There are many books on the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, pictorial and celebratory. The present one is of a different kind. Professor von Stietencron investigates the temple sculptures of Ganga and Yamuna in order to unveil a whole cosmos of Hindu ritual and conceptual tradition. He shows how an entire worldview informs the planning and sculptural embellishment of such a temple—conceived of as the body of the deity enshrined in it.
Consequently this book is a historical study of the sculptures of the goddesses Ganga and Yamuna adorning the doorways of Indian temples, most recognizable from the Gupta period onwards. It examines how these gracious and purifying riverine deities have been conceived in human form. It discusses in detail the rich store of puranic myths and legends woven around these deities, tracing their Vedic roots and showing their evolution since then.
Translated from the German, this is a significant work of classical Indological scholarship. Drawing upon Sanskrit and various other sources, it provides major insights into the complex cultural history of Hindu religious traditions.
Heinrich von Stietencron has been Professor of Indology and Comparative History of Religion (1973–98) at the University of Tuebingen. He is a leading authority on the epics and the puranas, on temple symbolism and iconography, and on religious practice and social structure. He is chief editor of the annotated Epic and Puranic Bibliography (1992). He has devoted many years to field research in Orissa, documenting the many temples and studying the manuscript traditions of the region. His several books include Hindu Myth, Hindu History (Permanent Black, 2005). He was awarded the Padma Shree in 2004.