Thursday, March 21, 2019

Boutheina Boughnim writes

Terra Cotta

Her skin was an artefact of terra cotta,
Sucking the light as much as it had to…
A ginger glow spilt forth from the membrane:
Ultimate aura of conception, warmth,
Envelops the artefact, each fence, each grain
Following each line, each compliant curve…

Encounter begets Perfection
Skin is born out of friction… 

Image result for terracotta sculpture of ganga 


  1. The sacred Ganges river is personified as the goddess Gaṅgā. In some accounts, she is the daughter of Himavat (the personification of the Himalayan mountains) and Menavati (the daughter of Mt. Meru); her sister was Shiva’s wife Parvati, but Ganga was also his consort. Ganga and Sarasvati, another consort, quarreled and cursed each other to become rivers and, by washing, to carry within themselves the sins of their human worshipers. Vishnu retained Lakshmi, who had tried to mediate between the other 2, as his consort, but ordered Sarasvati to become Brahma’s wife and Ganga to become Shiva’s; however, he relented and, in their lives as rivers, continued to be with him. In a different account, the “Bhagavata Purana,” 1 of the 18 great Hindu histories, Vishnu (as Vaman, one of his incarnations) extended his left foot to the end of the universe and pierced a hole in its covering with the nail of his big toe. The pure water of the Causal Ocean (Divine Brahm-Water) poured out the hole, entered this universe as the Ganges, and washed Vaman’s lotus feet. It finally settled in Brahma’s abode on Mt. Meru, the center of all physical, metaphysical, and spiritual universes. As Brahma's consort she always travels with him in the form of water in his kamandalu (water-pot). King Sagara sent his 60,000 sons to recover a horse stolen by Indra, the king of the gods, but they disturbed Vishnu, sleeping in Patala (the underworld) in the guise of the rishi Kapila, waking him up; the brilliance in his eyes burnt all but 4 of Sagara's sons to ashes. Since their final rites had not been performed, their souls wandered as ghosts. Their great-nephew Bhagiratha did 1,000 years of penance to gain the release of the 60,000 from Kapila’s curse, causing Brahma to order Ganga to go down to Prithvi (the Earth) and then to Patala so her waters could cleanse the souls of the 60,000 and allow them to go to Swarga (heaven). Ganga, aggrieved at leaving Swarga, decided to sweep the entire Earth away as she descended, and her flooding destroyed the fields of the rishi Jahnavi, who drank up all of her waters. The gods persuaded Jahnu to release her so that she could proceed with her mission, and he released her from his ears. Meanwhile, Bhagiratha prayed to Shiva to prevent her destruction of Prithvi, and he trapped her in his hair, only letting her out in small streams. His touch further sanctified Ganga. As she traveled to Patala she created a different stream to remain on Earth to help purify unfortunate souls there. Her descent, the avatarana, was not a one-time event but occurs continuously. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges causes the remission of sins and facilitates moksha, the liberation from the cycle of life and death. She is Shiva’s shakti, the moving, restless, rolling energy in the form of which the otherwise recluse and unapproachable deity appears; as water, this moving energy can be felt, tasted, and absorbed. She accepts Shiva's incandescent seed from the fire-god Agni, which is too hot for this world, and cools it in her waters, thus producing Skanda the god of war; or she is his foster-mother, in accounts where he is the son of Shiva and Parvati. The elephant-headed Ganesha is said to have 2 mothers, since Parvati created his image out of her own bodily impurities, which became endowed with life after immersion in the sacred waters of the Ganges. Unlike other goddesses, she no longer has any destructive or fearsome aspect. She is described as the melodious, the fortunate, the cow that gives much milk, the eternally pure, the delightful, the body that is full of fish; the bedding that bestows water and happiness, and the friend or benefactor of all that lives; she affords delight to the eye and leaps over mountains in sport. She is represented as a fair-skinned woman carrying a kalasha, a metal pot with a large base and small mouth, large enough to hold a coconut; it is believed to contain amrita, the elixir of life, and thus is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom, and immortality.

  2. The terracotta figure of Ganga was excavated at Ramnagar in the Bareilly district, Uttar Pradesh. This was the ancient Ahi-Kshetra (“snake region”), the capital of Northern Panchala; Southern Panchal’s capital was at Kampilya in the Farrukhabad district. Panchala was 1 of the most powerful states on the Indian subcontinent. Panchala figured largely in in the story of rival kings Drupada and Drona in the “Mahabharata” but was absorbed into the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BCE), then regained its independence until it was annexed by the Gupta Empire in the 4th century. The sculpture dates to the late 5th century. Ganga is accompanied by an attending maid, and she is standing on a makara, a hybrid creature formed from a number of animals that collectively possessed the nature of a crocodile – a crocodile’s lower jaw, an elephant’s trunk, a boar’s tusks and ears, a monkey’s eyes, a fish’s body and scales, an antelope’s legs, a lion’s paws, and a peacock’s tail feathers. (The anatomy varied widely, however.) The animal was the guardian of gateways and thresholds and represented prosperity and self-sufficiency.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?