Indian art is no stranger to iconography – the interpretation and study of visuals and symbols used in works of art. From the ten arms of Maa Durga to the significance of Lord Vishnu’s shankh (conch shell), there is a reason or story behind the depiction of each symbol, and the representation of various deities in Indian art. This article explores the representation of Goddess Gauri in artwork and sculpture.
Goddess Gauri, also known as Uma or Parvati, is the goddess of fertility, love, marriage and divine strength and power. She forms the Holy Trinity along with Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati, and is the nurturing form of the Supreme Adi Shakti (Creatrix, or the Primordial Energy of the Cosmos). One can find her statues, sculptures and drawings in many Hindu temples spanning across the subcontinent.
The Sanskrit text Roopmandan describes six different forms of Goddess Gauri while Roopavatar mentions twelve forms of her. Each form depicts Gauri in a different hasta-mudra (position of her hands) together with the ayudhas (weapons and objects) she carries. The forms are as follows:
The name Himavanti is associated with Gauri as she is the daughter of mountain king Himavant and queen Mena. Himavanti is identified by her four arms, and the ayudhas she carries.
The icon of Himavanti in the photograph is a six inch high statue of bronze and copper. In this, Himavanti can be seen standing in the samabhanga pose (literally defined as ‘without bending’). She is standing on a padmapitha, a lotus pedestal, a symbolism of a mother’s lap, amongst other symbolisms. It is one of the most highly valued pedestals. Himavanti is four-armed; her right hand is in the abhaya mudra (gesture of fearlessness) while the left hand is in varada mudra (symbolizing the dispensing of boons). Her upper right hand holds a darpana (mirror) and her upper left hand holds a sanal padma (a long-stalked lotus).
She is adorned with an ornate kirita mukuta which is a conical/cylindrical crown with many ornaments on it, and a mukutbandh with both ends flowing over each shoulder. Her ears are adorned with ratna-kundalas (gem-studded earrings), a yajnopavita (sacred thread) and a long ratna-hara (gem-studded necklace), which is tied in a knot below her breasts with its long ends extending to either side of her navel and ending halfway down her thighs. She also wears keyuras (ornament worn on the upper arm), kankanas (bracelets), a beaded kati-mekhala (ornament adorning the waist) and an ornate kativa vastra which extends to her ankles, on the outer side of her legs. The statue depicts her wearing a long adhovastra with intricate designs on it.
Each mudra, each ornament, each pose, is an attribution of a specific quality and has a particular meaning, defines the sophistication in Indian iconography that stretches back thousands of years. Each statue or piece of art one sees of Indian gods and goddesses has a unique and fascinating story to tell, if you are willing to observe and study it.
The author referred to the following books when writing the article: Murti-Vijnyan, Bharatiya Murti-Shastra, Elements of Hindu Iconography and Pratima Kosha.
Article has been edited by Krishna Barot.
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