Warning: include(domaintitles/domaintitle_wiki.exoticindiaart.php3): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/exotic/newexotic/header.php3 on line 921

Warning: include(): Failed opening 'domaintitles/domaintitle_wiki.exoticindiaart.php3' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/exotic/newexotic/header.php3 on line 921

Subscribe for Newsletters and Discounts
Be the first to receive our thoughtfully written
religious articles and product discounts.
Your interests (Optional)
This will help us make recommendations and send discounts and sale information at times.
By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address info@exoticindia.com.

Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
Sign In  |  Sign up
Your Cart (0)
Best Deals
Share our website with your friends.
Email this page to a friend

Every Woman a Goddess - The Ideals of Indian Art

Article of the Month - January 2002
Viewed 2596641 times since 2nd Oct, 2008

...Continued from Page 1

« Previous Page

DrummerThe symbolism of the drum operates at many levels. Firstly there are its materials - wood and hide. The hide being a symbol of regeneration. Since ancient times, the skin of a sacrificial animal, such as the bull or horse, represents the fat of the animal and, by extension, all life-sustaining produce; also progeny. Indeed all qualities associated with the natural functions of a woman.

The wood of the drum is symbolic of a tree itself, which expresses maternal nourishment and support. It is wood that gives shelter at birth as a cradle and in death as the coffin. It is noteworthy here that in China wood is also an emblem of spring, the season of fertility and ripe blossoms.

That the drum is hollow from the inside is also not without spiritual significance. It is a receptive void, to be entered as a woman is, protective, cavernous, a furrow, a shelter and hence a symbol of the womb and therefore birth.

Finally the oval shape of the drum is a symbol of fertility, the feminine creative principle.

Mother Yashoda with Krishna and Balarama


A Mother with Her Infant in Her Arms

A child's first master is always his/her mother, whence the crucial role she plays and the particular regard in which she is held by both child and man. It is not merely that she has given him life, which is often a fortuitous accident, nor only because she has nourished him with her milk, but because she is the one who initiates the child into the society of man and who teaches the first rudiments of language and behavior on which his whole future development depends.

Yashoda Krishna






All women have two natures, two distinct characters, as both lover and mother. As lover she represents the strength and creative power of the male principle, which without her is sterile. She is his inspiration, the instrument of his realization, the source of his pleasure. She is the image of Shakti, the power and joy of the gods, who without her would have no existence. It is as mother, however, that woman represents the transcendent aspect of the divine. She is the supreme refuge in which the male plays no role. The goddess mother is the sole source of being, the supreme state of consciousness, the principle of life itself.

Woman is the image of the calm of primordial night for which man yearns, tossed on the waves of life, seeking the state of perfection, the total peace from which he came forth. The universal mother thus appears to man as the supreme state of the divine. All creation, all thought, all form, all existence come from the mysterious energy that appears in the substratum, this matrix of the great goddess, the universal mother, from whom all forms and beings come.

Mother and Child


As mother, woman is divine and is worshipped. A mother is bereft of artifice. She is man's comfort, wandering through the deserts of the world. She is forgiveness, charity, and limitless compassion. The woman who realizes the perfection of her maternal role is the very gate of heaven.

The respect and duty owed to this first of all masters and the authority she retains make the mother an essential and symbolic figure throughout life. This is woman's double nature: passive in her relationship with men, active as mother of her children. It is well known, moreover, that the most coquettish and timid woman, when her child is in danger, becomes courageous and enterprising, heedless of her makeup, her weakness, her hair, or the injuries she mighty receive.

The Milk of Paradise





In visual representations, the mother is most often shown suckling her baby. Indeed the grace and sweetness of vegetal life pervade and enliven the lovely bodies of both mother and child. Here fertility and maternity, the grand old themes of the archetypal figures of the mother goddesses are relieved of their ancient abstractness and diagrammatic monumentality, achieving a composition of refined and intimate realism. Brought down to the terrestrial plane from the sphere of ideals, such an image is both contemporary and eternal.





The MaidenWoman Smelling a Lotus

To the Indian imagination this beautiful flower is associated with divinity. An early medieval text describes the goddess as being:

Slender as the lotus-fiber,
In the lotus posture,
Pollen dusting her lotus-feet,
She dwells
In the pendant lotus of the heart.

Indian literature classifies women into four types of which the highest is Padmini, the Lotus Lady whose very breath contains the fragrance of the lotus. Because of its entrancing fragrance, the sweet and pervasive freshness of the lotus is captivating. The honey produced in the calyx is so sweet and maddening that it is believed that the bee forgets to get out of it and prefers to remain veiled inside the lotus through the night.

The Lotus Reaper


Ancient mythmakers used the lotus as a common symbol of fertility. The plant was native to many areas of the world, so it occurred frequently in myths and was highly revered by people of many cultures, including the Egyptians and the Persians. It is the very behavior of the flower that gives rise to this symbolism. Sinking to the bottom of the water at night, it rises to the surface in the morning, and spreads its petals on the surface. This awakening and blooming of the lotus at the first rays of the morning sun is a recurrent theme in Indian literature also.

The lotus is the symbol of absolute purity; it grows from the dark watery mire but it is untainted or unstained by it. As the seed of the lotus grows from the waters and from the earth's soil, it is a symbol of divine or spontaneous generation. Birth such as that of the lotus implies an immaculate and uncontaminated conception. Thus the lotus, as divine womb, becomes a potent sexual metaphor. Padma or kamala, meaning lotus in Sanskrit, is a synonym for the female generative organ - it is both soft and open.


Lady with Hookah





Thus by signifying the relation of the sensual to the spiritual, beauty to purity, and the physical to the divine, the potent metaphor of the lotus again emphasizes the inherent sacredness in women.






Parrot Stealing Away Wine

Woman Playing with a Parrot




The parrot is the vehicle of the god of desire Kama, the impeller of creation. Kama is the god of beauty and youth. Creation is always preceded by desire, there can be no creation without desire. Indeed the symbol of the parrot is another pointer to the fundamental association of the feminine with the creative principle in nature.







Thus the Indian aesthetic tradition regards woman as an aspect of the Great Mother of all life, a vessel of fertility, and life in full sap. She embodies mystery through her fruitfulness. She is associated with nature and the earth. Indeed men in a number of primitive societies refuse to interfere with agriculture, believing it to be magically dependent on women. Because of her unique physiological experiences, like menstruation, defloration, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation, she is responsive to the mysterious periodicities connected with the phases of the moon, the cycles of the months, the seasons of the years and the rhythms of nature.

She lives separate existences as virgin, wife, mother, widow or spinster, each with its own experience and power. As a mother she is one of the great primordial archetypes of humanity. From her womb a new creature is born, at her breasts it is nourished, by her hands it is guided.

Indeed woman is superior to man in many ways. She has greater vitality; her resistance to disease, physical injury and major shocks is better than man's; girls, as a rule, are more precocious in their development than boys, and do not succumb so easily to illness. Women are more practical and down to earth, and some anthropologists think that rule by women preceded rule by men, and that the patriarchal system developed only when men settled down to a civilized life so as to leave women free to bring up the family.

Woman is the originator of families, the preserver of the established order and the perpetuator of traditions, which she imparts to her children. Through her the past is continued, not only in the physical life of her children, but in the respect for traditional heritage that she instills into them. As the Great Goddess rules the heavens, her earthly counterpart, the woman, rules the home.

It is the presence of women that lies at the source of most forms of totemism, exogamy, taboo, initiations, blood-rites, fertility rites and the mysteries. With women are associated the ideas of the unconscious, for some instinctive and intuitive process seems to put her in touch, through some secret sympathy, with the very heart of things.

She symbolizes the wisdom of the community, and the old woman and sage-femme is the keeper of the tribal lore and often the source of tribal strength. She is priestess, prophetess, sibyl, medium, oracle, pythoness, and witch. Skilled in herbs and balms she is the natural healer and nurse, first of her children, then of her hunter and warrior husband. Man penetrates into her interior, and deep within her body the child is created. She therefore stands for the innerness of things, the place where secret and hidden things happen. Indeed it is in her womb that the great magical transformation takes place that changes sperm into men.

Thus Manu, the first law-giver, said:

"The gods are satisfied wherever women are honored, but where they are not respected, rites and prayers are ineffectual."
(Manu Smriti 3.62)

References and Further Reading

  • Cooper, J.C. An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols: London, 1999.
  • Danielou, Alain. Virtue, Success, Pleasure, Liberation; The Four Aims of Life in the Tradition of Ancient India: Vermont, 1993.
  • Dehejia, Vidya (ed.) Representing the Body (Gender Issues in Indian Art): New Delhi, 1999.
  • Dehejia, Vidya (ed.). Devi The Great Goddess (Female Divinity in South Asian Art): Washington, 1999.
  • Leslie, Julia. Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women: Delhi, 1992.
  • Pal, Pratapaditya (ed). Dancing to the Flute (Music and Dance in Indian Art): Sydney, 1997.
  • Tresidder, Jack. The Hutchinson Dictionary of Symbols: Oxford, 1997.
  • Untracht, Oppi. Traditional Jewelry of India: London, 1997.
  • Zimmer, Heinrich. Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization: Delhi, 1990.
  • Zimmer, Heinrich. The Art of Indian Asia; Its Mythology and Transformation (two vols.): Delhi, 2001.

« Previous Page

Post a Comment
  • I agree with all the comments.It also explains how our previous generations(Males)utilized other's (i.e other than his family) girls or women as sex machine
    by Venkat on 10th Apr 2013
  • nice and informative article. this world indeed is feminine
    by krishna on 28th Dec 2007
  • Beautiful images, wonderful, informative article. It will come in usual for my sacred dance class. Thank you!
    by Deb on 21st Jan 2007
  • great stuff.
    by nick on 18th Oct 2005
  • Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOO much for this article. I have been searching the internet for info on Indian art for a school project, but couldn't find anything, until I came accross this site! I love the pictures and the article itself is of great use. Thanks again.
    by Sophie on 2nd Oct 2005
  • A beautiful article, which I have read with great interest. Your website teaches me a lot about the interaction between religion and art and vice versa. That is an universal event. Thank you very much. Kindest regards, Elisheva Loots, the Netherlands
    by Elisheva Loots on 6th Jun 2005
  • Thank you for the review this article and this whole site will im sure help me with my art project on indian art
    by JAMES on 27th Mar 2005
  • Great articles, all of these. They are easy to read and at the same time academic. Good job!
    by Scarlet S on 25th Mar 2004
  • Thank you for your very beautiful article and images. I enjoy all the articles of the website exioticIndiaArt. It is fascinating to find so much information about the buddisme. Thank you very much. Theresa (Netherlands)
    by theresa on 17th Mar 2003
  • I have been an avid student of Indian culture these past few years and am amazed at not only the wealth of information in your articles but also the very beautiful illustrations. Overall I am just simply impressed with your website and am enjoying my salwaar kameez. I am grateful. Namaste
    by Glo (Shakti) Brunk on 14th Jan 2003
I very much appreciate your web site and the products you have available. I especially like the ancient cookbooks you have and am always looking for others here to share with my friends.
Sam, USA
Very good service thank you. Keep up the good work !
Charles, Switzerland
Namaste! Thank you for your kind assistance! I would like to inform that your package arrived today and all is very well. I appreciate all your support and definitively will continue ordering form your company again in the near future!
Lizette, Puerto Rico
I just wanted to thank you again, mere dost, for shipping the Nataraj. We now have it in our home, thanks to you and Exotic India. We are most grateful. Bahut dhanyavad!
Drea and Kalinidi, Ireland
I am extremely very happy to see an Indian website providing arts, crafts and books from all over India and dispatching to all over the world ! Great work, keep it going. Looking forward to more and more purchase from you. Thank you for your service.
We have always enjoyed your products.
Elizabeth, USA
Thank you for the prompt delivery of the bowl, which I am very satisfied with.
Frans, the Netherlands
I have received my books and they are in perfect condition. You provide excellent service to your customers, DHL too, and I thank you for that. I recommended you to my friend who is the director of the Aurobindo bookstore.
Mr. Forget from Montreal
Thank you so much. Your service is amazing. 
Kiran, USA
I received the two books today from my order. The package was intact, and the books arrived in excellent condition. Thank you very much and hope you have a great day. Stay safe, stay healthy,
Smitha, USA
Subscribe to our newsletter and discounts
Share with friends
Links Related to
The role of the goddess as one who fulfills wishes has remained one of enduring strength and consequence. In the ancient collection of sacred hymns known as the Veda, this aspect of the goddess already becomes manifest. The two most shining examples in this context are The Great Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati.
Hindu Goddesses - Lakshmi and Saraswati- Exotic India Art
"The earliest term applied to the divine feminine... is Shakti... Specifically, Shakti means power, force and feminine energy. She represents the fundamental creative instinct underlying the cosmos, and is the energizing force of all divinity, of every being and every thing... The yoni or female generative organ is... venerated for its obvious properties of fertility and growth... While Durga is the most potent icon to express the aggressive and destructive behavior of Shakti, Lakshmi is the quintessential goddess who proclaims her creative aspect... (It) is emphasized in the Gandharva Tantra (that) 'She who is the sun, moon, and fire, lays down the purusha (male) and enjoys him from above.'..."
Shakti - Power and Femininity in Indian Art
"Rigorous fasts, temples thronged by crowds of devotees....assimilates two widely different facets, though both, positive and creative: one, purely spiritual in which reflects man’s desire for achieving ends beyond this birth, and the other, a desire to seek in this birth itself world’s all colours, freedom from ills and good for all....The Mahabharata, the great epic, is considered as the earliest to allude to the Devi with absolute specificity....Revered as the ultimate divine power capable of destroying every evil and every wrong, nurturing good and sustaining life in whichever form it exists....The Divine Female, and perhaps she alone, has the power to choose any form as her vehicle and conduct her powers through it....The major role of the Devi consists in leading to light out of darkness; the festival is hence Nava-Ratri: nine nights, not days."
Navaratri: A Festival of Austerities
"The factum of Vishnu’s incarnation as Rama has been interpreted in terms of Rama’s act of eliminating Ravana....She has not only kept to the right track Indian womanhood, affording it the most perfect model....Sita, the term literally meaning ‘furrow’, the line made by plough, is the Vedic name of the goddess associated with the ploughed fields....It was for her emergence from fire that Sita is sometimes alluded to as Agnija....This gives Sita her name Raktaja, one born of blood.....Sita represents absolute devotion, unshakable faith, chastity, service, constant companionship and a desire to help accomplish his cause, besides her unique divinity with which blends the highest kind of womanhood....When Rama feared that the forest life, and that too for fourteen years, would be difficult for Sita, she relieves him of his reluctance by telling him that astrologers, considering the position of planets at the time of her birth, had predicted that she would pass a part of her life in the forest."
Sita – The Personification of Divine Womanhood
"In classical mythology the raison d'кtre of Parvati's birth is to lure Shiva into marriage and thus into the wider circle of married life from which he is aloof as a lone ascetic, living in the wilds of the mountains. The goddess represents the complementary pole to the ascetic, world-denying tradition in the Hindu ethos. In her role as maiden, wife, and later as a mother, she extends Shiva's circle of activity into the realm of the householder, where his stored-up energy is released in positive ways."
Parvati - Goddess of Love & Devotion - Hindu Goddess - Exotic India Art
"The Mother Goddess is India's supreme Divinity... In fury or in frown, she is always the same protective, caring, loving Mother with a benign face and a blessing hand... In her material manifestation, She represents, with absolute motherhood, also the absolute womanhood. She causes life and sustains it, and is also the cause of life, its inspiration and aspiration, and the reason to live... She is the eternal upholder of Dharma and truth, the promoter of happiness and the giver of salvation and prosperity but also of sorrows, grief and pain... As Adi Shakti, She represents Prakriti, which operates in and on all things, the manifest or otherwise, materially present or abstract..."
Conception and Evolution of The Mother Goddess in India
Kali's fierce appearances have been the subject of extensive descriptions in several earlier and modern works. Though her fierce form is filled with awe- inspiring symbols, their real meaning is not what it first appears…
Mother Goddess as Kali - The Feminine Force in Indian Art
"providence has blessed women with the primary responsibility of the perpetuation of the human race. Understandably her physical body has been richly endowed for this glorious function… To the connoisseur of Indian aesthetics, the profusion of voluptuous women dominating its canvas comes as no surprise… But while celebrating the female body in glorious images the artist never loses sight of the fact that whatever nature creates, it creates with a purpose. No form is accidental and every natural form must have a divinely ordained function. Whatever be the artistic representation, it must glorify this inherent natural function…"
The Ideals of Motherhood  - Aesthetics of Form and Function
"Iconographically, they (Mahavidyas) are individually shown dominating male deities. Kali and Tara are shown astride Shiva, while others like Shodashi sit on the body of Shiva... By subverting... conventional social norms, the adept seeks to liberate his or her consciousness from the... inhibiting categories of proper and improper, good and bad, polluted and pure."
Wisdom Goddesses - Mahavidyas and the Assertion of Femininity in Indian Thought
"It is well established in the canons of Indian thought that every woman mirrors in herself the divine feminine... Envisioned as totally naked, the visual tales of her terrible form do not end with her dense black color or with the skirt made up of decapitated hands...(or) the necklace made up of heads she has severed from the torsos of beings...The truth behind the mystery of Kali, it seems, is to not be found by a conventional appraisal of her physical appearance....it is the female of the species who comes out with honors here, by resolutely establishing that when they are wives and when they progress to being mothers, Kali forms an integral part of their characteristic buildup."
A Kali in Every Woman: Motherhood and the Dark Goddess Archetype
"Immense is Ganga’s mystique and sanctifying power....Ganga makes every Indian feel her presence in his ears....Represents Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva working as one unit in Ganga’s emergence on the earth....The world would be washed off if her current fell direct on the earth and asked him to persuade Shiva to hold her upon his head when she descended ....After Ganga emerged on the earth, her banks were penance-doers’ most favoured resort...... Towards the end of his life, when hit by Arjuna’s arrows Bhishma lay on the bed of arrows awaiting the sun to move to Uttarayana – auspicious period for relinquishing ‘prana’ – life....Ganga is often revered as Vira-mata, the mother of brave and mighty sons."
Tales of Ganga, The River Goddess
"Durga is the ultimate of divine power capable of eradicating every evil and every wrong, and nurturing and sustaining life in whichever form it exists....Durga is an entity beyond time....She is with absolute clarity the goddess of battlefield....With a thunderous roar that rocked the earth from one end to other she proceeded to battlefield.....The notorious demons wanted to kill Brahma and destroy Vedas....In India’s most parts her sanctum images are either operative as when killing demon Mahisha or static, as seated on her lion, though in both cases she is represented as carrying her essential weapons...."
Durga: The Adi-Shakti
"As per Markandeya Purana, it is in her manifestation as Mahalakshmi that Devi kills Mahishasura....In Vishnu's Ardhanarishvara images, which are very rare, Lakshmi is represented as comprising Vishnu's left half...Thus, Lakshmi dually emerged in Vishnu's life, one, by realisation, and other, by manifestation....Main among Lakshmi's forms, other than her transforms, or her forms by re-birth or re-emergence, are her forms as Gaja-Lakshmi, Lakshmi-Ganapati and Deep-Lakshmi....As Shridevi, Lakshmi is the image of the supreme beauty conceived as heavily bejeweled."
Lakshmi - Goddess of Wealth & Prosperity
"...The Great Goddess Durga was born from the energies of the male divinities...The awesome three-eyed Goddess was adorned with the crescent moon...seas trembled as the Goddess engaged the Great Demon Mahisasura...Thus the reveries of Mahisa are exterminated..."
Durga - Narrative Art of a Warrior Goddess
"It is only the supremely compassionate Goddess Durga who gives space in her image to the principal demon she has killed, thus ensuring that he too is worshipped along with her....The goddess as restful sleep is an apt metaphor signifying her motherhood.....While our whole day is spent in emptying our shakti, the compassionate goddess takes it on herself to continue replenishing it.....Sheds a clear enough light on the essential nature of the goddess, as no dry philosophical treatise can manage to do....Maya being none else than the goddess' divine power of self-concealment..."
Navaratri - Celebrating the Symbolic Vision of the Goddess
Show More
All rights reserved. Copyright 2020 © Exotic India