Book on motifs of ‘celestial women’ in Indian temples
A new book attempts to delve into the meaning of sculptural motifs of ‘celestial women’ in Indian temples
Singapore: A new book, authored by an Indian- origin curator of a museum here attempts to delve into the meaning of sculptural motifs of ‘celestial women’ in Indian temples, seeing them as more than aesthetic appendages decorating its walls.
Gauri Parimoo Krishnan, curator with the Asian Civilizations Museum has turned her five years of research and PhD thesis into a 474-page scholarly volume titled “The Power of the Female: Devangana Sculptures on Indian Temple Architecture”.
The book is believed to be the “first-ever” attempt to study the meaning of the sculptural motifs of celestial women, variously called ‘devangana’, ‘surasundari’ and ‘apsara’ from the context of semiotic analysis and the Dhvani theory of Indian aesthetics.
The author has analyzed various manifestations of the female sculptural motif, taking attributes, postures, gestures and iconography of the figures and identified more than 16 types.
“The study of the typology, programming and the pattern of placement of various devangana figures on western and central Indian temples, dated between eighth to twelfth centuries is her contribution to the subject,” said, Devangana Desai, an Indian art historian.
Krishanan, who hails from Vadodara and is now the director of Indian Heritage Centre being established in Singapore said, having explored northern, eastern and western India states like Gujarat, Rajashthan and Madhya Pradesh for the book, she was unable to tap into southern India’s resources and there was a “lack of historical archives”.
At the book launch, India’s High Commissioner to Singapore, Vijay Thakur Singh said the book was “an interesting window into the Indian culture.”
Spanning eight chapters with over 400 pages and extensive visual documentation in black and white of 267 large photos, the book has an extensive bibliography, footnotes, references and Sanskrit textual references.