Thursday, April 15, 2021
Home Variety Culture and History From Java, Philippines, Bali, Cambodia, Borneo to Burma: Understanding Ganesha from an iconographical perspective

From Java, Philippines, Bali, Cambodia, Borneo to Burma: Understanding Ganesha from an iconographical perspective

Ganesha as a giver of success and fortune is equally venerated by the Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. In fact, Ganesha is seen in many parts of SE Asia, and many medieval era images have been found from Java, Philippines, Bali, Cambodia, Borneo, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, and Japan.

With Ganesha festival around the corner, but with humble celebrations owing to the coronavirus spread, it seems this year will be a muted one for most religious festivals with most people being forced to stay indoors. So instead of focusing on the celebrations, my article takes a look at Ganesha – Vighnesvara from a different perspective, with a brief look at his iconography and the stories associated with him.

Ganesha, also popularly referred to as Vighnesvara, is the god who presides over obstacles, by both placing them in the way and also removing them. His capability of doing both is explained through a story in the Lingapurana. The story states that the various rakshasas and asuras through their virtuous acts and sacrifices received many boons from Shiva. Armed with these boons they then turned to attack the devatas and defeated them.

After facing many such defeats the gods headed by their king Indra requested Shiva to create someone who would provide obstacles in the way of the asuras and rakshahas in their virtuous acts, hence making them unfit for any boons. Shiva agreed, and from one of his amsas (his energy or power) came to life a being known as Vighnesvara, who was asked by Shiva to create obstacles for the asuras, rakshasas, and other evil beings in their acts of virtues and sacrifices.

He also asked Vighnesvara to help the devas and other pious beings in their good deeds by removing all obstacles. In ShivapuranaMatsyapurana, and Skandapurana the birth of Ganesha is however attributed only to Parvati where while bathing she combined the oils and ointments with the impurities that came from her body and created the figure of a man, which she brought to life by sprinkling the waters of the Ganga.

Interestingly, if we study the various Puranas and Agamas, we will see various versions of Ganesha’s origin, where we see him as the son of Parvati alone, of Shiva alone, of both Shiva and Parvati, and even with an independent origin (Swaymbhu- Surya Vinayaka, a popular narrative in Nepal).

It is stated that while composing Mahabharata, Vyasa had Ganesha as his amanuensis or scribe, who wrote with his own tusk as Vyasa dictated the verses non-stop. In Brahmavaivarta-purana Ganesha was Krishna himself in human form. In modern times Ganesha is the deity who is invoked by all those that are performing pujas, sacrifices, while invoking other gods, during difficult compositions in writing, and in other times in the daily affairs of men. Ganesha- Vighnesvara’s other names include Ganapati, Ekadanata, Heramba, Lambodara, Surpakarna, Gajanana, and Guhagraja

According to historian Y. Krishan, 1981-82, “Ganesha has now come to be called as the lord of all heavenly hosts, wisest of the wise, lord of treasures of treasuries, most adorable of all, the supreme of all beings, and the king of all kings. In Ganesha-purana various verses from the Purusha-sukta of the Rig Veda have been used for invoking Ganesha, and the 9th-13th century eulogy of Ganeshagita has been almost wholly taken from Bhagavadgita, where Ganesha, like Krishna, is a supreme being endowed with karuna (highest level of compassion). Since Ganesha was later identified with Vedic gods, he was also endowed with their attributes in visual imaging (murtis and paintings). With the ankusa, vajra, and lotus he is made at par with Indra; the crescent moon, tiger skin garment, and snake associates him with Rudra/Shiva; with his pasa (noose) he equals Varuna, and the axe makes him equal to Brhmanaspati.”

The first terracotta images of Ganesha found by archaeologists are from Pal (Maharashtra), Chandraketugarh (West Bengal), Verrapuram (Tamil Nadu), and Ter (Maharashtra), all of which belong to the 1st c. CE. The earliest Ganesha murtis in stone are from Mathura, and they belong to the Kushana era (2nd–3rd c. CE).

From various available books, research papers, and images it can be derived that the earliest murtis of Ganesha, of both the standing and sitting varieties, were with two arms holding a parasu and a mulaka (radish). The potbelly and one tooth are also among the earliest characteristics seen that continue even today. TAG Rao in his book on temple iconography presents a general form of Ganapati collected from various text sources that show him as four-armed; however, the Brhatsamhita in a couplet describes him with two arms carrying a kuthara (parasu) and a mulaka, potbellied, and with one tooth:

Pramathadhipo gajamukhah pralambajatharah kutharadhari syat| Ekarisano bibhranmulakakandan…….

Interestingly, the pot of sweets that is now synonymous with Ganapati finds no mention in Brhatsamhita, which has the earliest mention of the deity; however, the pot of sweets appears early in iconography from 1st c. CE (seen in the Pal terracotta Ganeshas). Later texts like Suprabhedagama, Vishnudharmattora, Rupamandana, etc. show Ganapati with four arms (which can go up 6, 8, 10, or even 16 arms) carrying the attributes: own tooth (svadanta), modaka (sweets), ankusa (elephant goad), pasa (noose), naga, vajra, japmala, lotus, wood apple (bael), etc. It is in these later texts that we find a mouse being described as his vahana, and there are mentions of his consorts Vighnesvari, Buddhi, Sri, Bharati (Sarda), Riddhi, and Siddhi.

These later books also give traits that are commonly seen now in Ganesha murtis, such as, three eyes, the poses abhanga and samabhanga, tiger skin as garment, and a snake as his sacred thread. These texts have also described many other iconographic forms of the god, such as Bala Ganapati, Bija Ganapati, Sakti Ganesha, Taruna Ganapati, Maha Ganesha, Nrtya Ganesha, Haridra Ganesha, Heramba Ganesha, etc. India once had six subdivisions under the Ganapatya sect, and these were devotees that worshipped the 6 different forms of Ganapati: Maha, Haridra, Svarna, Santana, Navanita, and Unmatta-Ucchista.

Ganesha as a giver of success and fortune is equally venerated by the Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. In fact, Ganesha is seen in many parts of SE Asia, and many medieval era images have been found from Java, Philippines, Bali, Cambodia, Borneo, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, and Japan. These images show the ancient to medieval cultural and religious connections that India once had with these countries, the ties that still remain, despite the innumerable attempts that have been made to erase them.

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Related Articles

Trending now

Hindu leader in Panipat explains why he thought it is necessary to come out in streets in support of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati

A Muslim mob came face to face with Hindu organisations who carried out a sit-in vigil in support of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati

Amdavad Municipal Corporation introduces ‘drive through’ RTPCR testing as COVID-19 cases surge in the state

First ever drive-through RTPCR testing centre opened in Ahmedabad, Gujarat as the state battles Chinese coronavirus

UP govt ramps up measures to fight the resurgent COVID-19 outbreak, airlifts 25,000 doses of Remdesivir using govt plane from Gujarat

The Uttar Pradesh government is working on a war-footing to blunt the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak

One more video of a mob calling for beheading Yati Narsimhanand Saraswati for ‘insulting Prophet Muhammad’ goes viral

Muslims across the country are demanding the beheading of Yati Narsimhanand Saraswati after his comments criticising Islam

Tours and travels operators in Mumbai issuing fake COVID-19 negative reports for Rs 300: Report reveals

As people in Mumbai rush to get out of Maharashtra amidst worsening coronavirus outbreak, travel agents are arranging bogus COVID-negative reports for Rs 300 to Rs 500 to enable their exit.

Maha COVID-19 crisis: Hospital beds and ventilators running short, scarcity in oxygen and Remdesivir supply, and inordinate delays in testing

Maharashtra is in a midst of a resurgent coronavirus outbreak as the state has reported over 60,212 fresh COVID-19 cases on Tuesday

Recently Popular

Mayor Sadiq Khan vows to bring the Indian Premier League to London to boost his reelection chances: Details

London mayor Sadiq Khan promises to bring the Indian Premier League to the British capital as part of his reelection campaign.

CNN staffer reveals to Project Veritas spy how they ran pro-Biden propaganda to get Donald Trump out of office

CNN Technical Director Charlie Chester went on five Tinder dates with the Project Veritas spy where he ended up making the damning revelations.

Missionaries converted over 1 lakh people amidst the pandemic, claims to have planted more churches than all the 25 years of their work in...

Missionaries claim they used the distress faced by poor people during the lockdown to convert them to Christianity and build more churches

COVID-19 outbreak: Maharashtra to get 100 MT oxygen from Ambani owned Reliance’s Jamnagar plant

Urban development minister Eknath Shinde said that Maharashtra will receive 100 MT of oxygen supply from Reliance's Jamnagar plant

What happened in Chhabra after Hindu man was stabbed by Muslim men: Call for peace, attack on a Hindu the next day and more

On April 12, the administration extended curfew for one more day at Chhabra, Baran district in Rajasthan after the communal riot

OpIndia Exclusive: Tata Communications suffers data leak, hackers claim to have sold access to company’s servers, over 50GB data still up for sale

As per two posts by hackers on a hackers' forum, they have gained access to Tata Communications servers and sold them.
- Advertisement -

 

Connect with us

254,077FansLike
529,111FollowersFollow
24,200SubscribersSubscribe