Symposium The seminar dealt with the richness of our culture and suggested solutions to many of the problems. B.Ramadevi
The lovely houses amidst lush green lawns had an immediate soothing effect as one entered ’Vrindavan,’ a self-sufficient stay-complex in Mayileripalayam near Coimbatore. It was the venue for the national seminar on ‘Lakshmi in Art, Thought and Literature,’ organised jointly by the Academy of Archaeology and Sciences of Ancient India (AASAI), the Educational Wing of REACH (Rural Education and Conservation of Heritage) Foundation, Chennai, and the South Indian Art and Heritage Conservation Trust, Coimbatore.
The main objective of the seminar was to bring awareness about our rich culture, the need to preserve our great monuments and educating our youngsters to appreciate them.
To appreciate art
T.Satyamurthy, archaeologist, pointed out that only three per cent of the available monuments have been preserved and most of them have not even been documented. He gave a beautiful example demonstrating how to appreciate art. He was referring to the dwarapalaka sculpture in the temples.
The dwarapalaka (gatekeeper) has a ‘gadha’ (mace), whose handle is surrounded by a serpent, which is swallowing an elephant. One should understand that if a serpent could swallow an elephant, how huge it should be, if that is around the handle of the mace, how big the mace should be, if the dwarapalaka is holding it lightly in his hand, how huge he should be and if such a powerful person is guarding the gates of the Lord, how great the Lord should be! This kind of appreciation is possible only when the mind is trained to notice, understand and appreciate such things.
During his welcome address, Ravi Sam, Chairman, REACH Foundation and AASAI (Academy of Archaeology and Sciences of Ancient India), pointed out that the initiative and hard work of the entrepreneurs of Coimbatore had made this city a favourite abode of Lakshmi.
After the inauguration by by Dr.D.Jayavarthanavelu, CMD, LMW, Swami Dayananda Saraswati gave his keynote address in his inimitable style, interspersing it generously with his amusing and thought-provoking anecdotes.
He began with the apparently simple, but all comprehensive definition of wealth, ‘Anything worthwhile is Lakshmi.’ He was drawing the attention of the audience to the fact that our forefathers have attributed all that we need to have as Lakshmi, whether it is wealth, knowledge, courage, children, in fact everything.
Lakshmi is always in demand. But Saraswathi is not so eagerly sought after. But she is not perturbed. She knows no one can enjoy wealth without her grace.
Amidst smiles, the audience understood how significant his statement was. Our forefathers called Lakshmi ‘Hiranmayee’ (the one in the form of gold). Samaresh Bandyopadhyay, a veteran in the field of Ancient Indian History and Culture presented a paper on the history of Rajalakshmi concept based on epigraphs and the presence of Gajalakshmi motifs in early Indian coins. He also spoke about the Ardhanari Vishnu sculptures with Lakshmi and Vishnu.
Origin of Lakshmi
Bhashyam Iyengar spoke about the origin of Lakshmi as mentioned in the puranas and Devi Bagavatham. She is supposed to be the daughter of Brigu and Khyati. Another belief is that she originated from the ocean of milk. Going to the root of the word ‘Lakshmi,’ he said that ‘lakshya’ means objective and Lakshmi is the goddess who helps in achieving objectives, she being the symbol of creative energy.
Haripriya Rangarajan’s paper explained the concepts of Sri Lakshmi and Mahalakshmi. Drawing evidence from Sri Suktam, a supplement to the Rigveda, she clarified that ‘Sri’ is the formless attribute of Vishnu, ‘Lakshmi’ is the personification of those attributes (and the concert of Vishnu) while Mahalakhmi is the Supreme Female Force of the universe.
K.K.C.Lakshmi Narasimhan spoke on the Iconography of Lakshmi in Vaishnava Agamas and Temples. His neat presentation had a lot of relevant visual support. Papers were presented on the way Lakshmi is described in the Mahabharata, Sangam literature and Vedanta Desika’s Sristhuthi.
The scholars had brought evidence from all the available sources, sculptures, paintings, murals, yanthras, copperplates, inscriptions, coins and of course, literature. If this part dealt with the richness of our culture, the other part was about the significance of documentation, the difficulties involved in preserving these monuments and the scientific methods adopted for their preservation.
The seminar brought a rich harvest of information and solution for many of the problems. Those who came to participate were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the sponsor LMW, whose staff saw to each and every need of the delegates.