Illustrated introduction to Hinduism, £9.99
Height: 66.040 cm
Asia OA 1872.7-1.92
Room 33: Asia
Stela with a female figure
From Orissa, eastern India, 13th century AD
A celestial woman
Hindu temples in Orissa frequently include statues of semi-divine figures such as the apsaras (heavenly nymphs), gandharvas (the choristers of heaven), and the navagraha (nine astrological planets). However, these figures have no specific attribute that might help us identify them. They are clad only in diaphanous lower garments and jewellery, highlighting their sensuous semi-divine nature. Many of the temples were close to the sea, and the salt air has often left these sculptures with a pitted surface.
The figures stand below trees, an ancient Indian image that can be traced at least to the yakshis (consorts) of the last quarter of the first millennium BC.
The round faces set with long benign smiles, the large eyes, broad chests, the shape of the jewellery and treatment of the double lotus pedestals are all typical of Orissan workmanship.