About this object

History of use

Indian popular religious prints have been published for nearly a century, first by German presses, later by Indian ones. The prints may take the form of calendars, posters, or simply images. The style of the representations is European. In the beginning they were Hindu images, but are now acquiring elements both of folk art and a romantic secularism. It is a living art currently influenced by the movie industry and non-Hindu religions. The images are a vehicle for advertising and are also used for religious purposes.

Cultural context

calendar art; popular religious art

Iconographic meaning

Meenakshi, or 'fish-eyed' goddess, signifies beauty and attentiveness. As a patron deity, she offers protection from poverty. As consort she is considered the incarnate of Parvati, chief consort to Shiva, lord of paradox, both creator and destroyer of the universe. She is identified by: green skin; age as sixteen years to represent the prime of maidenhood; parrot on lotus which she holds as symbol of fertility and beauty; with Shiva to represent the divine couple; three white ash bands on forehead to identify her as a devotee of Shiva; and garlands and ornaments to glorify her as the epitome of the eternal jewel. Vishnu, preserver of the universal order, establishes law and order and protects the world from evil and destruction through ten earthly incarnations. He is identified by: rotating discus; six-petaled lotus; mace symbolizing his power of knowledge; white conch shell; gold crown; and his flying mount, Garuda. Third figure identified as Shiva. Attributes include the trident.

Physical description

Rectangular calendar print depicting three standing figures, Shiva, Meenaksi and Vishnu, with a background streaked blue to violet mountains. Four-armed male, Vishnu, touches hand of Meenaksi in red sari. Vishnu wears yellow dhoti with a blue waist wrap and a pink cloth around his shoulders. Two yellow objects poised on fingers, one in each hand: two trident shapes joined by a diamond; three diamonds joined in vertical line. Last hand holds yellow long-staffed lance against body. Peacock behind him. Both Vishnu and Meenaksi wear a white, pink, green and yellow flowered garland. Meenaski holds pink lotus in hand. Behind her is Shiva who is dressed in a white dhoti with a green waist wrap and a blue cloth around his shoulders. His arms are raised and palms facing outwards. All of the figures are heavily adorned with gold stoned jewelry. 'Mahan Company' advertises top and base.