This terracotta plaque, commonly called the Oxford Plaque, is one of the
finest examples of early Indian terracottas to survive. It was discovered
in ancient Tamralipta, present day Tamluk in India, and it dates to around
the first century BC. The iconography of the figurine has fascinated and
intrigued scholars for over a century, and research continues in order
that we might find out more about this exquisite figurine.
Who was she?
She was a major ancient Indian goddess with a huge following, whose cult
died out by the second century AD. Scholars are undecided, however, about
whom the figure depicts. Some believe that she is a yaksi, a nature spirit
or local goddess. Some scholars now think that the weapons in her turban
reflect a significant protective identity.
What was her function?
At either side of her waist there is a small hole which indicates that the figurine could be strung up and perhaps attached to a person, like an amulet or talisman. The fact that it has been made from a mould tells us that she is one of many to be produced, quickly and relatively cheaply. This suggests that she may have been used as an votive offering at a place of worship.