Dewi Uma with lotus flower

Wooden statue of Dewi Uma on a double lotus throne, approx. 1950-1965, height: 29 cm.

Finely carved statuette of a Balinese goddess on a double lotus throne. She wears large subeng earrings and a gelung candi, the headdress of the gods. The goddess makes a blessing gesture with one hand and holds a lotus flower in the other. It’s probably Dewi Uma, who is often depicted with a lotus flower in hand.

Mother goddess
Uma is a Balinese mother goddess and married to the supreme god Siwa. She’s the goddess of fertility, love, beauty, harmony, marriage, children and devotion; as well of divine strength and power. However, Uma has many guises and is also worshiped as Parvati (her Indian name) and Giri Putri (mountain princess). In her evil form, she is the destroyer goddess Durga. There are many stories about Dewi Uma, but the most famous one is about how she turned into Durga.

Story of the milk
One day the supreme god Siwa wishes to test the fidelity of his beautiful wife. He pretends to be ill and asks Uma to bring him the milk of a sacred white cow. She descends to Earth to find the animal, which belongs to an aged cowherd, not realizing that the old man is actually Siwa in disguise. Uma asks the cowherd for the milk, and offers to pay anything he asks. The disguised god answers that he will give her the milk only if she has sex with him. With great reluctance, Uma agrees, because she needs the milk as medicine for her beloved husband.

Goddess of life and death
When Siwa returns to heaven he asks his son Gana (the elephant-headed god) to ask his mother how she has obtained the milk. Gana traps Uma into denying that she had sex with the cowherd. He knows she’s lying, because Gana has a book of time, which accurately chronicles the past, present and future. Furious, Uma curses her son and throws his book in the fire. Gana rescues the book with some pages burnt and some still readable, which is the reason why even the gods can no longer know the past of future with perfect accuracy. Siwa tells Uma that her falsehood and her anger against their son make her unfit for heaven. He banishes her to the mortal world to live on the graveyards as the terrifying goddess Durga, who decides over the life span of all living creatures. There is also a myth about how Durga changes back into Uma, but that’s another story.

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