ten-armed Devi is installed on a highly elevated seat consisting of a base and an upper part, both two-tiered. The bottom part of the base consists of stylized lotuses, the upper, also of stylized lotus-motifs and a plain moulding, a six-petalled floral medallion defining its centre; the upper part also has a tiered elevation : the lower tier rising along an inverted lotus, and the upper, along an upwards lotus. With her left leg suspending down to the pedestal’s mid-height where a cute tiny lotus supports it, and the right, laid horizontally on the top of the seat in semi-padmasana posture the goddess is seated in absolute ease revealing great beauty of form, a posture known in classical iconography as ‘lalitasana’. The floral medallion on the bottom of the pedestal, decorative ‘patta’ attached to the waist-band in between the parting of the legs, recess between the breasts and the artistically lying decorative lace over them, chin, nose-point, forehead ornament and the crest of the crown, all combined define the centre of the image to which the image’s right and left halves stand in pleasant symmetry and vibrate it with rhythm.
Absolute in anatomical proportions and perfectly balanced, the goddess seems to have a fairly good height. She has a slender figure, round face with powerful features, rhythmically gesticulated parts, especially arms that despite an unmanageable number seem to naturally flow out of the body, sensuously modeled breasts, subdued belly, voluminous hips, a bit heavy thighs and long delicate fingers. She has sharp features, lotus eyes with finely carved arched eyebrows, well fed cheeks, broad forehead, pointed chin and a mild smile on the lips. The eight-armed figure of the goddess is carrying in her hands on the right side disc, a triple-headed arrow and a nail, the fourth, the normal right, being held in the posture of imparting ‘abhaya’ – freedom from fear; in the hands on the left, she is carrying lotus, bow, mace and in the fourth, an artistically conceived noose-type attribute. Besides an artistically crafted ‘stana-pata’ her elegantly pleated and beautifully ornamented ‘antariya’ – lower wear, alone is her ensemble. The figure of Devi has been adorned in usual ornaments for various parts. The braids of her hair unfurl on her either side. The image is the most accomplished example of South Indian wood-carving.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.