Bhagawati (Durga)

The identification of this twelve-armed goddess as Bhagawathi is based on the attributes in hands and the vigraha following Kerala traditions.

Bhagawati’s front hands are in Varada (boon bestowing) and Abhaya (protection) mudra. On the other hands, she is holding Kalasa (water pot), Trishul (Trident), an arrow, a sickle (a typical Kerala one), chakra (discus), shankha (conch shell), shield, bow, mace and a Patra (vessel). Clockwise starting with her lower left hand. Bhagawati is sitting in Padmasana and she is wearing a full set of ornaments.

The detailing of the prabhavali and the scroll work filling the space between the deity and the prabhavali merits attention.

Bronzes from Kerala are rarer. The subject matter, the patron deity of Kerala, makes this a special one. There is one more Bhagawati/Durga in my collection. Both are shown below for comparison. The differences are mainly in the ornamentation and prabhavali. The attributes match, but not the order of the attributes.

The Vigraha is about 11.5 cm in height and it is really packed with details. The other Bhagawati was dated to the 15th-16th century by the dealer. It is quite likely this Vigraha also belongs to that period.

The age and possible ritual use do not seem to have affected the definition of the features.

Note: The other similar Vigraha was initially identified as Durga. Dr Navin Kumar Marike pointed out that Durga is also known as Bhagawati in Kerala and the adjoining region. (16 May 2021).

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