The Goddess in Art

The Devi or the female power in Hindu mythology appears in various avatars in our everyday lives—as idols during the puja, on covers of magazines, product labels, calendars and posters. The modern history of visualising the Devi goes back to naturalistic depictions in oil paintings by the Early Bengal artists, which were surpassed in popularity and fame by Raja Ravi Varma and his studio. His representation, however, was regarded as too human-like by artists of the Bengal School in the early twentieth century, who created idealised forms based on a synthesis of classical visual traditions. In the twentieth century, we find artists responding to distinctive traits of the goddess to portray specific aspects of her power, or to convey the artist's own relationship with divinity. Few artists who have turned to Hindu myths have been able to escape the temptation to interpret the female power in their own way, and the diversity in style, medium, and mood is a testament to that.