Late 12th Early 13th Century Rajasthani Sandstone Torso of Surasundari For Sale
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Late 12th Early 13th Century Rajasthani Sandstone Torso of Surasundari


A magnificent sculpture of a Hindu devata, expressively carved, represented in tribhanga, with plentiful adornments including majestic jewels and necklets, her waist encircled by a garter embellished with beaded festoons, head and limbs missing, raised on a rod and pedestal base. The sandstone figure, portrays Surasundari, the personification of enchanting, celestial beauty. The Surasundari epitomises the Indian ideal of female beauty, endowed with a curvaceous and graceful physique. The Surasundari is often portrayed in the posture of tribhanga, as seen here. The posture of 'tribhanga' is a (tri-bent pose) standing body position used in traditional Indian sculpture, art and Indian classical dance forms like the Odissi. The pose literally meaning 'three parts break', is composed of three bends in the body; at the neck, waist and knee. This creates an 'S' -shaped pose which can be compared to 'contrapposto' and 'serpentinata' in classical Western sculpture. The sinuous curve of the body makes this the most graceful and sensual of the Odissi positions. Like 'contrapposto' in classical sculpture, 'tribhanga' is designed to give the impression of imminent movement, lending the portrayel a very lifelike dynamism. As observed by Pal (Indo-Asian Art, 1971,p.25), "Her posture is so exaggerated that her serpentine body appears to be altogether boneless. This is clearly reminiscent of the Indian poets colorful analogy between the female form and the languorous, entwining creeper, apparently without substance but charged with endless rythym". Such erotic statuary is prevalent in Hindu temples of central and northern India, found in particular abundance in Madhya Pradesh, Utter Pradesh and Rajasthan. The complex temples in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, offers up a feast for the senses. The temple walls are adorned with a sybaritic display of deities and their consorts, scenes of daily life, decorative motifs, animals and mythical creatures, and a host of couples making love, apsaras (celestial dancers) and surasundaris (celestial beauties) portrayed in various poses. The whole makes for a "joyfull celebration of life itself" (Shankur, A., Khajuraho, Lustre Press Pvt. Ltd., 1997 Singapore, p.7). One may well be puzzled by the depiction of such 'profane' carnal scenes in a religious setting, especially in light of traditional Hindu injunctions advocating ascetism. Various theories about the connection between sex and religion have been put forth. The friezes on the exterior of the temples could have been simply intended as a reminder for visitors to purge their souls of earthly desires before entering the building. Another explanation is that, much like the symbolism of animals and mythical creatures such as the 'shardula', such erotic subject matter was considered auspicious, both for the builder of the temple and for the worshippers. The theory that these are in fact graphic illustrations of scenes from the Kama Sutra ('treatise on pleasure', penned sometime during the 4th century A.D. by the Hindu sage Vatsayanana) perhaps has more merit. This treatise elucidates 'Kama' (desire and it's fulfilment) as one of the four chief objectives of life (the other three being, in order of increasing significance, 'artha' or material prosperity, 'dharma' or duty and harmony, and 'moshka' or liberation), and therefore characterises sexual union ('maithuna') as a legitimate activity in the order of the universe and a platform for achieving salvation. In the 'upanishads', an eraly Vedic text, salvation or 'moshka' was conceptualised as the union of the feminine force 'pakriti' (representing matter, the source of thoughts, substance, and sensory perceptions) and the masculine 'purusha' (spirit, residing outside the body it vitalises). Therefore 'maithuna', the union of man and woman, was advanced as a symbolic precursor to 'moshka'. Tantrism later personified Pakriti as the wife of Purusha, representing sex as a ceremonial symbol which was realised in rites. This paradigm was echoed in the Hindu belief that Parvati, the great creatrix, stimulated creation, with the manifestation of Shiva and Shakti (source of creation) in nature. Thus the symbolic union of man and woman was conceived of as a re-enactment of cosmic creation. In one respect, then, the notion of 'maithuna' conveyed through such erotic sculpture can be considered a link between creation and salvation, and a joyful, natural part of life that is worthy of celebration.


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    Wear consistent with age and use.
  • Dimensions
    H 27.56 in. x W 13.78 in. x D 11.82 in.H 70 cm x W 35 cm x D 30 cm
  • Seller Location
    Armadale, AU
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