Devi: The Great Goddess
Devi (in Sanskrit and in English)
HomepageAspects of Devi
Local Protector
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Durga with Her Family. Lent by Leo S. Figiel. M. D.
The fluctuating imagery of local goddesses is dramatically exemplified in the tribal region of Bastar in central India, where bronze casters create images from personal dream visions of the deities. With such an individual approach, only the craftsman and the commissioning patron know a deity's precise identity. A favored Bastar mode for representing goddesses is to model them seated upon a swing or within wheeled chariots.
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Woman with parasol and pot. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptures often represent different aspects of tribal life. The bronze, on the left, is from the Kondh tribe. The woman bears distinctive tattoo marks on cheeks, chin, and forehead, as well as multiple piercings of the earlobes. As a preparation for marriage, Kondh girls are tattooed at the age of ten, while even earlier, holes are pierced along the outer ear and earlobes to receive the earrings their bridegroom will one day give them.
Sculptors who make images for the traditional temples work according to textual prescriptions following strict guidelines for the physical proportions of deities, their adornment, and other iconographic details. Folk artisans are unfettered by any such regulations. Their work, believed to be inspired directly by the deities who appear in their dream visions, renders each piece unique. Click for full image and description.
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Elongated goddess. Lent by Leo S. Figiel, M. D.

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The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560.
All presented material is copyright © Smithsonian Institution, 1999 except where otherwise noted.