Ganesha is depicted here with the body of a man and the head of an elephant, having only one tusk. His unique feature, besides the elephant head, is the large belly practically falling over his lower garment. On his chest, across his left shoulder, is his sacred thread. The vehicle of Ganesha is the mouse seen here paying obeisance to his lord.
According to the strict rules of Hindu iconography, Ganesha figures with only two hands are taboo. Hence, Ganesha figures are most commonly seen with four hands which signify their divinity.
His pot belly signifies the bounty of nature and also that Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the Universe and protects the world.
Ganesha's large head is symbolic of the wisdom of the elephant. His large ears, like the winnow, sift the bad from the good. Although they hear everything, they retain only that which is good; they are attentive to all requests made by the devotees, be they humble or powerful.
An intriguing aspect of Ganesha's iconography is his broken tusk, leading to the appellation Ekdanta, Ek meaning one and danta meaning teeth. It carries an interesting legend behind it:
Ganesha was asked to scribe down the epic of Mahabharata, dictated to him by its author, sage Vyasa. Taking into note the enormity and significance of the task, Ganesha realized the inadequacy of any ordinary 'pen' to undertake the task. He thus broke one of his own tusks and made a pen out of it. The lesson offered here is that no sacrifice is big enough in the pursuit of knowledge.
It is this episode that is illustrated in this artwork.
The little mouse whom Ganesha is supposed to ride upon is another enigmatic feature in his iconography. At a first glance it seems strange that the lord of wisdom has been granted a humble obsequious mouse quite incapable of lifting the bulging belly and massive head that he possesses. But it implies that wisdom is an attribute of ugly conglomeration of factors and further that the wise do not find anything in the world disproportionate or ugly.
This is a batik painting. Batik is a medium that lies somewhere between art and craft, and is believed to be at least 2000 years old.
The technique of batik is a demanding one. In general, the final design must be conceived before the picture is begun. The batik artist works intimately with color; if he wishes parts of his design to be light yellow, for example, all these parts must be waxed at the same time before any subsequent dyeing. He cannot isolate one part of his design and complete it before moving on to the others as an artist in oils or watercolor may. He must create his design in stages, each of which encompasses the whole picture.
The basic process of batik is simple. It consists of permeating an area of fabric with hot wax so that the wax resists the penetration of dye.
If the cloth we begin with is white, such as bleached cotton, linen, or silk, then wherever we apply hot wax that area will remain white in the final design. After the first waxing the fabric is dipped into a dye bath whose color is the lightest tone of those to be used. When the piece has dried, we see an area of white and an area of cloth that is the color of the first dyeing. Wax is now applied to those parts in which we wish to retain the first color, and the entire fabric is immersed in the second dye bath whose color is darker in tone than the first. This process is repeated until the darkest tone required in the final design has been achieved. When the fabric, now almost wholly waxed, has dried it is placed between sheets of absorbent paper and a hot iron applied. As the sheets of paper absorb the wax they are replaced by fresh sheets until the wax is removed. At this point the final design is seen clearly for the first time.
As with painting, color is an integral part of batik. A painter uses pigment; a batik artist uses dyes. The Painter can, if he chooses, completely obliterate an undesirable color by covering it with another color. Perhaps he must wait until the unwanted color is dry, but there is no doubt about it, he has another chance, he can cover up his mistake.
In batik the correction of mistakes, in most cases, is impossible. The Painter is not limited in any way in the variety of colors he uses and juxtaposes. In batik, however, each color used is significantly changed by the proceeding color; or at least it is certainly affected by the color "underneath". The only pure color is the first one, so all other colors used are mixtures, determined largely by the first color, or the first strong color.