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Five Unusual Ganesha Images from Around the World

This blog contains extracts from the article ‘The Benevolent Ganesha Abroad’ by Dr. G.B. Deglurkar, published in Maharashtra Unlimited, Volume 4 – Issue 3. The photos are courtesy of Shakuntala Jagannathan. Click here to read the full-length article.

We are all familiar with the standard Ganesha images – smiling, pot-bellied, accompanied by his vehicle the mouse and holding a plate of food. Here are some unusual ancient images of Ganesha from around the world.

1. The Tantrik Ganesha from Indonesia

The unique image of Ganesha of 1239 found at Bara belonging to Sangasari period is seen protected from the rear by a demonic face on the back of its head.
The unique image of Ganesha of 1239 found at Bara belonging to Sangasari period is seen protected from the rear by a demonic face on the back of its head.

Interestingly, Indonesia presents a Tantrik Ganesha which is rarely seen in India. This Tantrik Ganesha is characterized by skull ornaments adorning him right from the head-dress to the pedestal. An image of Ganesha from 1239 CE found at Bara belonging to Sangasari period is seen protected from the rear by a demonic face on the back of its head ( shown above).

 

 

2. Ganesha from Chandi Prambanam

Indonesian Ganesha
Ganesha – Indonesia in Chandi Prambanan

We come across a large number of Ganesha images belonging to the Central and Eastern Javanese period. They are with a tusk, rosary, battle-axe and an empty bowl and are seated with both legs bent horizontally the soles of the feet touching each other, a notable special feature.

 

3. Ganesha with a Snake thread

Cambodian Ganesha
Ganesha – Cambodia, 8th CE – Now in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

A typical two-armed Khmer Ganesha (12th-13th CE.) seated in paryankasana wearing anklets and a snake- yajnopawita tied near the left ear with the snake hood raised, is a special feature of Cambodian Ganesha.

Though bare to the waist he is adorned with an ornate necklace and serpent- sacred thread. His head is bare and eyes are small and true to life. His ears are large and his trunk conspicuously straight, but turns to the left at the end to take sweets from the bowl held in the left hand.

 

 

4. Ganesha without a pot belly

Ganesh statue Cambodia
Ganesha – Cambodia, 8th Century CE – Now in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The god here is known as ‘Prah Kenes’. At some places he is seen along with Shiva and Parvati. Cambodian Ganesha images of the pre-Khmer period are with wide fan-like ears, no neck, no head-dress, no pot-belly, two armed and with his trunk turned to the left. In those of the Khmer period, he is shown wearing a conical crown. Ganesha images in Cambodia are mostly two-armed which are placed on the knees holding various attributes.  His trunk is hanging straight and is coiled at the end. It is also seen turning outward and upward as seen in Chinese Turkestan, Bali and in China. Prah Kenes as seen here, is never obese.

 

5. Kangi-ten (Deva of Bliss)

 

Japanese Ganesha
Kangi-ten: The Deva of Bliss

This is the dual image known in Japanese as Kangi-ten. It shows two elephant-headed figures embracing their hands clasped behind each other’s back. This type of Ganesha-form came to Japan originally from China. This is a secret esoteric form of the god (Ganesha) Kangi-ten derived from the Tantric cult based on the Yoga doctrine of the union of the Individual with the Universal spirit

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