In Indian tradition, Devi, the manifestation of primordial female energy,has often been identified as one or the other of the Puranic deities,usually either as Parvati or as Lakshmi, and sometimes as both. However,before Devi emerged as Parvati or Lakshmi, she has, in scriptural tradition,her own cult also. As this tradition has it, Mahavishnu, soon after thegreat deluge subsided, emerged as a child floating on a fig leaf. Thedismayed Mahavishnu questioned himself as to who he was and whatfor he wasthere. The silence broke and there emerged a voice: 'Sarvam khalvidamevahamnanyadasty sanatanam', that is, 'All that is, it is me. There is nothinglasting but me'. When Vishnu was yet in trance, he saw a female form, Devi,appear before him. She was attended by many powers representing primarilyriches and prosperity, wisdom and intellect and love and womanhood. Thesethree faculties incarnated respectively as Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati andParvati. In later Trinity cult, Laksmi got associated with Vishnu, Saraswatiwith Brahma and Parvati with Shiva. Subsequently, there evolved other Deviforms and Mahavidyas, first five, then seven, then nine and then graduallymore than fifty. The number of Mahavidyas was first seven and then ten.
Later, when there developed Shaivism and Vaishnavism as two devotionalcults, Devi forms, too, despite a single origin, took two different lines,the Shaivite and Vaishnavite. Lakshmi, the custodian of riches andprosperity, came to be the principal Vaishnavite deity and Parvati,representing perfect womanhood and perpetual love, Shaivite. In iconographicrepresentations Parvati got associated with her attributes of Shiva andLaksmi those of Vishnu. Of the two Parvati has been more popular withsculptors and artists. Hence, in art, Devi merged with Parvati. She has beenendowed with a more versatile form, ornamentation and personality. Despitesome Vaishnavite attributes, the Devi form, represented in this statue, isclose to Parvati. As for Vaishnavite attributes, it is said Vishnu onceoffered to serve Shiva as his Shakti and incarnated as Parvati. Obviously,Parvati got associated with her some of Vaishnavite attributes, especiallyhis crown, as here in this statue, consisting of Vaishnava brooch and'Kirtimukha'. She is wearing also on her arms 'Kirtimukha' bracelets. Thetowering crown, with auspicious 'Kirtimukha', is also typical of SouthIndian images.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializeson the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books onIndian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature PaintingGallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together ona number of books.