The identity of this wooden goddess is unknown, but she is probably a deity associated with fertility. Throughout India, the attributes of goddesses of fertility and prosperity vary according to the geographical region, community and social group in which they are worshipped. In rice-growing regions of India and for devotees of high caste she is Lakshmi, an auspicious Hindu goddess of wealth, beauty and fertility. In this form, the foliage adorning her waist may represent the lotus with which Lakshmi is associated, or sheaves of unhusked rice, an important symbol of abundance and fecundity.
In dry wheat-growing and desert areas such as Patan, where this sculpture is said to originate, the figure may depict the goddess Gangaur, or Gan, in which case her foliate adornments would represent stalks of wheat.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label