(Last Updated on : 03/02/2010)
The cult of Manasa or the snake goddess is very common in the state of West Bengal
in India. The cult of Manasa was most popular during the 15th century and the traces of such popularity can be known from the Manasa Mangal. Sometimes the origin of Manasa is dated back to the Vedic or Puranic traditions and sometimes the goddess is even identified with the Vedic Saraswati.
The iconographical study of the Manasa
image suggests that her image is made of black basalt. The seven-hooded and two-armed goddess is shown seated in lalitasana on a double-petalled lotus placed over a jar from which two snakes are seen coming out. She is shown wearing various ornaments among which are very popular the sarpa-kuchabandha which is actually a breast band made of snakes. At the same time the deity is represented holding an eight hooded snake in her left hand. Her right hand is in the varada position holds a fruit. She is attended on either side by a seated emaciated figure and a crowned male person identified with Jaratkaru
and Astika which is actually her husband and son respectively according to the epic and Puranic tradition.
The jar on the pedestal is flanked on one side by a pot with a heap of naivedya and on other side the deity is a female devotee with folded hands.
In another iconography instead of a Krittimukha with a flying Naga on either side on the pointed stele there is a floral design. In this iconography the images of the goddess made of sandstone. Another image of the deity is thoroughly abbraised. The stele is elliptical in shape. There is sparing use of ornamentation on the body of the image. Goddess Manasa is sometimes called the one-eyed goddess because on of her eyes was burnt by her step-mother.