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Carlton Rochell Asian Art

India, Uttar Pradesh
10th century
Buff sandstone
Height: 29 in. (73.7 cm.)

In this charming composition, child-like Ganesha is depicted bearing a joyful expression as he dances upon a lotus-covered throne. His eight arms radiate on either side of his torso, holding a variety of typical attributes including the elephant goad, broken tusk and lotus flower. Calling to mind the deity’s propensity for sumptuous delights, his primary right hand inserts a sweet into his open mouth, while his lower left, placed comfortably on his left hipbone, displays the gesture known as katihasta. A meditation cord in the form of a snake, symbolic of the deity’s father, Shiva, is entwined around his belly, and a tiger-skin dhoti covers his lower body. Ganesha’s divine status is confirmed by the presence of a prominent third eye incised on his forehead and a crown resting atop his large, floppy ears.

Jubilantly stepping to the music of the attendants below, Ganesha exudes energy and youthfulness. The plump elephant-headed deity confidently thrusts his hips to the left and moves his bent legs in rhythm with the beat, swaying gracefully despite his cumbersome belly. Pierced holes along the sides of the figure’s body allow light to penetrate the sculpture, highlighting the litheness and volume of the central figure. On either side, two variously positioned musicians represent a standard element of dancing Ganesha imagery.

A widely beloved and auspicious deity throughout India due to his association with wealth, fertility and the ability to destroy all obstacles, Ganesha was given a place of prominence in north-central Indian temples, in particular. Also portrayed in seated or standing positions, the dancing Ganesha image (nrityaganapati) became increasingly popular by the ninth century.[1] The present is a beautifully executed example of its kind.[2]

Rockefeller Collection, New York
Doris Wiener, New York, 1986

[1] See Pal (2003), p. 122.
[2] For tenth century dancing Ganesha images attributed to Uttar Pradesh, see Pal (1997), nos. 70 and 71. See also, Pal (2003), nos. 81A-C.

all text, images Carlton Rochell Asian Art


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