Tree goddess, Shalabhanjika (1150-1200)

The motif of the tree goddess is found in Buddhist, Jain and Hindu art, which adapted pre-existing beliefs in female nature spirits (yakshi). The power of the tree goddess was frequently invoked due to her association with fertility, shown in this sculpture by the tree bursting into bloom when the goddess’s heel touches its trunk. Images of these semi-divine beings were positioned in temples at points of transition from the mundane to the sacred space; as auspicious guardians they blessed the worshipper’s journey to the central shrine of the temple. This work, characteristic of sculpture dating from the period of the Hoysala dynasty (late twelfth to early fourteenth century), features intricate foliage, jewellery and costuming balanced by smooth volumes and polished surfaces.