100 BC - 900 AD

The Salabhanjikas: Entwined with Nature

American Institute of Indian Studies

Symbolizing Fecundity in Indian Art

According to the legends, Buddha was born under a sala tree. Hence forth the tree and the tribhanga i.e. tri-bent pose was considered auspicious. According to the Avadanasatakam, a Buddhist text, a festival called Salabhanjika parva was celebrated.

Buddha's mother Maya holding the branch of the sala tree.

Gradually the concept changed and it portrayed a beautiful women bending the bough of the tree and standing crossed legged. This form was more popular from the Ist century A.D.

It symbolises eternal beauty and worldly pleasures. The vedika i.e. the railing near the stupa represented momentary human life.

During later times it connoted a statue of a charming women or a nayika i.e. heroine or a goddess.

Salabhanjikas became part of the temple architecture specially in the corner brackets.

It was believed that they can make a tree blossom or produce fruits. Thus she was sacred as well as profane.

She is always shown touching the branch of the tree.

Kind of tree changes with time and region.

It was usually a sala or a asoka tree.

Sometimes shown with branches and fruits.

The Salabhanjika from Sanchi holds the tree laden with fruits.

The salabhanjika's association with a fruit laden tree symbolises fertility.

The clothes and jewellery she wears represents the idea of beauty and grace.

She is beautifully craved with jewellery and fine clothes which shows the craftsmanship of the period.

She also sometimes wears a well carved headdress.

Her hairstyle also changes with time and region. From open tresses to decorated buns.

The style of the hair knot is exclusive.

She is shown with an attendant or a gana.

The gana and attendant are near her feet.

Besides this sculpture has two attendants on her side.

The gorgeous Salabhanjika holding a fruit laden tree in a tri-bent posture represents the idea of women and fertility in early Indian art. She is shown with full breast and slim waist which symbolises the idea of nourisher, a provider. She is decorated from head to feet as she also defines beauty and grace.

Centre for Art and Archaeology, American Institute of Indian Studies
Credits: Story

Dr. Shatarupa Bhattacharya, Assistant Professor, Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi.

Credits: All media
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