5. A stone figure of Ganesha
Hoysala period, 11th/12th century
45 x 32 cm
The four-armed portly deity is seen holding his goad, conch, tusk and bowl of sweets, wearing beaded jewelry encircling his belly, the face with trunk curling to his left flanked by fan-like ears and topped by an elaborate headdress, backed by an aureole centered with a kirttimukha mask. Worshipped as the god of good luck and remover of obstacles, Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is one of the most popular gods in the Hindu pantheon. The rotund body and short legs of this 11/12th-century sculpture of Ganesha typifies representations of the deity. Ganesha's elephant head, like his multiple arms, is a mark of his divine nature, and various myths explain how he acquired it. One of the most popular is that Ganesha's elephant head is the result of a quarrel between Shiva and Parvati. Angered by Ganesha's refusal--at Parvati's behest--to let him see his wife while she was bathing, Shiva cut off Ganesha's head, and Parvati was devastated with grief. In order to soothe her, Shiva replaced the head with that of the first creature he saw, which happened to be an elephant. Elephants carry complex symbolism in the Indian cultural world. Because they are thought to resemble rain clouds in color and shape, they have long been associated with fertility and prosperity.
From a private North American Collection
Acquired from Doris Weiner 1972
Detail: close-up view