The Woman Who
Dances with Tigers:
Indus Valley Seals

A shamanic woman with horned headdress (or a goddess) dances with a tiger who also appears to be wearing horns. The woman has the feet and tail of a caprid. Behind her is a tree.

  horned woman dances with horned tiger

A woman flanked by rampant tigers, a theme repeated in another seal, with identical glyphs at top.


woman flanked by tigers

Here she is in two other seals. The woman with tigers at right, like the first example at top, has clearly marked breasts. The tigers are more ambiguous, but note the teeth and claws, especially on the front paws.


Here the rampant tigers face each other. A female figure is still present in the panel, at right. She has often been interpreted as giving birth to a plant, but Naga Ganesan has made a convincing case that a (rather distorted) gwalior crocodile is depicted here, comparing it with more realistic representations on numerous other seals.

The seal's reverse shows a seated woman binding up or unbinding her hair, and a male figure holding what could be a shield and weapon (scourge?) but might be a hand drum and drumstick, as shown in the Mahadeo rock art, or even a sickle and basket.

(These images were distorted in scanning; the original seals are not curved.)



In this example the tiger looks back at a person sitting in a tree. A woman stands with outstretched arms laden with bangles, again between two trees. But in this case the trees are uprooted and brandished by two men. The woman seems to be trying to keep them apart.

  indus seal scene with tiger and woman between men brandishing tree branches

Once more a woman stands between two men who are fighting with spears. The tiger theme is repeated in another form, this time a tiger-woman (long hair, long dress, bangles) who is wearing horns from which a flower blossoms.

tigerwoman and woman standing between two fighting men

Here we see the half-woman, half-tiger deity alone, with the same tree and notch-marks as in the previous seal, and an even more elaborate horned headdress.

These female tiger-spirits call to mind a later goddess, Durga, who is often shown riding on a tiger. Here the woman is part tiger.

Indus seal of tiger woman