PITALKHORA, one of the early caves on the Satamala hills in Maharashtra, is situated approximately 37 kilometres north-west of Ellora, on the caravan route from Sopara through Nasik to Paithan, during the Satavahana rule. Originally discovered in 1853 by John Wilson, the images from Pitalkhora were carefully studied by M.N. Deshpande in 1953.
This panel of Gajalakshmi once adorned the centre of the lintel of cave no. 4 at Pitalkhora from where it was discovered. Broken into four pieces, it was buried in the debris at the entrance to the cave. The image shows characteristic Satavahana features, ornaments and costume. She is seated on an inverted open lotus with legs folded in front, joining both the soles. She holds in each hand a long stem of the lotus bud, issuing from below her lotus pedestal. Two big elephants stand on either side on lotuses and anoint her with water poured from a pitcher held in their trunks, over her head. Quite unlike the later depictions, where the scene of elephants pouring water over Lakshmi is depicted symbolically, here they occupy a prominent place in the sculpture. This is to emphasise her connection with water as a source of fertility and prosperity. The artist has managed to accommodate the legs of the elephants in the small space of a lotus flower. There are traces of a decorative kutha or a covering on their mutilated backs.
This particular form of Gajalakshmi, and especially the style of depicting the lotus, continues till the Gupta period as is evident from the gold coins of Chandragupta II. The sculpture is one of the early elaborate representations of Gajalakshmi in stone.
2nd century BCE
Pitalkhora, Aurangabad District, Maharashtra
60 x 103 x 29 cms.