Additional Elements

Additional Elements

Pitha; Hindu deities are subject not to our laws of physics but to their own set of cosmic laws, and therefore their feet must never touch the earth. Should our world and theirs connect in physical manner would be catastrophic  – for us, not for them. In iconography, therefore, this separation of their world and ours means it’s necessary to have a pedestal (pitha) for them to stand or sit upon. Their pithas are sacred by association and their shape and arrangement have symbological meanings of their own, beyond those of the deity sitting or standing upon it. 

Perhaps the most auspicious of the pithas is the padmapitha, or lotus pedestal (above). Recognizable by the stylized lotus petals, it represents how everything, mortal and divine, is born out of purity. 

When a pitha has a single, clearly defined segment, it indicates a single aspect of the god depicted, while a double indicates two or more characteristics. These are Bhadrapitha and unique to the pithas of the Great Gods and Goddesses. 

Some pithas feature holes or rings in the pitha (see above), meant to accommodate carrying poles. Larger sculptures were created to be carried aloft in processions, either as part of a daily ritual or festivals.

Prabhamandala; Sometimes, an arch, or nimbus, may encircle the icon. When it represents the Earth, it is elaborately decorated with stylized leaves from the sacred tree representing cosmic power. In the case of Shiva as Nataraja, the prabhamandala represents the entire cosmos and is surrounded by flames. Sometimes a mask (Kirttimukha, or Face of Glory) will be at the prabhamandala’s peak, providing divine protection.