Pencil, Gold, Silver, Watercolor on Canvas, 2017
17.5 x 29 cm
Collection of Prakash Ratna Tuladhar
The narrative surrounding Gaṅgā’s descent to Earth is an intriguing anecdote rooted in Hindu mythology. It is frequently retold within the framework of King Bhagīratha’s endeavors to facilitate the arrival of the revered Gaṅgā River for the purpose of purifying the remains of his forefathers. Bhagīratha exhibited a resolute determination to atone for the souls of his ancestors. He undertook a severe act of self-discipline and sought the divine favor of Lord Brahma in order to facilitate the descent of the sacred river Gaṅgā into the Earth. Lord Brahma manifested himself before Bhagīratha, deeply moved and impressed by the unwavering dedication and rigorous penance exhibited by the latter.
Bhagīratha fervently beseeched Lord Brahmā to enable the arrival of the sacred river Gaṅgā upon the earthly domain. Nevertheless, Bramhā expressed concern regarding the formidable strength possessed by Gaṅgā, which had the capability to submerge and cause significant devastation to the Earth. Bhagīratha sought counsel from Lord Bramhā to contact Lord Śiva for aid, as it was widely believed that only Lord Śiva had the requisite capacity to endure the devastating impact of Gaṅgā’s descent. The painting adeptly captures the narrative of Gaṅgā’s celestial descent to the terrestrial realm. At the apex, the depiction showcases the four faces of Bramhā, accompanied by his Kamaṇḍalu, a receptacle for water, from which the Gaṅgā river gracefully cascades onto the earthly realm.
Bhagīratha embarked on an intensive phase of contemplation, aiming to invoke the favor of Lord Śiva. Upon observing the intense devotion exhibited by Bhagīratha, Lord Śiva granted permission for the interception of the descent of the river Gaṅgā, allowing her to be accepted onto his tangled locks. The descent of the river Gaṅgā from the celestial realm led to the assimilation of her great strength by the tresses of the Śiva, culminating in a tranquil course of the river.
Another story also involves the preserver God Viṣṇu. This depicts the story of Viṣṇu’s Trivikrama avatar where Lord Viṣṇu takes a gigantic form and, with his second stride, pierces the cosmic covering, allowing the celestial river Gaṅgā to descend from the heavens to Earth.
In his depiction, Shrestha symbolically represents the spiritual essence of the Gaṅgā River by illustrating her powerful stream and positioning her atop the mythical monster known as Makara, a water dragon.