3] BLACKSTONE STELE OF PURNESHVARI (MOTHER GODDESS)
N.E. INDIA, PROBABLY BIHAR
PALA PERIOD, CIRCA 11TH CENTURY
H. 53 CMS, 21 INS
IN TWO PARTS
An unusual polished blackstone stele, comprising an upper and a lower section, probably depicting the Mother Goddess Purneshvari seated in lalitasana (the posture of Royal Ease) on a double-lotus throne between two pillars, holding a fly whisk and with a smiling infant perched on her lap, her facial expression calm and benevolent, with a large covered vessel at her feet, the whole ensemble surmounted by a kirttimukha (face of glory).
The Mother Goddess Purneshvari was venerated by both Buddhists and Hindus. In Buddhist mythology, she may be associated with Hariti. Hariti was a child-devouring ogress who is said to have been converted from her cannibalistic habits by the Buddha to become a protectress of children. He hid the youngest of her own 500 children under his begging bowl, and thus made her realize the sorrow she was causing other parents. The vessel depicted in this sculpture may be a reference to this narrative.
For a closely related image of Purneshvari (Mother Goddess) from Jaynagar, Bihar in the Victoria and Albert museum, see see pl. 183 in J. Guy, Indian Temple Sculpture, London: V&A Publications, 2007. It can also be seen at the following link:
Provenance: Private Spanish collection. Acquired in the 1970s.