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Sarasvati

Sarasvati

Artist: Anonymous

Medium: Pen and ink on paper

Date: 1801

Shelfmark: WD1063

Item number: f.39

Length: 37.1

Width: 24.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Drawing

Pen and ink drawing of Sarasvati, from the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple in Madurai, from an 'Album of 51 drawings (57 folios) of buildings, sculpture and paintings in the temple and choultry of Tirumala Nayyak at Madura. c.1801-05', by an anonymous artist working in the South India/Madurai style, c. 1801-1805. This drawing is inscribed in pencil, 'Saraswathy is the Goddess of Science Harmony & of Eloquence the Consort of Brahma'.

The Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple complex contains two main shrines; one dedicated to Shiva and one to his consort Minakshi, an ancient local divinity. Each shrine is set within its own walled complex containing several subsidiary shrines, mandapams (assembly halls) and artificial pools. The construction of this temple-town was made possible by the wealth and power of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). He was the most prolific builder of a long line of Nayaka kings, a dynasty who ruled a large portion of Tamil country in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In Vedic times Sarasvati was worshipped near the river of the same name; as a river goddess, Sarasvati was invoked for the purifying and fertilising powers of her waters. Her river aspects are now tenuous and she is referred to more often as Vagdevi, the 'goddess of speech'. Her consort is Brahma and she shares the same vehicle as he, a goose or a swan.

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