The Accidental Discovery of a Didarganj Yakshi




This gorgeous life-size sculpture of a Yaksi (which may be understood loosely as a fertility goddess) came to light accidentally in 1917, due to erosion caused by the Ganga River at the modern city of Patna, also identified as Pàtaliputra, the ancient capital of the imperial Maurya dynasty.


The confident modeling of the fleshy body, the ease with which its weight is carried by the left leg (see full picture on the second card), and the sensitive features all bespeak the elegant naturalism associated with sculpture of the Maurya period.


As in the Harappan sculpture, the remarkable maturity of the work, which appears suddenly and without any hint of artistic context, is astonishing, quite the opposite of what one would expect at an early stage of development.


A very interesting anecdote - soon after its discovery, the sculpture was set up for worship. But because the image carries a fly whisk, commonly associated with attendants rather than a divinity, it was possible to persuade the people to relinquish the image to the Patna Museum. As a matter of fact, the fly whisk is a common iconography attributed of this type of divinity, but this, fortunately, was unknown to the donors!