This statue – temple wood carving, a work with great distinction, in breadth of imagination, all-assimilating strength, aesthetics, technical perfection and details carved with unique precision, minuteness and benignity, and all in a fibrous medium like wood, represents Lord Ganesha with Lakshmi and Saraswati. All three deities are enshrining a fire-arch like composed mesh of vines – curving branches, colourful leaves and flower-buds, patterned like floral arabesques. This mesh of branches – a grove of shrubs-like looking, is symbolic of the entire cosmic nature that Ganesha – the good, Lakshmi – fertility and sustainability, and Saraswati – learning and creativeness, pervade. Entwined with these branches are peacocks – the life, eight of them, four flanking the central image on either side. Thus, representing nature – matter, with life, its integral component, the fire-arch has been obviously conceived to symbolize the cosmos.
The peacock with red beaks and green body-colour looking like parrots represent life in general. Visually, perching on curving branches and upholding another set of such branches on them, and thus peacocks looking like branches, and branches, like peacocks, the composition delights by its rare magic and exoticism, the qualities rarely seen in art. The pair of peacocks comprising the apex of the fire-arch, tinier and different in body colour, carved flanking the headgear of the central image, alternates the auspicious Shrimukha motif. Such Shrimukha motif has been invariably used, and is still used, in South Indian sculptures for defining the fire-arch-apexes, though while the Shrimukha motif often has an unpleasant appearance, this peacock pair amazes by the beauty of form that their symmetry and rhythm afford. As a matter of fact, such symmetry and rhythm is the common quality of all birds, or rather the common attribute of all forms, live or nature’s, the statue consists of.
Essentially the presiding deity the image of Lord Ganesha is larger in size and is prominently carved. It has been installed on the arch’s mid-height on a large wide open lotus that a thickly composed net of branches hold. Entire statue has been composed on a tall podium – a tiered seat two tiers of which are composed of stylized lotuses. The fire-arch rises from the back edge of this podium. Towards its forepart the podium has an additional moulding – a specially raised platform or sub-seat. This subordinate seat houses the images of Lakshmi and Saraswati. Like the main deity image they are also seated over fully blowing lotuses. Though the subordinate icons, and hence, smaller in size, both images have been carved with as much accuracy, precision and concern as the main image. Visually the two images have been installed just under the image of the central deity. With their right feet suspending downwards, and left, laid horizontally on the seats’ floor – the enshrining lotuses’ upper part, all three deities have been represented in identical position known in classical iconography as ‘lalitasana’, a sitting position wherein reveal great aesthetic beauty and complete ease.
The image of the four-armed Ganesha carries in its upper hands elephant goad and noose, while in the normal right it carries broken tusk, and in the normal left, a gold-like glistening mango fruit. Besides holding the broken tusk the normal right hand is held also in the gesture of granting ‘abhay’ – freedom from fear, and the normal left hand, besides carrying the golden mango, is also gesturing ‘varad’ – release from worldly infatuations. The four-armed Lakshmi is carrying lotuses in both upper hands while her normal right hand is held in ‘abhay’, and normal left, in ‘varad’. Far more than an attribute lotus is goddess Lakshmi’s identity symbol. She is known as lotus goddess; however, ‘abhay’ and ‘varad’, though now the essential attributes of her image, are more the attributes of her early form when as Mahalakshmi she was the goddess of battlefield. With two of her hands, the normal right and upper left, Saraswati is stringing her ‘vina’ while in upper right she is carrying rosary, and in normal left, ‘pustak’, both her consort Brahma’s attributes. Strangely, the image of Lord Ganesha, though seated, does not have a halo whereas the images of Lakshmi and Saraswati have. Capable of making the path detriment-free Ganesha multiplies the effectiveness of both, Lakshmi and Saraswati, for Ganesha contains all forces that obstruct one’s path to prosperity and obtainment of learning.
This description by Prof. P.C Jain and Dr. Daljeet.
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