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Archaeology

Saraswati

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Saraswati
12th century AD, Chauhan Period

Place of Origin: Pallu, Bikaner, Rajasthan
Materials: Stone
Dimensions: Ht: 77 L: 46 W: 22 cm.
Acc. No. 1-6/278

One of the rarest pieces of sculptural art anywhere this four-armed divine image, highly sophisticated and delicately carved out of a marble rock, white but time's imprints stripping it of its divine whiteness, represents goddess Saraswati. Recovered from a strong Jain belt and in view of its iconographic specificity, especially the Tirthankara icon on the top of the 'prabha', an essential feature of the images of subordinate Jain deities, the image represents the goddess as Vagdevi, Saraswati's transform in Jain pantheon. As is the iconographic tradition of her images, the goddess has been conceived as four-armed standing on a lotus pedestal and carrying lotus, book, rosary and a pot in her hands. Along with the rosary, the lower right hand displays 'varada mudra', gesture of release. Elaborately bejeweled with a wider range of ornaments than usually seen in her contemporary images, especially the ornaments on her arms, the delicate string on the back of the palms and the stringed ornament defining the roundness of her breasts, the goddess has been modeled with an exceptionally soft and delicate figure, fingers, long, sharp and with pointed nails being most attractive and striking. Besides the lyre-playing devotee females and the donor couple, royal beings or a rich trader and his wife, around her feet the statue also includes a damaged figure of a 'vina' playing Gandharva.

Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, music, eloquence and faculties of mind is essentially a Vedic deity, the Rig-Veda itself alluding to her as 'Vak' and the Atharva-Veda attributing to her even a form. The goddess was subsequently adopted in Buddhist, Jain and Brahmanical pantheons. While the Buddhist and Jain pantheons went for her transforms, all being subordinate deity-forms, the Brahmanical pantheon attributed to her quasi-independent status, first as Brahma's 'Shakti' helping creation, then as Vishnu's consort assisting sustenance, and finally, as in Vishnudharmottara Purana or Amsu-madbhedagama and Rupamandana, as a goddess with independent status: the patron deity of arts, music, literature, learning and every aspect of creativity and culture. These texts perceived her as white comple-xioned, in white ensemble, carrying in her hands variously pen, manuscript, lotus, rosary, vina and a vessel of nectar... With more elaborate imagery in Jain pantheon she has been conceived as heading the collective body of sixteen 'Vidya-devis' and is especially worshiped on 'Snana Panchami'.

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