Coinciding with Ganeshotsav, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) has organised an exhibition, ‘Ganesha: The God of Asia’ that showcases over 40 photographs of different forms of the deity found in sculptures, carvings and paintings in different parts of Asia.
The exhibition has been organised by noted historian and archaeologist, M K Dhavalikar, who has also written a book on the same topic.
“From an elephant to the form of a god, we see Ganesh in various forms all the way from Afghanistan, travelling to different parts of Northern and Southern India then going towards China, South-East Asia and Japan. The forms change constantly as the region varies. This is the first time we’re holding an exhibition on such a topic,” explains Pratima Waman, research assistant at BORI and co-ordinator for the exhibition.
The exhibition is divided into different sections which showcase images of the deity from different regions. The forms of Ganesh differ greatly in terms of shape, size, adornment and posture. One can see a three-headed, nine-eyed Ganapati which originates from Japan. The Ganapati painting found in Bezeklik has six arms holding various weapons and other objects. The trunk is very short, almost like an elongation of the nose. A whole section shows the form of the deity minted in coins used in Afghanistan and by Indo-Greek rulers.
Alexander the Great too used to worship a form of the elephant. In the exhibition, we can see the photograph of Alexander wearing a head gear that has been designed with elephant motifs.
A bunch of photographs also depict the elephant-headed God dancing as well. The Linga Purana states that Ganapati dances with pure joy before his parents. Various forms of him are depicted in the Brihadeeshwara Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu built by Raja Raja Chole I in the 11th century. Similar depictions can also be found in the form of stone carvings, bronze sculptures and paintings in Nepal and Tibet.
Rarely is Ganapati ever depicted with Shakti, the feminine spirit that emerges from the deity itself or even with his consort, Vainayaki, whose depiction emerged between the eighth and ninth century. In Indonesia, specifically Java, the Ganapati statues found are all seen with skulls adorning the crown while the deity sits on a lotus. “Every god has a tantric form. In parts of Indonesia, these tantric forms have gained more prominence,” explains Waman.
The exhibition will be open at the institute till September 4.
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