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5. Nepalese Stone Ganesh
Nepal
17th c.
Stone with traces of sindura
21 x 14 x 5.5 inches, 53.25 x 35.5 x 14 cm

Nepalese Stone Ganesh

This graceful stone depicts elephant-headed Ganesh—a deity beloved by worshipers from a variety of faiths. Although it is difficult to date the emergence of divinities, Ganesh imagery was prevalent in many parts of India by the 6th century , his mythology propagated by Hindu sacred texts known as the Puranas.

While it is generally held that Ganesh is the child of the illustrious Shiva and Parvati, there are many stories about how he got his elephant head. The most pervasive Puranic myths hold that he was born with a human head, which was knocked off by Shiva when the young Ganesh tried to get between himself and Parvati; others assert that he was actually born with an elephant head . Details vary widely about how the conflict started, and where the replacement head came from.

In this example, the pot-bellied Remover of Obstacles is shown seated comfortably and holding an assortment of iconographic implements in his four hands. A notorious foodie, Ganesh’s trunk reaches into the pot of delicacies held in his lower left hand. His upper right hand holds an axe with which he cuts down obstacles in the paths of his devotees. His own broken tusk is held in his lower right, referring to an incident in which Ganesh threw one of his tusks at the moon . His upper right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing—the Amoghasiddhi mudra. Overall, traces of red sindura offering powder are still embedded in the grain of the stone, evidence of the devotion of Ganesh’s many followers. (Marguerite Mott)

Works Cited

Brown, Robert. Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God. Albany: State University of New York, 1991.

Knappert, Jan, An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend: Indian Mythology. London: Diamond Books, 1995.

1. Robert Brown, Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 175.
2. Jan Knappert, An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend: Indian Mythology (London: Diamond Books, 1995), 107.
3. Ibid., 108.



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Detail: Nepalese Stone Ganesh-3/4 view
Detail: Nepalese Stone Ganesh-left side view
all text & images © Arnold Lieberman except where noted
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