John Huntington huntington.2 at OSU.EDU
Fri Feb 13 17:18:09 UTC 2004

The artistic evidence regarding the term Makara:

As represented in art,  the makara is a complex composite creature
with representations from as early as the Mauryan period at the ca.
250 B.C.E. Lomas Rishi cave through to the present day. It is clearly
not a crocodile an any stage of its representations that I am
familiar with. At Lomas Rishi the representation is quite elaphantine
and is four legged but a comparison with one of the elephants in the
same frieze clearly demonstrates it is not an elephant.

In the Sanchi stupa two railing the makara is one of a series of
"auspicious"  designs ( I am not at all certain if the term mangalam
would be appropriate for them however). Makara occur several time in
a variety of of configurations, again always as a composite of
several creatures. Again it is fairly elephantine but this time with
a fish tail in place of hind legs.

 From this point on the basic construct is pretty much set varying
elements come and go lion-like teeth, wings, scales, and something
auspicious comes out of its mouth, plants, animals, humans pearls
water and so on.

Between, India, Nepal, and Tibet, I have a great number of
photographs of makara, dating from the Lomas Rishi example, cited
above, down to modern executions.

I would be happy to send attachments of the two above and more if it
is desired, to anyone who would like to see them.

In short, as configured in art, the makara is not a living natural
creature but rather a mythic composite that is a fundamental source
of water, life essence and well-being and prosperity.
It compares to the dragon in China, the naga in India.

John C. Huntington


John C. Huntington, Professor
    (Buddhist Art and Methodologies)
Department of the History of Art
108 North Oval Mall
The Ohio state University
Columbus, OH 43210-1318 U.S.A.

huntington.2 at
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