The ancient (5~10th cent. AD) rock-cut caves of Ellora were oblivious to the outside world for several centuries – until they were redisovered in the early 19th century. In these caves are the goddesses, frozen in time, assuming their ultimate postures in the form of sculptures …

Cave 29. Parvati.
The brahminical caves of Ellora are Siva-centric and hence figures of his consort, Parvati, are seen in various forms. When she is with Siva, she appears homely and bashful. As an independent goddess, she is seen slaying the demons.

parvati with siva at cave 29, ellora

The female figures of Ellora – with small faces, firm and full breasts, narrow waist, wide hips and long thighs – are a treat for the eye and the senses. These sculptures follow certain guidelines for body proportions (iconometry). The iconometric texts suggest that the outer corners of the eyes, the breasts and hips should be slightly exaggerated than the actual measurement. The close set breasts should press each other tightly that even a lotus fibre could not pass through them. The vulva should be shaped like the leaf of the sacred fig tree. Most of the female figures, use diaphanous (thin and transparent) drapery which reveals all their charms, the beauty of every curve, even of the genitals.

parvati at cave 29, ellora

marriage of parvati and siva at cave 29, ellora

Cave 21. Ganga
Ganga the river goddess, who flows into Siva’s locks, completes the ultimate union. Here the goddess is standing with a slight sway of the hip and a balanced, graceful dwibhanga (two-bent-pose). She is riding on the makara, her vehicle (a mythical sea-creature). The figure is sparingly ornamented. Her hair is decorated with a tiara (jewelled headdress). Her breasts are high and pressing each other, with a tassel which comes down almost up to the navel.

River Goddess Ganga with Makara at Cave 21, Ellora

Cave 29. Yamuna
Probably the biggest female figure carved at Ellora. Yamuna is standing on the kurma, which is a turtle and her vehicle.

River Goddess Yamuna with Kurma at Cave 29, Ellora

Cave 29.

Female Figure at Cave 29, Ellora

Cave 32. Siddhayika
Siddhayika the Jain goddess seated under a mango tree ~ emphasizing her fertlity. Near her feet is her vehicle, the lion.

Siddhayika at Cave 32, Ellora

Kakde, V.T., 1979: The Female Figure in the Art of Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta Caves, PhD Thesis, Nagpur University.

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