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Friday, 26 July 2013

Stone sculpture of Shakti-Ganesha

Stone sculpture of Shakti-Ganesha, Orissa, eastern India, 13th century


Elephant-headed God from a Temple of the Sun

Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is usually depicted with one head and four arms. Myths describe how Shiva cut Ganesha's head off in a rage. Parvati pleaded with him to replace her son's head and Shiva promised to replace it with that of the first creature he came across, which happened to be an elephant.

In this rare sculpture Ganesha is shown with five elephant heads and ten arms, seated beneath a tree. In his hands he holds weapons, including a trident, a discus and a bow and arrow, as well as other objects such as a fly-whisk and his broken tusk. Ganesha usually appears alone, but here a female consort or shakti sits on his left leg. Ganesha's vehicle, a small rat, appears with an elephant and two small figures in the cave at the base of the image. Small dwarves or ganas support the base. Ganesha is the chief of these dwarves, the attendants of Shiva and Parvati. Another name for him is Ganapati ('lord of the ganas').

This sculpture probably came from Konarak in Orissa. A huge temple dedicated to Surya the sun-god was built here in the thirteenth century by King Narasimha I (about 1237-82). One of the largest temples ever built in India, it was constructed in the form of a vast solar chariot with huge stone wheels.

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