Gangavatarana, aka: Gaṅgāvataraṇa, Ganga-avatarana; 3 Definition(s)


Gangavatarana means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Gaṅgāvataraṇa (गङ्गावतरण).—One of the 108 karaṇas (minor dance movement) mentioned in the Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 4. The instructions for this gaṅgāvataraṇa-karaṇa is as follows, “foot with the toes and the sole turned upwards, hands showing Tripatāka with the fingers pointing downwards and the head being Sannata.”.

A karaṇa represents a minor dance movements and combines sthāna (standing position), cārī (foot and leg movement) and nṛttahasta (hands in dancing position).

(Source): Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra
Nāṭyaśāstra book cover
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Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).


Gaṅgāvataraṇa (गङ्गावतरण), or “descent of the river Gaṅgā” on the earth. This story occurs in many Purāṇic texts such as the Śivapurāṇa, the Liṅgapurāṇa, the Viṣṇupurāṇa, the Harivaṃśa and so on. As per the story related in the Viṣṇudharmottara, Gaṅgā promised Bhagīratha that she is ready to follow him to the nether worlds. Further she adds that Śiva alone can withstand her vigorous fall from the heaven. So Bhagīratha should pray to propitiate Śiva. Bhagīratha carried out austerities.

Pleased with his austerities, Śiva gives his word to Bhagīratha. But, in the meanwhile, Gaṅgā hatches a plot to push Śiva to the nether worlds with her force. Brahmā, on understanding her wicked ideas through his inner eyes, imprisoned her in the matted hair of Śiva. On hearing the repeated prayers of Bhagīratha Śiva let loose Gaṅgā by making her to run along his hair drop by drop, in different directions. In the image, water is running in two branches, one to the east and the other to the west. One of them follows Bhagīratha.

(Source): Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (purāṇa)
Purāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Śilpaśāstra (iconography)

Gaṅgāvataraṇa (गङ्गावतरण) is depicted as a sculpture on the fourth pillar of the southern half of the maṇḍapa of the temple of Lokeśvara.—From the heaven the descent of Gaṅgā is depicted at the extreme right of the panel. In front of her is a pile of stones suggesting that it is the mount Kailāsa. To the right she is oozing from the heaven. Śiva catches and imprisons her in his hair. Śiva is accompanied by Pārvatī to his left and Nandin to his right. At the feet of Pārvatī is a dog. The artist has remarkably expressed the exasperation of Pārvatī, on seeing her husband carrying Gaṅgā on his head. She looks like an embodiment of karuṇa rasa “pathos.” Here she represents also the khaṇḍitā nāyikā, “whose husband is guilty of infidelity.” Therefore she is angry with him. Her dismay is very well expressed on her face in spite of the miniature size of the image.

Śiva is allowing Gaṅgā to glide along his hair in two directions. He is shown standing, posing his right hand on the hump of Nandin. He is four-handed and with his left hand he is holding his mesh of hair. Bhagīratha is engaged in severe austerities to please Śiva. To the extreme left is the running Gaṅgā.

Gaṅgāvataraṇa (गङ्गावतरण) is also found as a sculpture on the northern external wall of the temple of Pāpanātha.—The whole story of Gaṅgāvataraṅa is caught in the fourth niche. Śiva is standing with his hairs spread to receive Gaṅgā waters. Gaṅgā is shown in the right hand top corner. On the same side below is Bhagīratha doing penance to bring down the sacred river Gaṅgā to the earth. The whole story which is depicted at length and breadth on the pillar 4 in the Lokeśvara temple is caught in one small niche. Just above this niche, in the top dormer window is dancing Śiva. It is damaged. The position of his feet is identical with that of the image of Naṭarāja in the first cave at Badami.

(Source): Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (śilpa)
Śilpaśāstra book cover
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Śilpaśāstra (शिल्पशास्त्र, shilpa-shastra) represents the ancient Indian science of creative arts such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vāstuśāstra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

Relevant definitions

Search found 323 related definition(s) that might help you understand this better. Below you will find the 15 most relevant articles:

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Ākāśagaṅgā (आकाशगङ्गा).—[ākāśapathavāhinī gaṅgā] the celestial Ganges; नदत्याकाशगङ्गायाः स्रोतस...
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Gautamī-gaṅgā (गौतमी-गङ्गा).—According to Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madya-lila 9.14, “While walk...
Unmattagaṅga (उन्मत्तगङ्ग).—Name of a country (where the Gaṅgā roars furiously along). Derivabl...
Khagaṅgā (खगङ्गा).—celestial Gaṅgā. Khagaṅgā is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms kha...
Gaṅgāja (गङ्गाज).—1) Name of Bhīṣma. 2) of Kārtikeya; गङ्गासुतस्त्वं स्वमतेन देव स्वाहामहीकृत्...
āḷaśāvara-gaṅgā (आळशावर-गंगा).—f Said of some great ad- vantage undeservedly obtained.
Raṅgāvataraṇa (रङ्गावतरण).—1) entrance on the stage. 2) an actor's profession. Derivable forms:...
svargaṅgā (स्वर्गंगा).—f S The Ganges of heaven, the galaxy.
vāhatī-gaṅgā (वाहती-गंगा).—f Smart business; overflow- ing, plenty of a good thing.

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