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Concept and Iconography of the Goddess of Abundance and Fortune in Three Religious of India (Old and Rare Book)

Concept and Iconography of the Goddess of Abundance and Fortune in Three Religious of India (Old and Rare Book)
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Item Code: NAZ611
Author: Niranjan Ghosh
Publisher: The University of Burdwan
Language: English
Edition: 1979
Pages: 223 (19 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.33 kg

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 this book.

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 this book.

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