River Goddess Ganga

River Goddess Ganga

c. 600


Overall: 108 cm (42 1/2 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1966.119


The Ganges River that runs from the Himalaya Mountains east to the Bay of Bengal is India's most sacred river. Hindu myths tell of how the god Shiva held out a lock of his hair to catch the fall of the heavenly river, identified with the Milky Way, so that it would trickle gently to earth. The river is personified as the goddess Ganga, and since she flows eternally through the hair of Shiva, the river is considered holy. Sculptures of Ganga were placed at the doorway of temples, for the image of the purifying waters symbolically cleanses those who enter the sacred space. She stands on a crocodile-like creature called makara, here shown with a fancifully foliated tail.

See also
Indian Art
Type of artwork: 

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