Five thousand years
ago, archaic and amorphous beliefs crystallized into systems of symbology
and iconography. The rich iconography of female figures-Shalabhanjika-reflect
subterranean notions of fertility.
The worship of fertility
goddesses goes back to the dim period of prehistory, to the culture of
river civilizations-Mohenjodaro and Harappa.
Shalabhanjika is seen
as a fecundity principle. Plants and leaves spring forth from her tree-like
Next ye gods I shall support the whole world. With the life sustaining
vegetables- Fruits and flowers. Which will grow out of my own body.
Tribals sing of her
as one who is the essence of seed:
Now as she stood
Naked on the earth. Trees sprouted from her toes. And leaves Like the
leaves of a wheat field.
woman has been celebrated in Indian art as a symbol of fertility. We do
not know if this shalabhanjika is standing outside a Hindu, Buddhist,
or Jaina shrine. This secret seems to be reflected in the mysterious smile
on her face; she seems at once emerging and retreating into the tree, so
that the human and vegetal seem inseparable. Heavy fruit accentuate the
fullness of her hips and breasts. She draws you into her world of abundance
permeated with the sap of life. She is an early echo of the many later shalabhanjikas
who have entranced me in Bharhut, Sanchi, Ellora, Khajuraho. She is often
reflected in my work and comes to life in Pratipsa - The Song
of the Tree in my recently choreographed production Uthkanta-Longing.