Mythology in Art

Article excerpt

Students and teachers with knowledge of the Hindu religion will recognize the figure shown in this month's Clip Save Art Print as the Ganesha (or Ganesh), one of the most widely worshipped of the five prime Hindu deities, which include Brahma, Durga, Vishnu and Shiva. According to Dr. Dharmdeo N. Singh in his A Study of Hinduism (South Asia Books; 1999), "All Hindus worship Ganesha regardless of their sectarian belief. He is both the beginning of the religion and the meeting ground for all Hindus." (Source: hinduism.about.com/od/lordganesha/a/ganesha.htm).

Like many spiritual and mythological creatures, Ganesha is a hybrid god--or "zoomorphic deity"--possessing a combination of human and animal body parts. Part human and part elephant, Ganesha is the lord of success and good fortune; the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. As the clearer of obstacles, it is common for Hindus to call upon this god when undertaking a new project or venture.

There are many variations of the Ganesha creation story, but the following tale is one of the most common:

"Once goddess Parvati, while bathing, created a boy out of the dirt of her body and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When Shiva, her husband returned, he was surprised to find a stranger denying him access and struck off the boy's head in rage. Parvati broke down in utter grief and to soothe her, Shiva sent out his squad (gana) to fetch the head of any sleeping being who was facing the north. "The company found a sleeping elephant and brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored its life and made him the leader (pati) of his troops. Hence his name 'Ganapati." Shiva also bestowed a boon that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any venture." (Source: hinduism.about.com/od/lordganesha/a/ganesha.htm)

In this representation, the deity occupies the space within a carved and painted niche. …