Nana (Kushan 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 from ancient Bactria, a variation of pan-Asiatic Nana, a conflation of Sumero-Babylonian Inanna-Ishtar with a local divinity, in her Kushan form with the indigenous (Zoroastrian) Harahvati Aredvi Sura Anahita. 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] She was also associated with fertility, wisdom and as a goddess of the waters (in particular of the Indus River, which was known as Harahuati in the Avesta, and of which Harahuati Ardevi Sura Anahita was the patron).

The Kushan territories encompassed the Iranian-language speaking regions of Sogdiana, Ferghana, Bactria, Arachosia, Gandhara, and Taxila, and the conquered Indian territory of Mathura. These provinces lie in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and northwestern Pakistan. Depictions of Nana are known from Afghanistan as late as the 5th-6th century CE.[2] In Afghanistan and Pakistan the name appears as "Nawi", the Pashto word for bride.[1]


  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