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Makara Or Crocodile In Hindu Art

A representation of a crocodile or makara occupies an important place in Hindu art. It appears on Harappan seals dated 2000-2500 CE as floating in a stream along with a number of fish. Perhaps, it was associated with the religious beliefs of the Harappans. It goes without saying that the association of the creature with water and fish makes it very important in the array of fertility symbols which are very auspicious. The same holds true as it frequently appears at the vahana (mount) of the Goddess Ganga (river goddess) and also of Varuna (god of seas and water). Kamadeva, deity of love, is called Makara Dhvaja and his flag carries makara as a symbol.

Crocodile frequently appears as a decorative motif in Hindu art. The creature is supposed to be the repository of jewels in Hindu culture and hence pearl strings are often showing issuing as froth from its mouth.

Women in the Satavahana period (2nd century BCE to early 3rd century CE) were very fond of arranging their hair in a topknot and decking it with the makarika ornament at either ends of the knot. Terracotta ornaments have been reported from Satavahana sites, which have also yielded makara pendants adorning necklaces.

The makara motif formed the design for ear ornaments called makara kundala. In the art of Amaravati, simhasanas (lion thrones) also have makara terminals at the back. The motif continued in the Gupta period as the Ajanta examples show.

One of the twelve astrological moon sings is known as Makara rashi (Capricorn).

Representation of makara is also found in the temples which had a makara torana, a profusely decorated arch emanating from the mouth of the makara at either end. The finest examples of such makara torana are to be found in the temples of Badami Chalukyas, Mamallapuram (Draupadi ratha), and are also seen in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.