The Power of the Female: Devangana Sculptures on Indian Temple Architecture by Dr. Gauri Parimoo Krishnan is the first attempt to study the meaning of the sculptural motif of celestial woman, variously called devangana, surasundari and apsara from the context of semiotic analysis and the Dhvani theory of Indian aesthetics.
The author has analysed various manifestations of the female sculptural motif, taking into account attributes, postures, gestures and iconography of the figures and identified more than 16 types. “The outstanding feature of this scholarly work by Bharatanatyam exponent, art historian, curator and scholar Gauri is, it unravels multiple levels that contribute meaning to the celestial women, who are certainly not mere aesthetic appendages decorating temple walls”, says Dr. Sunil Kothari, well-known dance historian, scholar and critic.
“The study of the typology, programming and the pattern of placement of various devangana figures on western and central Indian temples, dated between 8 to 12 centuries, is her contribution to the subject,” says Dr. Devangana Desai, an eminent Indian art historian.
The author has interpreted multiple levels of meaning, studying these celestial women individually and in totality, discussing them for their dance like movement and their relationship with different divinities. This is an iconological study that provides cultural connotations of the devangana motif showing its continuity of the visual imagery and form of the yaksi sculptures of the earlier Buddhist and Jaina monuments into Hindu temple architecture.
The author has also coined new names and identified antecedents in Buddhist architecture of devanganas such as Vasanbhramsha and Markatacheshta, sexually explicit representation that often get misunderstood and misread on religious monuments. Infusing new meaning into well-known forms of feminine beauty on Indian temple architecture, the author brings to the fore new ways of seeing and appreciating classical Indian sculpture sharing it with the rasikas, students and the scholars alike in this scholarly coffee table book.
Spanning eight chapters with 474 pages and extensive photo documentation in black and white of 267 large photos, the book has an extensive bibliography, footnotes, references and Sanskrit textual references. The book is published by D.K. Printworld, New Delhi, Art & Architecture Series, ISBN 8124606870.