Ganga and Mazu, Goddesses of Rivers and Seas

Greg and Fay Wyatt Sculpture Garden


Greg Wyatt’s sculptural compositions that represent these goddesses integrate classical technique with innovative figurization. Each of the four figures in the works are a reminder of the Academic tradition of sculpture: from Ancient Greece and Rome to the Italian Renaissance, the postures, costumes and bodies of these figures beckon to the ancient traditions of historical masters.These particular sculptures, in conjunction with the sculptural representation through the material figurization, represent a connection between ancient and modern worlds. Each of the four goddesses are compositionally outfitted with symbolic image representations of traditional attributes that they are associated with.


Ganga is the divine personification of the sacred Ganges River. In Hinduism, she and the river are worshipped as one. It is believed that the waters of the Ganges river are a channel for liberation and purification, both supporting life and fertile agriculture, and purifying and cleansing pollution of the body and the spirit. It can be understood that Ganga’s divine body is the Ganges River, and that the Ganges’ spirit takes up the mantle of Ganga. She is commonly interpreted as Mother Ganges.

She has the powers of compassion and comfort in the form of blessings to her many earthly children. Her motherly care can lead to a place that is free from sorrow, fear, old age and death. The goddess is also said to be aware of everyone’s deepest fears and desires. Ganga takes these feelings upon herself, leaving the individual purified and strengthened. Everyday, millions bathe in and drink from the river, and pray on its banks. Using the water for washing, bathing and cooking is a way to make sure one can receive Ganga’s blessings and grace. Ganga’s waters are understood to be the life giving, immortal liquid (amrta) of mother’s milk.

Ganga’s heavenly descent to earth (avatarana) is described in various ways in Hindu mythology. Many ways are associated with the three most important male gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In one account, Ganga descends to Earth and uses Shiva to break hear fall. As she falls through his hair, she becomes divided into many streams, each flowing to a different part of the earth. This splitting had the spiritual purpose of cleaning and purifying the souls of the sixtythousand sons of King Sagara; the splitting of Ganga physically manifests as the rivers. She and the Ganges River continue to be understood and worshiped as a sacred place to honor the ashes of the dead and to guarantee a safe journey to the ancestral realm.


The goddess Mazu is a guardian deity of seafarers originally worshipped on the coastal communities of mainland China. To this day, there are over 1,000 temples established in Mazu’s honor, particularly on the island of Taiwan. Her merciful image is a blessing for safe sea-travel— thus, pilgrimages in her honor are made yearly ,primarily by fishermen.

Mazu is a deified version of the purportedly historical figure, Lin Mo-niang. During her lifetime in the 10th-Century, Lin Mo was recognized for her abilities as a clairvoyant, healer, and profound religious scholar who comprehended an expansive grasp of Buddhist and Confucius texts at a young age. Her most famous achievement came at the age of 16 when her father and her brothers, far away at sea on a fishing voyage, were caught by a tremendous storm. It is said that she slipped into a trance just as the storm was at its fiercest. After she regained consciousness, her father and her brothers returned home safely, swearing that Lin Mo had projected herself out into the ocean to save them. An alternative legend says that she saved her brothers, but because she was disturbed during her trance she let go of her father, who then drowned. According to another version, she swam out to sea and searched for her father, but drowned and was washed ashore in the Matsu Islands—for whom Mazu the goddess is named.

In religious depictions, Mazu is represented with noble clothing—adorned with beads and jewels, she holds a ceremonial hu tablet and wears a mian guan headdress, which were traditional to Chinese rulers, nobles, ministers and high officials. In her mythology, she is renown for defeating and hiring two demons, who often flank her altars: Qianliyan, “Eyes that See a Thousand Leagues,” and Shunfeng’er, “Ears that Hear the Wind.” In addition to her skills as a healer and shaman, Mazu possessed physical prowess in swimming and martial abilities. In some legends, she subdued these demons using a silk scarf with magical properties.