Mahfil. v 7, V. 7 ( 1971) p. 209.

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Alex Wayman


A note on the mirror in ancient Indian literature and art

As I look through my growing data on the mirror simile and mirror practices, there are enough references to the mirror of ladies to suggest some interest in collecting them to survey the possibilities. So far, mainly using Buddhist sources, I find five types:

1. Mirror in hand, finishing their toilet, getting ready to meet their lover.

2. Mirror in hand, musing, presumably of their lover.

3. Mirror in someone else^ hand; she being bewitched.

4. Requited for a dream by a mirror reflection.

5. Seeing prognostics in a mirror.

The first two cases must be taken together, because in the many examples of Indian sculpture that depict the lady and her mirror, it is difficult to decide whether she is looking in the mirror or simply holding it and musing. An elegant example is at Belur in Mysore State. In a book on Konarak by Chowdury and Gangoly,- there is Plate 35, "Torso of a nayika with mirror," and Plate 43 ^Nayika with a mirrore" Gangoly says of the former, "This is one of several representations of lovers (nayikas) finishing their toilets with the aid of the mirror, getting ready to meet her beloved.1' Of the latter he states, "Another figure of a n'ayika standing with a mirror in her hand, in a mood of reverie, perhaps thinking of her beloved who has not yet come to meet her." But since the nayika is prevalently the wanton lady, Gangoly

should have justified himself more to make this identification. /* r) Sivaramamurti is worth citing -

Not without reason Rati holds a mirror: there is great charm in a lady reviewing her features in a mukura or mirror. So fascinating a study is the lady, mirror in hand, that it has become a special motif; and in Mathura sculpture Bhute^ar supplies_an excellent example of a yaksi in that attitude. Amaravati has also lovely sculptures to illustrate this feminine self-appraisement, and pi. ix, fig. 17 shows a lady carefully arranging her curls and simanta (central line over forehead), mirror in hand (Jataka v. No. 526, p. 105). This almost corresponds to Kalidasa's description of Parvati with a mirror in her hand (Kwdrasambhava vii, 26), that later develops into an iconographic form of the Goddess as described in the Visnud'hamottara^ Rupamandana and other texts in the UmamaheSvara

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