Somanathapura Keshava Temple: Dancing Sarasvati

Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge and learning, mounted on the outer wall of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge and learning

Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge and learning
Sarasvati is the goddess of knowledge and learning. Sarasvati means one that flows. During the Vedic times, she was the deity who represented the Sarasvati River, an ancient river that used to flow in the northwest region (present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan) of the Indian sub-continent, but dried up 3000 years go. Later texts associated her with Brahma and made her his consort.

The sculpture shown in the image is not the usual representation of Sarasvati. Her standard iconography shows her playing the veena, a sitar-like musical instrument. She is typically shown with two hands and occasionally four, and in this relief, however, she has eight arms (three of them are missing). Instead of the veena, she is holding a tālegari (dried palm leaves) with two of her hands. The tālegari indicates that she is the goddess of knowledge and learning.

It appears from Sarasvati’s stance that she is performing a traditional Indian dance move. Accompanying her are two musicians at the bottom (one of them is missing).

Related Images
Brahma – A sculptural relief carved on the outer wall of the south garbhagriha (inner sanctum)

Related Pages
Somanathapura Keshava Temple – A Masterpiece of Hoysala Temple Art
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall

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