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

Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, creativity, and wealth, is the giver of good luck and good fortune. Often pictured with Vishnu as his principle consort, and in threesome with elephant-headed Ganesh, remover of obstacles, and vina-playing Saraswati, goddess of learning and the arts. Lakshmi is also identified by: a large blooming lotus flower from which she rises, gold coins flowing from hands, white elephant as symbol of life-giving force, and conch shell. Elaborate costume, water, and other symbols represent abundance, fertility, and the wealth of the universe.

Physical description

Rectangular calendar print depicting three figures: Ganesha, Lakshmi and Saraswati. In the centre is a four-armed female, Lakshmi, in a red sari standing on a large, pink lotus floating by shore of lake, waterfall on right. Female holds in two hands, one pink flower in each; bottom two hands hang down with the palms out. On right is Sarawati in a white sari, seated on a white swan, playing a long-necked stringed instrument in two of her hands. Her third hand holds a pearl string; fourth with stacked gold cards. On left is an elephant-headed male, Ganesha, in a yellow dhoti seated on boulder by the shore. He holds four objects, one in each hand: broken piece of his white tusk, long-stemmed gold axe, gold noose and yellow ball-shaped sweet. All figures wear jeweled gold crowns. Green and blue landscape. Red and yellow bands of advertisement in Indian script and English along the top and base; 'S. Muthusamy Chettiar & Sons'.