Most skillfully, the artist has created all faces without sacrificing any of their essential components. A part or whole of the face in the centre on the obverse could be covered by the trunk of the face above it but it has been so skillfully turned upwards that neither it covers the face below not itself looks unrealistic. It covers a part of the crown of the central face : an essential element of Ganesha’s iconography, but the artist has created a tiny crown-form in the recessed part and thus beautifully compensated for the loss. The ears of the faces on sides could hinder the vision of the central face. He has hence so created the ears of the central face that they serve also as the ears for the faces on sides. The concept has been repeated verbatim on the reverse. Barring some forms, as the curves of hands turned to the obverse side, a flat back in place of a pot-belly, or the obverse-side turned feet, the image appears to be a well accomplished form of Ganapati in his three-faced manifestation identified in the tradition as Trimukha Ganapati. Perhaps not needed to be added, this dual manifestation of Lord Ganesha is dually auspicious and extends the benignity of the Great Lord in all directions.
Both forms, manifesting in the sculpture, Heramba Ganapati and Trimukha Ganapati, are two of the early thirty-two classical forms of Lord Ganesha that early texts, such as Mudgala Purana, Ganesha Purana, Ganesha Kosha among others, enumerate. Though iconography of Ganesha never allowed rigidity and besides the overlapping of forms – one overlapping the other, there has been a lot of experimentation in his image form, each of these early thirty-two forms of Lord Ganesha revealed a formal and spiritual distinction. The Pancha-mukha – five faced form of Lord Ganesha that this classical tradition identifies as Heramba Ganapati, is considered as one of Ganesha’s most mystic forms. Protector of the weak, bestowing bliss and effecting release, with his five faces and ten arms he is believed to pervade entire cosmos, all spaces and every direction, the worlds below and the skies above.
This image of Lord Ganesha carries in its ten hands, largely as texts prescribe for Heramba Ganapati image, elephant goads in two hands, and in the rest axe, broken tusk, laddu, hammer, hook, dagger and in other two, one on the right and other on the left, flowers, perhaps lotuses. This image has been carved in the wood’s natural colour symbolic of the colourless white, the body-complexion of Heramba Ganapati. The statue of Lord Ganesha has been installed on a lotus-pedestal, a substitute for lotus which according to some texts is the usual seat of Heramba Ganapati. Lotus symbolises abundance, prosperity, fertility and riches, and thereby benevolence of Lord Ganesha. The medallion on the pedestal’s forearm represents a tiny icon of mouse, Lord Ganesha’s mount. His ten arms, five on either side, carved in perfect symmetry, surge as does a flag in mild winds. The statue has been carved with fine details. Ripples-like pleated antariya, exceptionally ornamental sash releasing from around his waist, a broad girdle composed of phalis and beaded laces supporting the antariya, belly-band and the ‘naga-bandha’ – serpent-band tied around the belly, the Vaijayanti like long lace with decorative frill, and every piece of other ornaments, all are simply gorgeous.
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.