10th–11th century
Architectural elements
Overall: 70 3/4 x 17 3/4 x 10 1/2 in. (1 m 79.705 cm x 45.085 cm x 26.67 cm)
Arts of Asia
Dallas Museum of Art, Bromberg Family Wendover Fund, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and General Acquisitions Fund
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

This is the left doorjamb (dvara-shakha) from a temple in central or western India (the present-day states of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan). This elegant, voluptuous high relief carved in sandstone reflects typical methods of temple construction in this region, and the style conforms closely to that of the 10th or 11th century. It embodies the close union of sculpture and architecture in Indian temples and represents the developed styles of northern India following the break-up of the Gupta Empire.

Of the three figures at the base, the central one represents a personification of either the river Yamuna, usually recognized by her tortoise vehicle, or the river Ganges, identified by her crocodile-like (makara) vehicle. These personifications of north India's two major rivers invariably flank temple doorways. In this case, the identifying vehicle no longer remains beneath the figure's feet, so it is not possible to say which river she represents. The goddess is shown in a lush tribhanga pose. This s-curve pose ultimately goes back to Greco-Roman art, via trade along the Silk Road. She is flanked by a sensuous female attendant to her left, holding a lotus flower, and a male guardian to her right, holding a sword. The central niches of the column hold deities, while ganas, lively dancing dwarves associated with fertility and the god Shiva, are placed to either side of the central figures. The uppermost deity wears a tunic and high boots, holding a lotus in each hand, features that clearly identify him as the solar deity Surya. An undulating lotus creeper runs along the doorway opening on the right side, while stylized petals run along the opposite side of the doorjamb.

Door jambs like this example were commonly used to frame the main entrance into Hindu temples and provided elegant decoration as well as imagery reflecting the power of birth and generation. The tilt of the lower figures to the right indicates that this elaborate column framed the left hand side of a doorway. The use of the two river goddesses as protective figures flanking doors goes back to at least the 6th century, reflecting the importance of water as a sign of fertility and life in Hindu beliefs. Often, as here, there is a celestial figure at the top (in this case, the sun god Surya) to balance good fortune in heaven and on earth. In some similar examples, erotic couples fill the central niches, stressing the symbolism of fertility and prosperity.

Adapted from

  • Anne Bromberg, DMA unpublished material, 2008.

  • Anne Bromberg, Label text, David T. Owsley Galleries of South Asian Art - Hindu Art, 2006.

  • Frederick Asher "Doorjamb" in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 58.

Fun Facts

  • The lotus is particularly associated with generation as well as purity and the power of the sun, signified by the deity Surya, is essential for agricultural productivity.