Viewing Goddess Images
The Hindu Great Goddess, Devi is depicted in paintings and sculptures in her many forms. Her art depictions as well as popular posters distinctively express her erotic, maternal and terrible powers. Each of her images holds emblems in the hands, wears a crown and jewels in coiffure, jewelry around the fingers, neck, wrists and ankles and is attired in luxurious garb (except goddess Kali who is depicted in the nude).
In order for us to authentically understand the meanings of Devi’s visual manifestations we need to know their myths and symbols and become acquainted with the religion and culture in which they belong. Once we reach that threshold, viewing them will not only give us pleasure but also their meanings will empower us, the onlookers. We can view the goddess images spiritually (as a devotee) or savor them aesthetically (as an art connoisseur) or as both. Once we begin to feel the goddess energy coursing through us, we will feel that which art lovers refer to as pleasure and devotees as bliss.
The pleasure or bliss that we experience resides neither in the image, nor in us but in the experiencing itself. Between the image and us a message is conveyed, feelings arise, the material form is infused with power and we savor the bliss. We become one with the image and feel the energy—aesthetic and spiritual. This aesthetic and/or spiritual experience has a transformative effect on us. The flavor of the experience depends upon the particular goddess image that we choose to focus on.
Experiencing the Goddess Energy:
- Become familiar with various goddess images.
- Choose your favorites.
- Know her myths; understand the meaning of her symbols and the cultural background in which she historically emerged.
- Focus on her visual image and unique power.
- Feel that power within you.
Excerpted (and revised) from my book, Images of Indian Goddesses: Myths, Meanings and Models, Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 2003.