Indian Lakshmi or Sri-Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune,
abundance and agricultural prosperity and has a conceptional
proximity to the Greek Demeter and Latin Ceres, Later, she
became also the goddess of learning. Lakshmi is also the
Universal Mother-goddess as is indicated by her designation
Ma or Sri-Ma. In course of time she came to be looked upon
by the Hindus as a consort of Vishnu and apparently inspired
by the Ardhanarisvara images illustrating the combination of
Siva and Parvati, Vaishnavas also fashioned icons of Ardha-
Lakshmi-Narayana. Though primarily subservient to Vishnu,
Lakshmi was and still is worshipped as an independent deity
by the Hindus. The Buddhists and Jainas have also been paying
homage to her from very early times. Indian artists have always
sought to depict her as an ideal of feminine beauty, characterised
by fully rounded breasts, a narrow waist and heavy buttocks,
and images answering to this ideal are by no means rare.
Like many other Indian deities the career of Sri-Lakshmi is
interesting and several strains and strands have gone into the
making of her concept and iconic form. In the present disserta-
tion Dr. Niranjan Ghosh has assembled and assessed all the
archaeological and literary data for tracing her growth and
development across the centuries. According to him, as a part
of the cult of Mother-goddess, which was widespread in the
ancient world, the worship of a deity of the character of Lakshmi
was in vogue among the Indus people. While he has missed
that Lakshmi finds mention in the Rgyeda (X. 71. 2), he is right
in his remark that Sri, which occurs in the said text, was subse-
quently amalgamated with Lakshmi (vide, ‘Sri-Stkta’? a later
supplement of the Reveda, where Lakshmi has been described as
a golden deer, and also the Jataka literature which alludes to
Siri-Lakkhi ) and gave rise to the composite deity whom we come
across in the Epics and Puranas and in various other treatises
of early mediaeval India. Dr. Ghosh has collected his materials.
from such literary texts and have correlated them with relevant
archaeological evidence. He has described the different forms
of the goddess, such as, Lakshmi, Gaja-Lakshmi, Mahalakshmi
and A-lakshmi (inauspicious Lakshmi, same as Jyeshtha of South
India) of the Hindu, Sri, Lakshmi and Vasudhara of the
Buddhist and Sri and Lakshmi of the Jaina pantheons and has
made a comparative study of the form and character of the
goddess belonging to all these three religions. En passe, he has
referred to the festivals like Holi, Dipdvali and Dasahara which
are connected with Lakshmi and are observed in common by
the Hindus and Jainas. One may not, however, agree with the
view of the author that the names by which the goddess of
fortune and plenty were common in the three pantheons possibly
indicate that they stem from a common source called Hinduism.
It is perhaps logical to think that this common source was much
earlier than the crystallization of Hinduism and was essentially
primitive and tribal. And hence the icono-conceptual affinities
among the fortune-deities belonging to the three pantheons which
have been flourishing side by side for several centuries.
With the help of the data arranged cogently and chrono-
logically Dr. Ghosh has been able to present a clear portrait
of the goddess Lakshmi to his readers. The treatment of the
subject of his dissertation is detailed, yet succint and precise.
We feel much pleasure in recommending this scholarly and
useful monograph to all students of Indian art and culture.
Many important deities of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain
pantheons have not been treated at all. Ithink the Goddess of
Abundance and Fortune of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain
traditions should be critically observed and studied in details
which will be helpful to the general scholars and particularly to
the students of art and architecture of Indian culture. The
Goddess of Abundance and Fortune is a divinity, whose concept
was first made in the very dawn of Indian civilization. Later
she came to be shared by all creeds like Brahmanical, Buddhist
and Jain. In this book her transformation through the ages
from a mere abstract idea to a most important female divinity
has been shown and vividly discussed. Her various forms, viz.
Sri, Lakshmi (auspicious), A-Lakshmi (inauspicious), Gaja-
Lakshmi, and Mahalakshmi of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain
traditions have been shown. Various dhyanas and system of
worshipping of the Goddess have been collected. In this book
attempts have been established how the transformation of the
Goddess of Abungance and Fortune took place in not
only in its religion the Brahmanical, but also in the rival
creeds—Buddhist and Jain. Vedic, Epic, Puranic literature and
other old documents have been deeply followed to establish
the conception and iconographic features of the Goddess Lakshmi
in the Brahmanical period. For the Buddhist period all the
Jatakas have been extensively consulated to get an idea of the
Goddess Sri or Lakshmi in the primitive Buddhism. Other
Buddhist documents have also been consulted. To collect
materials about the Goddess I have gone through many ancient
and modern documents of Jainism.
An intimate affinity exists between the Goddess of Abundance
and Fortune of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain pantheons. In
these three religions the Goddess of Fortune plays a significant
role amongst the deities mentioned in the three pantheons. The
different forms of Lakshmi are common in the three religions—
Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain. The Goddess Vasudhara has
been: addedd in Buddhist religion as a Goddess of Fortune and
Abundance in addition to Lakshmi. Inthe Buddhist and Jain
pantheons both the religions borrow the idea and name of the
Goddess of Fortune. A large number of Hindu deities were
absorbed in Buddhism and Jainism. According to space and
time each deity receiving and along with the cultural traits and
cross-currents took newer and newer forms. That the Buddhists
and Jains in course of centuries adopted the idea and concept
of Lakshmi and Vasudhara, the Goddess of Abundance and
Fortune. Many Hindu festivals are also observed by the Jains
such as Holi, Dipavali, Dasahara, Makara Samkranti etc.
Dipavali festival is connected with the Goddess Lakshmi which
is observed by the Hindus and Jainas.
So far as the sculptures are concerned the different techniques
and forms which are most important in the iconography of the
Goddess of Abundance and Fortune have been shown in this
book. Certain characteristic features of painting, viz. crude
colour modelling, the linear quality of the drawing, the protu-
berance of the further eye into space, poigfedness of the nose
and chin, the conventional treatment of trees etc. have been
described in connection with the Goddess of Abundance and
Fortune in this book.
I am deeply indebted to my revered teacher Dr. Kalyan Kumar
Ganguly for encouragement and valuable discussion on methodo-
logy of research. From the very beginning he has most un-
grudgingly extended all help to my endeavours and pursuits.
Without his active help and guidance it would not have been
possible to complete the work that was undertaken. I am to
express my deep sense of gratitude to Dr. Ganguly for all that
he has done for this work.
To Dr. K. K. Dasgupta, my teacher, I am greatly indebted
for rendering all help to complete this work. From the very
beginning when I started my work Dr. Dasgupta never failed to
extend his active help and co-operation in all matters. I am
also personally grateful to him for helping me in collecting
materials and for valuable suggestions. He is also kind enough
for writing a foreword of this book.
Grateful thanks are due to Sri Ashok Kumar Sinha for
drawing and photographs of this book.
My wife Sm. Chhaya Ghosh and my son Sriman Ujjwal
Kumar Ghosh have been, as usual, the source of ungrudging
help and uafailing inspiration for completion of my work.
Iam to express my gratefulness and hearty thanks to Dr.
Ramaranjan Mukherji, the present Vice-Chancellor and the
members of Burdwan University Council for kind consideration
and necessary steps taken by them towards publication of
I acknowledg: with thanks the assistance and co-operation
rendered by Sri Rathindra Kumar Palit, Pudlicatioas Ofiser of
the University of Burdwan, and his associates in the unit for
going through the proof-sheets, printing and publication.
I am also grateful to the proprietor and members of the staff
of the Jnanodaya Press, Calcutta, who have tried their best to
print this book with care as nicely as possible.
It is my pleasant duty to thank my friends who have rendzred
valuable assistance in various ways and helped to clarify many
a knotty problem.
In fine, I must exoress my gratefulness to the University
Grants Commission for releasing financial assistance to publish
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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