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जल देवी (Water Goddess): Series 2

After having explored the trinity of river goddesses, we now look at a few examples of the generic image of the Water Goddess. Unlike the river goddess, the water goddess represents the element of water per se, and is independent of affinities with any specific named water body as such. She could be imaged in a river, or a pond, or any other water body. She typically holds a kalash (water vessel); and normally, is not associated with a vahana (animal-vehicle). Generally, such generic images of the Water Goddess are quite rare to come by, unlike the Ganga - Jamuna - Saraswati trinity images, of which several abound. 


Let's begin with a study of our original Water Goddess


The Water Goddess holds a kalash each in two of her four her hands, subscribing to the classical iconography. She emerges from a water body, on a lotus pedestal. This iconic water goddess, charms with her flaring skirt, and bears an intriguing headgear. She is flanked by banana trees, possibly inspired by the image of Shila Devi of Amer. 

We now encounter another image of Jal Mata (literally "Mother Water"); executed recently in the Jaipur folk style. The Jaipur folk style, about which not much has been said or written, is characteristic of quick, folksy, sometimes naive renditions; as opposed to the more refined proscenium Jaipur school style of miniatures with its refined lines and elaborate detailing. This water goddess resides in a water body (the curvilinear wave pattern used to depict water is used to depict this). She is seated on a fish. Like we see in the previous image, her hands seems to be blessing the devotee / viewer in a benevolent graceful gesture. 


Further exploring the peculiar eccentricities of the Jaipur folk idiom, we return to the holy Ganga and present a series of four images of the mega-river in this style. 

Ganga 2 is modelled after a popular oleograph of Ganga. The diagonal composition is maintained, though the image is invereted, and the detailing varies. The kalash and lotus are retained, but notice how crudely the lotus is drawn: pointing out to the naivety of the folk style. The vahana (vehicle) is the mythical Makara: with the head of the crocodile, and the tail of a dolphin. 


In Ganga 3 the Devi is seated on a lotus - somewhat similar to the imagery used for Lakshmi. In many old images, the goddess is seated on an elephant headed fish: a mythical animal representing the aquatic (fish) and the regal aspect (elephant); a form of the amoebic Makara. She holds water pots, a conch and a  चक्र (discuss); representing both benevolence and strength. 

A charming devotee makes a presence in Ganga 4, blowing a conch to pay obeisance.  

The artist choses a different mode to portray the river goddess in Ganga 5 : the figure is drawn differently, and she holds an axe and trident in place of the classic lotus and water pot. The tail of the Makara is stylised and charmingly elongated. 

The folk style is characteristic of naive drawing, unplanned compositions, crude detailing and sometimes may not even be accurate in sticking to the rules of iconography; but it retains a magnetic charm in its primitive rendition of figures and its quick intimate rendering of a theme. 



Bibhu Patnaik's Gangotri to Kolkata, another new curation for the festival by a contemporary artist, presents another new interpretation of classical iconographies. As per the artist's statement: “This painting has evolved from a famous temple sculpture Statue of Ganga at the Jagannatha Temple at Puri, Odisha. Pattachitra, the traditional painting of Odisha, follows a character which is quite distinct from temple sculptures. I have tried here to transform the compelling sculptural image into the subtle and lyrical temperament of Pattachitra. A contemporary map of the river Ganga flowing from Gangotri to Kolkata; and circular motifs which symbolise water; form the background of the image.”



From Ganga, we now turn back to Yamuna; this time imaged in the very specific iconography that the Nathdwara school developed for portraying Yamuna ji, sacred to the Pushti-marg as part of the trinity of Shrinathji, Yamuna and Vallabh Mahaprabhu. Yamuna ji typically looks sideways, holding a garland towards Shrinathji (highlighting the aspect of using images as a backdrop / side panel, typical of the Pichvai tradition). She wears a long lotus garland, and holds lotus flowers in her other hand. Both the paintings featured here, Yamuna 1 and Yamuna 2, executed in the Bazaar style.  


Delve into the magic of the water goddesses: LISTEN IN: our special Playlist which celebrates the water goddess, in devotional music, Sanskrit chants, film, Indie and world music!