Our Lady of the Elephants

As I have mentioned before, I am quite fond of the heraldic pose of a goddess flanked by two animals, which I have found in some ancient cultures around the Mediterranean Basin and Middle East.  I have incorporated this pose into my own art.  Imagine my delight when I began to study the goddesses of India to find one who was flanked by two elephants.  She is portrayed this way not only in ancient Indian art, but also in the modern day poster art of India. The goddess Lakshmi has been portrayed in many different and fascinating artworks from the many different art styles and times periods of Indian art.  Contemporary portraits of her in the form of mass produced posters are plentiful in the shops and homes of devotees today.    I have chosen to use an older art style based on the art of the ancient Indian state of Kerala.

In my relief sculpture, Lakshmi, Goddess of prosperity, wealth and well-being, is bathed with abundance by her two sacred elephants. Another name commonly applied to her is Shri.  Since the elephant is a metaphor for rain-laden clouds, their bathing of Lakshmi symbolizes the fertility rain brings to the earth.    She is seated on a stylized lotus throne, and two of her four hands form the gestures of fearlessness and generosity.  The other two hold lotuses.  Since ancient times, she has been venerated by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains for her power to bestow on devotees the wealth of spiritual liberation as well as material wealth and prosperity.

She is the beloved consort of Vishnu, Preserver of the Universe.  Whenever Vishnu has manifested in the world as one of his ten incarnation or avatars, Lakshmi  also took birth as his beloved partner.  There are many legends and stories about these two.

I have been privileged to visit India   I spent some time in Rishikesh, at an Ayurvedic Medical Center.  The presence there of the Divine Feminine/Divine Mother, is truly moving. There are many statues of the goddess (or Devi) in all her manifestation.  The many different goddesses (and gods) simply represent the multitude of aspects, qualities, and attributes of the Absolute or Supreme Being beyond all name and form.  Lakshmi is simply one manifestation of the Divine Feminine Principle.  When I asked a local Indian woman which temple of which goddess was the best one to visit, she said, “All the same, Devi is One.”

I have only completed two sculptures about the Indian goddess (Devi) — Lakhsmi and Sarasvati, but I have many more planned.  India is a rich source for exploring the Archetypal Feminine.

Our Lady of the Elephants, Hand Cast Paper Relief Sculpture

This entry was posted on Friday, December 24th, 2010 at 4:21 pm and is filed under Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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