The Lotus and the Image of the Woman in India
Here I am talking about another detail of the bas-relief - the lotus on the left side panel. The apsara is presented standing on the leaf of a lotus plant with her right foot. The lotus plant has a very special meaning in Buddhism as well as Hinduism.
"The lotus is one of the most well-known symbols of Buddhism. The lotus flower is one of the "Eight Auspicious Symbols" in the religion, and is one of the most important images in the faith. The roots of a lotus flower extend into the mud and the stem grows up through the water and the flower blossoms above the surface.Also in Hinduism the
In Buddhist thought, this pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment. Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface." (from religionfacts)
"Lotus Flower is one of the most popular symbols in Hindu religion. It is believed that Lord Brahma emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu sitting on a lotus. Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of learning, is shown sitting on a lotus. Lotus flower is a symbol of eternity, plenty and good fortune and Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is usually depicted with a lotus flower."
"In Hinduism, Lotus represents the concept of primordial birth from the cosmic waters of creation. Lord Brahma emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu symbolically represents that life begins in water." (from hindu-blog)The lotus flower is also strongly connected with female symbols:
"The lotus is the foremost symbol of beauty, prosperity and fertility. According to Hinduism, within each human is the spirit of the sacred lotus. It represents eternity, purity, divinity, and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-renewing youth. The lotus is used to describe feminine beauty, especially female eyes.
One of the most common metaphysical analogies compares the lotus' perennial rise to faultless beauty from a miry environment to the evolution of consciousness, from instinctive impulses to spiritual liberation." (from Lotus Flower)
As an interesting detail - the foot was fully sculpturized. You can see this in the following image which shows the reverse side of the panel:
Now we get to the right figure of the triptych. With this apsara I wanted to pay homage to the incredibly artistic and elaborate skills of the Indian temple dancers with their gorgeous jewellery and sumptuous headdresses. I could watch them for hours.
Unfortunately Indian temple dancers were discredited in times of colonialism, when the beautiful women became the concubines of European lords as well as the maharajahs of that era.
Although the status of women in India has changed substantially over the last centuries - at least officially by law - most women in India are still dependant on their families, husbands, especially when they belong to a lower caste and do not own the same status as men. Still the majority of women has to obey the requirements of society and this may be something completely different than the offical law.
Women in India continue to face numerous problems, including violent victimisation through rape, acid throwing, dowry killings, and the forced prostitution of young girls.
And despite studies abroad and even university degrees women often are required to acccept wedding arrangements. Just to mention an example. The sad truth is that women often have an excellent education but never have the opportunity to work in a well-paid job as a logical consequence. Instead they are getting married and become mother and housewife while responding to the family request. What a waste of energy and time despite computer era and film industry! I got to know this from my own circle of friends and not hearsay.
(will be continued)