the female principle in votive and ritualactivity.The basic 'venus' type with elaborationand variation recurs in the settled agri-cultural societies of Anatolia and westAsia.
In particular, the goddess and thebull is a striking motif in the sites of CatatHuyak and Hacilar: the pregnant goddess,squatting as though in child birth; thegoddess giving birth to a bull's head, to aram's head; cow-headed goddess with bull-headed child in arms; the goddess riding ona lion or on the back of a bull, or sittingbetween the horns of a bull. Scenes of lifein one wall contrast with scenes of death inthe other. Rows of breasts are shown on thewall, along with heads of bulls. In somecases, the breasts incorporate the lower jawsof wild-boar, the skulls of fox, weasel orvulture—all symbols of death. This earlyexpression of the dual orientation of thegoddess towards life and death, and thepresence of the bull motif have links withthe iconography of the Indian goddess.
In the profusion of iconic representationsof the goddess in India, I would see the'Lajjagauri' genre as best expressing whatI think is a core idea in the paleolithic andneolithic icons. This group of sculptures ex-cavated from across different sites in theDeccan region, date variously between firstand eighth centuries AD.
Typically, thesculpture is of a nude woman squatting withlegs spread out and bent at the knees in abirth-giving position. Usually, the head isreplaced by a lotus. In some cases,as in thefigure from Ter.there is no head. The bodyends abruptly and intentionally at the neck[Sankalia 1960:113]. In another case, the headis replaced by a
[Sankalia:120]. Thehands may be holding lotuses, or foldedacross the breasts. The structure of theAlampur sculpture indicates that it was anactual altar under worship, according toKramrisch [1956: 259] who also notes that thetension in the muscles in the lower part ofthe body indicate the dynamic process ofgiving birth. Some of the sculptures areunder worship, usually by women for pro-geny [Sankalia 1960:120]. Aiyar [1989: 415]notes that they are common in arid regionswhere their function seems to be to bringrain. In one example from Nagarjunakon-da, the area below the navel is filled with thedrawing of a highly decorated
(overflowing pot), which, symbolises abun-dance and fertility [Bhattacharya
In a fourth century terracottaplaque from Keesaragatta, the lotus-facedwoman holds Siva as a
in her righthand and Vishnu as Narasimha in herleft.The image unmistakably conveys a senseof primacy of the goddess.
Recent finds ofLajjagauri plaques of fourth-fifth centuryAD from Nagpur region show close associa-tion with a bull and a lion.
She is catechrestically called Lajjagauri bythe local population
'shame'); morecircumspect writing refers to her as
The 'displayed goddess'motif is found in many cultures, for instancethe 'Bobo' figures of Egypt.
Lajjagauri, the headless one, is body in-carnate, the personified
The artisticdevice is to remove the identity-giving part,the face, and portray the female principle ofcreation literally. There are, of course,various interpretations of the symbolism ofthe lotus as head,
but as I see it, the basicidea expressed is strikingly similar to thatof the 'venuses'. In contrast to various formsof
or goddess, which are iconically moredetailed and specific, and in which diversetrends coalesce, Lajjagauri expresses anelemental idea.What happened to Lajjagauri in the vasttime-space between Harappa and Deccan?There is a fairly active mother-goddess tradi-tion in iconography starting with the ter-racotta busts from Kulli and Zhob, where nomale figures have been found. The femalefigures, nude, jewelled, with hooded face,circular eyeholes, beaked nose, slit mouth,have a somewhat anonymous look and areinterpreted by many as intentionally inspir-ing terror and awe. Hundreds of femalefigures (far outnumbering male figures) havebeen found in Harappan sites, especially inthe granary area. They are nude, wearingelaborate jewellery and distinct head-dress.There is some indication of votive function.In all three, Kulli, Zhob and Indus Valley,nudity is not accentuated. The form showssome independence from the west Asianforms, though in intent it could be very close[Gajjar 1971:13].
The headless female figures with stumpylimbs from post-Harappan chalcolithicsettlements, for instance from Inamgaon(where the figure is associated with a bull),Nevasa, Bilwali are interpreted to belong tothe mother-goddess tradition. The nude,steatopygous female or the 'opulent goddess'as she is often referred to in the literature,is not uncommon in pre-Mauryan finds, forinstance, the gold plaques from LauriyaNandangarh and Piprahwa, and the findsfrom Kausambi, and the numerous ring-stones of the Maurya and Sunga period insites from north western to eastern India."However, the precise iconic details ofLajjagauri would seem to have no pre-cedents, but for an example from an un-expected quarter.The hymns of the
are, in themain, addressed to male nature gods. God-desses are few and in the vedic scheme ofthings, definitely secondary. Tucked awayamidst the bland beauty of vedic nature god-desses is the elemental figure of Aditi, literal-ly 'the unbound one'. Aditi is the subject ofan anthropomorphic creation myth:In the first age of the gods,existence was born from non-existence.j After this the quarters of the sky were bornfrom her who crouched with legs spread.The earth was born from her.who crouched with legs spread,and from the earth the quarters of the skywere born.From Aditi, Daksha was born,and from Daksha, Aditi was born.[R V 10.72 tr by O'Flaherty 1981:37]To find a word-picture in
recreated in an icon after fifteen centuries
and worshipped currently is to realise witha shock the tenacity of the goddess. Aditidoes not fit into the pantheon of vedic god-desses. She is in fact an ill-defined figure'virtually featureless physically' [Kinsley1987:8-9] she is not portrayed as a spouse.Her salient characteristic is her motherhood.'Mighty mother', 'protectress', 'all men areher children', 'she is the mother of gods andkings and mother of the world', 'she is allwhat there is, father, mother, child andbegetting'.
It is significant that thoughtextually and iconically, she is portrayed asa birth-giver, her motherhood is an encom-passing one of cosmic dimensions.She is 'un-bound', not tied to specifics, to a particularhusband, family or lineage. Aditi and Laj-jagauri even as birth-givers, have beenabstracted and universalised in a way thatwould have been impossible under theassumptions of patrilineal systems.
DEFINING AUTONOMY: GODDESS ASCONSORT
In popular Indian perceptions of divinity,the dominant image is of a male god,accompanied by his consort, who is hisbenevolent
the actualiser of his latentpower, the embodiment of his grace. Kaliand Durga are, of course, a ubiquitouspresence, but the safe domestic mode isrepresented by Lakshmi, quintessentialspouse, symbol of auspiciousness andprosperity.It is tempting to connect the spheres ofworship with cultural norms concerningwomen. There is an active genre of Writingon the divide between the powerful, 'un-husbanded' goddesses (like Kali) whosepower is seen as dangerous and destructive,and goddesses who are appropriately mar-ried (like Lakshmi) whose power is positiveand benevolent, and how this is echoed insocial arrangements and evaluations, par-ticularly in the obsessive cultural theme ofcontrol and management of female sexuality[see for instance, Babb (1975), Beck (1969),Das (1976), Hart (1973), Kondos (1986),Papanek (1973), Tapper (1979) and Wadley
I shall come back to this shortly, buta specific aspect of this idea is the conceptof 'auspiciousness', Which in currentunderstanding is almost exclusively tied upto the state of being married. Virtually everylanguage has a specific word to denote awoman whose husband is alive (for instance
suhagan, suvasini, sumangali
in Hindi,Marat hi and Tamil respectively). She is theembodiment of auspiciousness.. She has aspecial ritual status. By extension, even theinsignia of marriage that she wears are con-sidered to have sacred power. A widow hasa diametrically opposite position in theEconomic and Political Weekly October 20-27, 1990WS-59