Nana (Afghan goddess)

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Coin of Sapadbizes (c. 10 BCE), with the lion, moon crescent, and legend Ναναια on the reverse.
Goddess Nana, seated on a lion, Afghanistan, 5-6th century.

Nana (Kushan Greek: Νανα, Ναναια, Ναναϸαο, Sogdian nny) was a Kushan female divinity, a variation of pan-Asiatic Nana, a conflation of Sumero-Babylonian Inanna-Ishtar with a local divinity, in her Kushan form with either the indigenous (Zoroastrian) Harahvati Aredvi Sura Anahita, or the Indic Durga-Saraswati, or both. Such syncretism was common among the Kushan deities.

Nana is first attested by name on a coin of Sapadbizes, a 1st century BCE king of Bactria who preceded the Kushans. In this singular case, Nana is depicted as a lion. Nana then reappears two centuries later on the coins and seals of the Kushan kings, in particular of the mid-2nd century CE Kanishka I. The Rabatak inscription of Kanishka I invokes her as well. Her characteristics are martial in these depictions, and she was typically depicted as a seated martial goddess, escorted by a lion.[1] Whether she was also associated with fertility, wisdom and as a goddess of the waters (in particular of the Helmand River, which was known as Haravati in antiquity, and of which Haravati Aredvi Sura Anahita was the patron, or of the Saraswati-Yamuna, associated with Saraswati-Durga) is unknown.

The Kushan territories encompassed the Iranian-language speaking regions of Sogdiana, Ferghana, Bactria, Arachosia, as well as the Indian-language speaking provinces of Gandhara, Taxila, and Mathura. These provinces now lie in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Northwest India. Depictions of Nana are known from Afghanistan as late as the 5-6th century CE.[2] In Afghanistan she continues to be known as "Bibi Nanni" ("Lady Nana") or "Hinglaj Mata".[1] Both are local names for Durga.


  1. ^ a b Bremmer, Jan N. The strange world of human sacrifice. p. 176. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  2. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art, permanent exhibit