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Ganesha
India, Uttar Pradesh;
8th Century
Sandstone
H. 49 in. (125.7 cm)

Background
Ganesha is a popular Hindu god who is the son of Shiva and his wife Parvati (a form of Devi).

Ganesha, is called the "Lord of Obstacles" because he is invoked at the beginning of any major activity or ceremony (whether religious or secular) to promote good luck. He is also known as the god of wisdom and salvation.

This sculpture was produced during the eighth century in Uttar Pradesh, a North Indian state with great historical importance for Hindus--the sacred Ganges River flows through the state and four of the seven holy cities of Hinduism lie within it.

How to look at this work
Hindu images are both visual theologies and visual scriptures. They are visual narrations of traditional myths. We may identify individual deities by the objects that they hold, by what they wear, by their hairstyles, and by the other beings that accompany them.

Ganesha is represented here as follows:

  1. Head
    Ganesha is best known for his elephant head. According to tradition, a son was created by the goddess Parvati while her husband, Shiva, was away from home. Upon his return Shiva demanded entry into Parvati's bath. Ganesha, who had been charged with guarding the door, prevented Shiva's entry. This angered Shiva who, not knowing about the existence of the boy, severed his head. Seeing his wife's sorrow afterwards, Shiva agreed to replace Ganesha's head with that of the next being he saw. The first that passed was an elephant. In Indian mythology, the elephant symbolizes devotion, patience, and truth, and Ganesha has taken on these characteristics.
    One of his tusks is broken.
  2. Pose
    Ganesha is in a relaxed dancing pose.
    His left leg is firmly planted and his right leg is off-balance and shows movement.
    Ganesha stands upon a lotus. Hands
    Multiple hands symbolize Ganesha's multiple powers.
    This statue of Ganesha has ten hands, although some have broken off. Seven of them compliment his dancing posture.
    One hand holds a rosary, which signifies devotion.
    One hand holds a snake symbolizing control over earthly waters.
    One hand holds a broken tusk. This is a reference to a myth in which an ashamed Ganesha throws his tusk at the moon after the moon watches his large potbelly burst from overeating causing the tusk to break.
    One hand holds a ball of sweets since Ganesha is a young boy and young boys love sweets. Clothing and ornamentation
    Ganesha wears a crown that is elaborated with a floral motif. When looked at closely, one can see that a snake is embedded in his headdress.
    Ganesha wears a lion skin around his waist.
    He wears much jewelry, with bracelets and armlets adorning each arm and anklets around his legs.
    He wears two belts that are intricately decorated with a floral motif that is similar to the one depicted in his headdress.

Function
Ganesha's large size shows that the sculpture was used in temple (rather than private) worship. His frontal posture further indicates that he was likely placed in a well-seen position on the exterior of a temple wall. Ganesha sculptures are often seen in temples devoted to Shiva; there are very few temples devoted exclusively to Ganesha, and so it can be assumed that this sculpture comes from a temple to Shiva (his father).

How this object was made
This object was carved from sandstone.

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