In this image, too, there merge two of the major traditions, one, related to lotus as her seat, an essential element of her iconographic perception and the main thrust of her image under this tradition, and the other, ‘vina’ being one of the attributes she carried in hands and played on, believed to emit a melody that filled with nectar the pot, symbolic of mind. Under this other tradition, she is often ‘Hansaroorha’ : mounting a goose. The texts perceiving in lotus the main essence of her image laud her as ‘Asina kamala karairjjapabatim padmadhyam pustabam bivrana', that is, the goddess is seated on a lotus and carries in her four hands 'japamala', two lotuses in two of them, and a manuscript in the fourth. The artist of this metal-cast has borrowed from this tradition the lotus seat and in two of the four hands, ‘japamala’ – rosary, and ‘pustaka’ – book. The two lotuses in her other two hands have been alternated with a ‘vina’, an element of the other tradition under which she blesses her devotees : ‘Vidyaveenamratam’, that is, with the nectar of learning that she produces as melodies born of her lyre.
Thus a blend of two traditions, this representation of Saraswati is Kamalasana : the lotus-seated and has been conceived as carrying the 'japamala' and a manuscript, but the artist has preferred alternating the two lotuses, scheduled to be carried in other two hands, with ‘vina’, an attribute from the other domain, instead of repeating the lotuses which as the seat of the goddess already has a mighty presence. It is his obvious and well considered effort to multiply the aura of the image. She has been cast as playing on 'vina', suggestive of its emitting the melody filling the ‘pot’ with the ‘nectar’ : that is, the mind with transcendental delight. In subsequent iconographic perceptions, as different Puranas made, goddess Saraswati has been attributed different other seats and mounts ranging from peacock, swan, ram to lion but among them lotus ever had the status of her classic ‘asana’ – seat, and always had greater significance. Her accepted position as Brahma’s consort, most Puranas prescribe for her some of the same attributes as Brahma’s, ‘japamala’ and ‘pustaka’ in particular, the same as she is carrying in this image. In Brahma’s iconography lotus has a different kind of significance. The Brahma’s emergence after the Great Deluge from Vishnu’s navel riding a lotus is a unanimously accepted position in Puranas. Obviously, Saraswati, his consort, has also been conceived as lotus-seated like him.
In its casting skill, adherence to texts and art-merit this brass statue has the look of a medieval masterpiece. In its sensitive treatment of the figure’s iconography and anatomy : elongated eyes shut as absorbed in the melody that her ‘vina’ is producing, prominent eye-lashes, sharp nose, small cute lips, receding chin, heavy neck, temptingly protruding breasts with nipples artistically framed within a circular ring, long arms, well defined fingers, bottle-neck like narrow belly-part, tall legs suggestive of the figure’s length the statue rises to the same art-level as the art of Chola and Pala bronze casting. In its iconography, figure’s length and other dimensions, style of adornment, especially the large towering crown the statue pursues the South Indian art models. The statue is unique in its emotional bearing reflecting on the face of the figure, in revealing on lips a gentle smile, in gesticulating fingers that seem to weave a melody on the strings of the instrument and in portraying her vigorous perpetual youth bursting out from the glow of her face and rising breasts. Except what her ornaments have concealed her figure above her waist is left unclad.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.