Marble relief figure of Sarasvati

From Malwa, central India, early 11th century AD

A Jain goddess of knowledge

Although she is better known as a Hindu goddess, Sarasvati's cult is equally popular among the Jains. Sarasvati is a benign goddess associated with knowledge, music and learning. Originally associated with the river Sarasvati, this goddess now has the epithet, 'Vina-pustak dharini' or bearer of the musical instrument (vina), and a book. The latter is visible in her lower left hand, and she probably also held her other representative feature, a lotus, in one of her hands. She can is often also shown on her mount, the swan. Since knowledge (jnana) plays a fundamental role in Jain religion as a means to salvation, this goddess has an important place in their pantheon. She features frequently in the vast Jain libraries filled with painted manuscripts that have been found in Western India.

Although a relief, the main image has been very deeply cut, and looks three-dimensional. Sarasvati stands in an architectural frame, the arch over her head bearing three small enshrined tirthankaras. Two more tirthankaras can be seen flanking the image level with her hips. Other attendant figures, and perhaps the patrons can be seen in the lowest register of the framing arch. The inscriptin on the base gives the name and family of the donor.

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Height: 66.100 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1880-349



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