This image comes from Tanjore, in South India. I don’t know the date, but images like this one were part and parcel of daily life placed on temples, usually, or other buildings. It is important to note that a sense of ‘privacy’ as we think of it, was not common. Labouring, as this woman was doing, was matter-of-fact and part of life. Not that everyone hung around during labour and birth—but people did know about it.
Here we see the woman/mother stooped over, probably with the pain of a contraction. The woman attending her holds something, maybe a feather or a cloth, and she looks as though she is stroking her back. Two things come to mind. One is that the downward motion on the labouring woman’s back probably facilitates the downward movement of the energy/baby towards the birth canal. Secondly, the stroking or brushing of the skin/body or anyone is an action which is seen as cleansing of the energy field of that person. But we really don’t know for sure what is going on…we can only speculate.
I thank Stella Dupuis for this image.