Calcutta Woodcuts, Part 5

BY: SUN STAFF - 14.8 2019


The Descent of Ganga Ma

Transcendental art: the rare woodcut prints of 19th Century Calcutta.

Today's woodcut exemplifies a popular sub-set of the images being carved by woodblock artists in 19th century Calcutta. The image depicts the Descent of the Ganga. Calcutta's urban artists often used multiple panels to depict narrative scenes that unfolded over a period of time. Here we have a two-panel depiction of the waters of the Ganga having their point of origination in the Supreme Lord.

At the top of the right panel we see the Trimurti. At top right is Laxsmi Naraynan. Water is flowing from Narayana's foot, but the stream is also connected to and flowing downwards from the Trimurti. Various Demigods offer obeisances as the flow comes down, and the Demigods are also connected to the vyasasana beneath Laxmi's feet.

Sri Ganga Ma then enters the head of Lord Shiva, who sits meditatively holding his trident. The water flows through a hill of stones assumedly depicting the Himalayas, and comes through the mouth of a most delightful cow we assume to be Mother Bhumi.

Ganga Ma then flows through a personality that is likely VedaVyasa, as the truth flows down and through an elephant figure that is most likely Sri Ganesh. Pictured above in the left panel we see Ganga Ma herself, sitting astride her Makara vahana (carrier). An attendant holds a chamar fan at one side. On the other side, a devotee appears to be eating, and may depict the growing foodstuffs made possible by the grace of Ganga Ma.

At the top of the page are two trees and three chariots with waving flags, which rounds of the remaining space, making an altogether pleasing pictorial of the Ganga's descent into this world.

The Descent of the Ganga print is 25 x 34 cm., and the engraver is unknown.