Category Archives: diwali

Lakshmi in art : depictions from sculpture

       Lakshmi is the Goddess of prosperity and wealth and worshipped by Hindus. She is the consort of Lord Vishnu of the Hindu trinity. As per Hindu mythology, she has risen  from the samudramanthan during which the ocean was churned for the pot of ambrosia.When she had arisen, her beaury captivated all the Gods but Vishnu claimed her hand and she too preferred him. She is also called Padma because of her beauty and association with the flower.Her other names include Kamala,Padmapriya,Padmamukhi,Padmakshi,Padmasundari,Jagadishwari,Vishnupriya and Ulkavahini.

Goddess Lakshmi is mentioned as the daughter of Sage Bhrigu, and because of a certain curse of a sage on Indra, the Gods left heaven and Lakshmi took refuge in the ocean. She was restored with the Gods after the ocean churning or samudramanthan.

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Lakshmi ,9th century,LACMA collection, USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lakshmi is an important deity  and Goddess of fortune in Jainism and Buddhism and is seen depicted at stupas and cave temples.

Gajalakshmi, North torana(gateway), 1st century, Great Stupa. Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33580136

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 Dancing Lakshmi,12th century, Chennakesava Temple,Belur, Karnataka.

By Nagarjun Kandukuru (Flickr: Dancing Lakshmi) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:'Gaja Laksmi' (Lakshmi), late 9th-early 10th century, sandstone, Museum of Cham Sculptur.JPG

Gajalakshmi , late 9th-early 10th century, Sandstone, Museum of Cham,Vietnam.

By Wmpearl (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

      Goddess Lakshmi is very devoted to her husband and in many depictions she is shown at his feet. She accompanied Lord Vishnu every time he descended on the earth. She was Sita to Lord Rama and Rukmini to Lord Krishna. Lakshmi is supposed to be the embodiment of all virtues. She is the divine strength of Lord Vishnu. All women are supposed to be the embodiment of Lakshmi as per Hindu belief.

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Vishnu and Lakshmi at Ajanta caves, 2nd Century B.C- 7th Century A.D, Maharashtra.

By Ranjankumar Sahoo22 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Vishnu and Lakshmi, West India, c. 12th century AD, chlorite - Matsuoka Museum of Art - Tokyo, Japan - DSC07153.JPG

Vishnu and Lakshmi,  12th century , chlorite, West India, Matsuoka Museum of Art,Tokyo.

By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

     Goddess Lakshmi is propitiated for benefits like wealth, family dwellings, friends, good harvest , good health etc. She is worshipped alone or along with Lord Vishnu. as per the Vishnu-purana. Sri or Lakshmi is the mother of all beings and Hari or Vishnu is the father. Lord Vishnu is called Narayana. If she represents speech, Lord Vishnu is the meaning. Lord Vishnu represents understanding and she is the intellect behind it. Goddess Lakshmi’s kind gaze can transform fortunes and is much sought after. Her symbol is lotus which represents beauty, fortune and liberation and she is depicted standing or sitting on it. She is revered as having the energy of the Supreme Being.

File:Lakshmi, South India, 12th-13th century AD, granite - Matsuoka Museum of Art - Tokyo, Japan - DSC07146.JPG

Lakshmi, 12th-13th century AD, granite, South India, Matsuoka Museum of Art ,Tokyo. 

By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

     Gajalakhsmi or Lakshmi seen with elephants is usually seen seated in padmasana on a lotus. On her sides she is flanked by elephants who are pouring water over the Goddess with their trunks symbolising abundance and good luck. She carries lotus in her hand and  is usually depicted as four armed, one  in abhaya mudra (depiction of fearlessness)and the other in varamudra (depiction of fulfilment of wishes.)

      Lakshmi’s four hands symbolise the four goals of the Hindu way of life ; dharma,kama,artha and moksha. Lakshmi’s vehicle is the owl. She is always resplendent and is showering prosperity. She signifies economic activity. Her statues have been found in Hindu temples all over South Asia. She has been depicted on coinage from ancient India. The festivals Diwali and Sharad Purnima are dedicated to her.

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Gajalakhsmi, Angkor Vat, Cambodia.

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Lakshmi (Banteay Srei, Angkor)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Lakhsmi arising from the milk-ocean after the Samudramanthan or churning of the ocean,Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu.

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

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Lakshmi with Narayana, 11th century, stone, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Miya.m (Miya.m’s file) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Lakshmi ,10th century,sandstone,  Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City.

By Unknown. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:The Hindu Goddess Shri Lakshmi LACMA M.87.210 (1 of 2).jpg

 Lakshmi,brass, 17th-18th century,Odisha,LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

 

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Lamps in India : beauty and devotion

               Lamps are an important part of Indian culture and tradition and is a revered object at homes and temples. It is called deepam in the south and diya in the north. It is a part of ritualistic worship at temples and homes.Lamps across India are found made of clay,terracotta,porcelain,brass,bronze,silver etc.The earthen lamp is the commonest lamp made on the potter’s wheel from clay. The potter introduced variety in lamp-making and thus we have dome shaped lamp holders and bunch of five diyas. Diyas on top of a elephant figure or a horse figure  or as a hanging lamp are also available.Sometimes dances in India are centred around lamps.

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The earthen diya.

By Sreekumar K. S. (originally posted to Flickr as Picture 011) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Earthen diya with five wicks.

By Ramesh NG (originally posted to Flickr as The Diwali Diya) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

          Metal lamps are found at Hindu temples. Brass, bronze and silver are common. South India and Gujarat have their own array of lamps. Many temples have niches in the walls where lamps are placed. A lamp pillar or deepasthambham has plates at equal intervals and holds the oil and wicks. The plates get smaller and the top of the pillar is decorated with a lion or peacock on top. Lamp  used at the time of prayer is called aarti deepa which comes with a handle. The lamp is a symbol of Goddess Lakshmi and is known as deepalakshmi.

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Lamp as deepalakshmi, South India.

By Xufanc – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10854869

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Aarti diya.

By Amitbsws (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Lamps arranged in niches,Thiruvegappura temple Palakkad, Kerala.

By Argopal at ml.wikipedia – Transferred from ml.wikipedia by User:Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12450060

         Deepavali or Diwali means a row or array of lights and  symbolises chasing away darkness from one’s life and ushering in prosperity and abundance.  The festival commemorates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. The whole town of Ayodhya was lit up with lamps to welcome Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana.

            In Tamil Nadu a lamp is called Vilakku and in Kerala it is called Valakku. There is a lot of variety in the lamps of South India. Kuthuvilakku and Nilavilakku are traditional oil lamps used in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Many times,  a human figure is shown holding a lamp, the cup being the oil container. In the Padmanabha temple at Thiruvananthapuram the male is shown as the figure in the statues, which are mostly brass lamps. There are many inscriptions recording the gift of lamps to  presiding deities. The idea of statue lamps was probably taken from the Romans or Phoenicians as the Tamils had trade links with them.

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Paavai vilakku (lady with a lamp), Tamil Nadu.

By Xufanc – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10855014

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Tiered lamp in bronze, 13th-14th century, Kerala.

By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “airforceJK” [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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Lamps set around a rangoli ( a decorative design) on Diwali.

By siddarth varanasi – Flickr: DSC_0438, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29961576

       Lamps with human motifs is more common in South India. However many south Indian lamps are found in the temples of Benaras as per O.C Gangoly. The hamsa lamp or swan lamp is found in South India which has a perpendicular stem which is the pedestal of the lamp and is called deepa-briksha. This is broken into various knobs and the whole is surmounted by a model of a swan or hamsa. The hamsa is a beautiful and auspicious bird and is the vahana or vehicle of Lord Brahma. Lamps have been depicted in many paintings both medieval and modern.

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Diwali celebrations at Kotah, painting, Rajasthan.

By Indian Unknown Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Copper alloy lamp with peacock and elephant, 18th century, Maharashtra.

http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-17275183-O3.jpg

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Lamp at Padmanabhapura palace,16th century, Kanyakumari,Tamil Nadu.

Bibinca at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

       During the month of Kartika(mid-November to mid-December) in the Hindu calendar a festival of lights called Karthikai Deepam is celebrated in Tamil Nadu.The lamps are lit when the moon is in conjunction with the Kartigai(Pleiades) and is a full moon. This constellation is a group of six stars in the shape of an ear ornament. This day is called as Kartik Poornima and observed by  Hindus across India with lighting of lamps. It is also known as Dev Deepavali and is celebrated in Benaras or Varanasi by lighting of all the ghats on the river Ganges. It is believed that the Gods descend on earth on this auspicious day, to bathe in the Ganga river. Devotees take a dip in the river and offer lamps to the Goddess Ganga in the evening and perform Ganga aarti.

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Nilavilakku  lit up  for Karthikai deepam, Tamil Nadu.

By Aravind Sivaraj – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22915898

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Image of chromolithograph ‘Indian woman floating lamps on the Ganges’ by William Simpson,1867.

 

Photograph of chromolithograph titled, “Indian woman floating lamps on the Ganges,” by William Simpson (1823-1899) Medium: Chromolithograph Date: 1867. Downloaded from this British Library Web Site by Fowler&fowler«Talk» 11:27, 3 May 2011 (UTC)

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ganga aarti at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

By http://www.flickr.com/photos/u-suke/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/u-suke/3156784664/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Hanging lamp, Kerala.

By Sajith Erattupetta – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50373207

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Lamp with swan motif, Kerala.

By Fotokannan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15902950

 

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Gangoly, O. C/The Journal of Indian art, 1916: South Indian lamps, p 129-136.

 

 

Posted by : Soma Ghosh