The mighty rivers of the Indian sub-continent namely the Ganga, the Yamuna, (represented standing on their vahana- makara and kurma) and the now lost Sarasvati, personified as goddesses and depicted as such in the sculptural art of India, form a prominent backdrop as well as the essence of this Photo-exhibition.
Map of South Asia showing select archaeological and historical sites where River goddesses are depicted in the Sculptural art of India.
Confluence of three rivers (Triveni sangama).
Cascading down from the lofty Himalayas or originating gently in the pristine forested plateaus of the Indian sub-continent, the Rivers of India have sustained, nurtured, and helped blossom a plethora of forms of life from times immemorial. They have catered to the swings and swifts, both natural and man-made, of not just the human life but those of flora and fauna too that is bound together in an intricate and symbiotic manner.
Vishnu rescuing earth goddess Prithvi
The visual material (drawn upon from the Photo-archival holdings of the American Institute of Indian Studies) displayed here on a very select basis, comes from the historical sites and locales of Indo-Gangetic doab, central, western, southern, and eastern parts of India.
The select panels, ranging in linear time scale from the 2nd century A.D. to the 16th century A.D., and emanating from varied archaeological, historical, and architectural contexts portray the Indian concepts of Rivers as personified goddesses with their highly signifying associated attributes
Confluence of three rivers (Triveni sangama)
The cultures and communities of India that have shaped their destinies along the banks, basins, and valleys of these innumerable rivers have reverentially and bewitchingly celebrated the “Sustainer of life” in myriad ways.
Umasahita- Siva receiving Ganga (in Tripathaga and Trisrotas form) onto his jatas (locks)
The mythology, the folklore, the literature, the festivals and rituals, and the many art forms of India dealing with the concept of "River" (the flowing Water) have intensely endeavored to conceive, comprehend, and capture the rhythmic and cyclical bond as also the interplay between the "River" (the flowing water), the associated forms of life and their vital interdependency.
Siva releasing Ganga from his locks (Gangavisarjanamurti)
Ganga and Yamuna as dvarapalikas (door-guardians) of Siva-Mahesa.
While each sculptural panel symbolically captures the sanctity and the sacredness associated with the “River” (the flowing Water), can the India of the 21st century, “progressing” rapidly in a globalized world, pause for a moment and introspect how are we treating our Rivers that have sustained us for the last two million years of our history?
River Goddesses in Sculptural Art of India is drawn from the photo archives of the Center for Art and Archaeology, American Institute of Indian Studies