Bjorn Amelan and Bill T. Jones
the world of the Hindu gods, body shape and mass are of no concern
when it comes to the mastery of gesture and the outrageous undulating
placement/displacement of skel-eton and flesh that we recognize
as grace. This eighth-century Ganesha from Uttar Pradesh makes a
One can only
marvel at the understanding of anatomy, the visceral sense of movement
and rhythm, and the choreographic skill of the artist who produced
this performance in stone. This multi-armed, squat little figure
with dimpled paunch, thick legs, sensitive hands and feet, has the
head of an elephant. He is in fact a dancing elephant, presaging
Walt Disney's Fantasia by roughly twelve hundred years.
Ganesha is caught
in an ecstatic off- centered swirl of movement. Yet there is nothing
frantic or out of control here.
The alert attentiveness
of his large ears make palpable his celestial accompaniment. The
elegant placement of his many hands-all performing effortlessly
complex mudras-are in sophisticated counterpoint to the graceful
rhythm of his belt and swaying trunk.
This is a suave
and elegant dancer who throws out his left hip with sensual-I dare
say sexy-finesse while observing us with aloof tiny eyes, as if
to say, "Jump on in! Let's see what you can do! I dare you."
playful depiction of Ganesha charms us immediately. The sense of
motion reminds us of a futurist painting or a stroboscopic photograph
of a figure in motion. This sense of movement is rarely attempted
in sculpture but here it is the defining characteristic of the piece.
This might be called "Ganesha Swings." Cubism, the movies, and photography
have all changed the way we perceive time in relationship to imagery.
For us it's more natural to read this sculpture as a series of moving
forms rather than a creature with ten arms. The combination of naturalistic
observation and knowing stylization is impressive. For instance,
Ganesha's stomach demonstrates that the sculptor really understands
anatomy very well but has abstracted the forms to produce a more
the son of Shiva, Lord of the Dance, the elephant-headed Ganesha
is often depicted in endearingly sensual, even humorous, dance postures,
inviting devotees to approach him as the remover of obstacles. But
one of Ganesha's tusks is always broken-here held aloft in a left
hand-making the god particularly beloved to writers.
It is said that
sitting on a riverbank a great sage dictated a poem to Ganesha.
The sage's recitation continued for nights and days without pause
until all Ganesha's pens had worn away. Rather than interrupt the
flow of the sage's inspiration, the elephant-headed god broke off
one of his tusks, dipped it into ink, and carried on writing.
With his sacrifice
Ganesha ensured that mankind would possess the longest-and to Indians,
the greatest-epic poem in human history, the Mahabharata.