Exceptionally versatile, the painting inclines to portray multiple forms of Lord Ganesh, independently and as illustrating a legend; however, the portrayal of the elephant god as dancing, its various moves, modes and positions, as also as engaged in playing on musical instruments, drum and flute in particular, accompanying a dance, seems to have been in greater preference of the artist and hence more commonly portrayed. Except the five-faced and ten-armed figure of Lord Ganesh enshrining the sanctum, or central pavilion, standing on a pedestal with his body tilted to left : a semi-dance posture, and the other in the pavilion flanking it on its left, or those illustrating a legend portrayed on outer periphery on all four sides, and perhaps a couple of them more, all forms of Lord Ganesh have been portrayed in dance, its one step or other.
In Oriya pata-chitra tradition the layout of a pata-painting, of a larger one in particular, is usually conceived as one of a temple, the centre of the canvas being the ‘garbha-graha’ : sanctum sanctorum, and other parts, its various pavilions and components. A delightful geometry apart seeking to divide the large canvas into various geometrical units, especially the inner rectangle : the centre, a vertical sanctum form, flanking spaces, bifurcated into a square in the middle and horizontal bands below and above, and on the extreme right and left, vertical columns, each divided into three cubes for three images, the painting reflects in its form a temple’s parallelism. The inner rectangle is the temple’s interior with a sanctum comprising its centre. The sanctum consists of an arched opening with a tower-like super-structure rising over elaborately sculpted and carved columns. It is flanked by a square with bands on sides, on the right and the left, symbolising subordinate chambers for deity’s other images, closeted within walls on three sides. The layout provides dually for circumambulating passages, around the sanctum and each of the deity-chambers, and conjointly around the entire interior. The outer walls, represented as the outward passage ringing around, symbolises the four outer walls sculpted with themes from the life of Ganesh, and those from the lives of his father Lord Shiva and mother Parvati.
The ‘Pancha-mukha’ : five-faced, and ten-armed is the form of Lord Ganesh enshrining the sanctum. Not exactly in a dance-mode, the elephant god has allowed his body to slightly tilt to left aesthetically relieving it from monotonous dullness. He is holding in his right side hands axe, mace, lotus, rosary and broken tusk, and in those on the left, snake, ‘danda’ : rod, bow, battle-axe with a tall handle and large blade and a basket of ‘laddus’. The great snake Vasuki is tied around his belly, known as Naga-bandha, and a loincloth and a sash unfurling on sides, his sole costume. The deity is attended by a couple of female devotees. The artist has conceived the form of Ganesh with both styles of trunk-forms. The trunk of the central face is turned to usual left, the ‘edampuri’ pose as it is known, but two of them are tuned also to right, the ‘valampuri pose’. Somewhat unusual for the iconography of Ganesh, in most of his images in the painting Lord Ganesh has been represented with his trunk turned to right.
The spaces flanking the sanctum on the right and the left consist of a square, a horizontal band on the square’s top, and another, on its bottom, each consisting of four octagonal windows which various forms of Lord Ganesh enshrine, and a vertical column on the extreme right and another, on the extreme left, both divided into three parts, each represented as an arched window. A set of two concentric circles, an inner and an outer, define both squares, that is, on the right of the sanctum, and the left. The outer circles consist of sixteen identical arched windows each, enshrining sixteen tiny figures of Lord Ganesh engaged in dance. His image in the inner circle on the right varies, however, from that on the left. His figure on the right is four-armed and is in mode of dance with his consorts, Riddhi and Buddhi, in his arms, while that on the left, is six-armed. Here Lord Ganesh is seated unattended, in ‘lalitasana’ on a high seat. Lord Ganesh, in the right side circle, carries no attribute; in that on the left side, he carries in five of his six hands a snake, battle-axe, rosary, goads and ‘damaru’ – double drum, and the sixth is held in ‘varad’. The figures in columns on the top, bottom and back of the two squares, are largely identical, mostly dancing or playing on a musical instrument. The peripheral bands, comprising thirty-two windows, illustrate Shiva family, Vishnu, Indra among others paying homage, persuading him to perhaps marry and beget a son, and legends from the life of Ganesh, especially related to the strange circumstances of his birth.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.