Drum is the instrument associated with Shiva. He is said to have breathed life into the dead mass, which lay scattered after the Great Deluge was over, and enliven it with the beats of his ‘damaru’, the double or the two-sided drum. In later tradition, while this two-sided drum remained in prevalence, its two sides separated and there emerged drum-pair, one tall and other flat, the former vibrating the vertical spaces, and the latter, horizontal. An accomplished drummer, Ganesh is containing the flat drum, also known as female drum, within his inward turned left leg, and the taller, along the fold of the right. His pot-belly, almost fitted in between the two instruments, affords them solid support. His entire figure is inclined to left, perhaps to afford to the female drum incessant, more forceful, and strenuous and louder beats.
The flute was Krishna’s, and thereby Vishnu’s, instrument by which he subdued evil and wrong incarnated as serpent Kaliya, and effected release. ‘Vina’ or lyre, the stringed instrument was the tool of Saraswati, Brahma’s consort. She vibrated its strings for beauty, creativity, delight and every colour of culture. These three basic instruments represented three sectarian lines of Hinduism : Shaivism, Vaishnavism and the cult of Brahma, which dissolve and synthesize in the form of Lord Ganesh revealing their absolute unity in him.
All three forms of Lord Ganesh in this wood-panel have been carved with a Prabhavali around framing the entire space within. This structure, Prabhavali or whatever, has three divisions, each separated by a large beautifully rendered lotus stretching across the entire breadth and affording for each of the three forms of the elephant god a seat. The form of Lord Ganesh on the bottom has been conceived as playing on a pair of drums, one male, and the other, female, the earliest of the musical instrument in Indian tradition and one of the Creation’s tools. The drum was the essential tool also of dance performed to dissolve as also to delight, and correspondingly, the drum-beats were instrument also of dissolving as well as delighting. As suggest the gesture of his hand and the twist of his figure, the form of Ganesh in the centre has been represented as singing and in simultaneity playing on ‘vina’. Lord Ganesh has been represented in the compartment on the top of the Prabhavali as blowing his flute. In all three positions he has been portrayed as seated in semi-cross-legged posture revealing complete ease. Ganesh is believed to be the first accomplished Master of music who not only composed various 'ragas' and other musical disciplines but also wrote the ever first treatise on music.
In stark contrast to his usual four or multi-armed images carrying in them various attributes, mostly some kind of weapons, these all three figures have been conceived with normal two arms engaged in playing on one instrument or other, and none of them carrying any of the usual weapons or attributes. Deeper lines on the forehead, swelled trunk, eyes buried in their sockets and ears carved perfectly aligning to the curvatures of the rest of the figure are features common to all icons of Ganesh. Conjointly, the three figures, that on the bottom tilting to left, in the centre, to right, and finally, the one on the top, again to left, reveal unique rhythmic effect. Neatly carved fingers, palms and bejeweled feet in all three images reveal the tenderness of a child's palms and feet. A kind of divine sublimity, intrinsic rhythm bursting out powerfully and yet effortless, and the inherent bliss are the characteristics of all three icons.
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.