A Trinity of Fortune

By: A. K. Coomaraswamy

Originally Published in 1930

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NEW iconographic type of considerablc interest is presented by two almost identical reliefs, one (Plate VII) now in the University Museum, Philadelphia (together with a second example, less complete), the other belonging to Mr. N. M. Heeramaneck and now on loan in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Plate VI). We shall first describe the trinity as it appears almost identically in both example , and then take note of the slight variations. We have on the left Ganeśa, in the centre the abhiseka of Šrī-Laksmī, on the right Kubera; all are seated and nimbate. Ganeśa, who alone is four-armed, holds, lower right, uncertain, upper right, the tusk, upper left the axe (paraśu), lower left, a dish of sweetmeats to which his trunk is extended. The representation of Śrī-Laksmī presents the usual features; there seem to be money-jars on each side of her. Kubera holds in his right hand an uncertain object, in the left a long purse; in the University Museum relief there is foliage behind him. Both Ganeśa and Kubera are as usual somewhat pot-bellied. As to the differences, in the University Museum relief all three deities are seated on expanded lotus flowers, which spring from a common stem; in Mr. Heeramaneck’s only Śrī-Laksmī is seated on a lotus, the two others on cushions. The University Museum relief is much abraded, but may be dated somewhere close to the eighth century; Mr. Heeramaneck’s is a little better preserved, and probably a little earlier in date, and even with a suggestion of the p1astic qualities of Gupta sculpture. Both reliefs are in creamy white sandstone; both must he of north Indian origin (Rāj-putāna or Bundelkhand), the first may very possibly have been obtained from the river bed at Mathurā. The University Museum example measures thirty-five centimetres in length, Mr. Heeranmaneck’s twenty-one centimetres.

A sandstone relief showing three seated figures
Plate VI — A trinity of fortune. Now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

The three deities represented are respectively patrons of Success, Fortune, and Wealth. Kubera is one of the Four Great Kings, Regent of the North , and chief of the Yaksas. Śrī-Laksmī is a goddess of abundance whose significance and iconography I have discussed elsewhere*; I may add to the already cited evidences of her connection with the Yaksas, the fact that all four of the Great Kings arc calJcd Yaksas in Bharhut inscriptions, hence as daughter of Dhrtarāstra she is again seen Lo he a Yaksi. Ganeśa too i iconographically a Yaksa type, but he is not found in art before the Gupta period and the origins of the formula arc rather obscure**. Thus, it would hardly be going too far to speak of these reliefs as “Yaksa Trinities.”

A sandstone relief showing three seated figures, wornd down greatly
Plate VII — A trinity of fortune. North India, about 8th century. The University Museum
Museum Object Number: 29-64-112
Image Number: 2247

* Early Indian Iconography, II, Šrī-Laksmī, Eastern Art, I 1929.
** See my Yaksas, Washington 1928, p. 7, and Ganesha, Bull. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, No. 154, 1928.

Cite This Article

Coomaraswamy, A. K.. "A Trinity of Fortune." Museum Bulletin II, no. 1 (November, 1930): 15-18. Accessed July 15, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/501/

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