For regulating the iconographic forms of his image the Puranas classified them under certain types on the basis of anatomical variations, body colours and postures and the attributes that an icon carried. However, this multi-form iconographic blend was also a Puranic cult for it helped devotee to perceive in one image a series of his forms that he lauded in the course of his worship by chanting his ‘nama-mantras’ – hymns lauding him by his various names. The idea was simple : the devotee had in sanctum one image, and in his ‘mantra’ – sacred syllable, many, appearing in a sequence. When he commemorated one name after the other, the forms of Ganesha that these names represented reeled one-by-one before his mind’s eyes, though the image in the sanctum was fixed. As for example, when he commemorated ‘AUM Ekadantay namah’, the mind’s eye saw his single tusked form, and when he reached ‘AUM Lambodaray namah’, there reeled before his mind’s eye his form with a pot like large belly. Perhaps in appreciation of this basic perception a deity-image was conceived to represent his more forms than one enabling the devotee to realise in one image their multiplicity.
The basic form of Lord Ganesha in this image is Haridra Ganapati, the gold-hued and yellow-clad Lord with a divine composure defining his face. The four-armed Haridra Ganapati holds in his hands elephant goad, noose, broken tusk and ‘modaka’. In minor variation Ganapati in this image holds a ‘modaka-patra’ – pot containing a larger quantity of ‘modakas’ or ‘laddus’, not just one piece. The term ‘modaka’ is composed of two terms ‘moda’, meaning bliss or absolute absorption of mind, and ‘ka’, means ‘giver’ that which gives it, that is, ‘modaka’ stands for ‘bliss’ and correspondingly, the basket of ‘modakas’ for absolute bliss, which is obviously ‘moksha’ or liberation. Hence, symbolically in Ganapati iconography ‘modaka’ symbolises liberation and ‘moksha’. Perhaps for greater emphasis on this image-kind, the artist has substituted a single ‘laddu’ with a pot full of them. Haridra Ganapati is usually conceived as seated on a royal throne. In this image he rides his ‘Musaka’ – mouse. Haridra Ganapati is worshipped for protecting crops which mice or rats harm most. In this image he reins his mouse, and thereby all them, to a right conduct and not to harm crops or grains.
For greater auspiciousness and wider influence the image incorporates some prominent aspects of other forms too. All images of Lord Ganesha have a large belly but cast like a round pot collected over the waist, as in this image, is essentially an aspect of his form as Lambodara – the large-bellied one. Though not one of the early thirty-two forms, his Lambodara form had a highly venerated place in early ‘Nama-mantras’ and was accordingly invoked. Ekadanta, sometimes invoked as ‘Bhagnadanta’ – one-tusked or broken tusked, symbolising single minded concentration for achieving an objective, is Lord Ganesha’s another most significant form. His mode of sitting with his legs sprawling irregularly on his mount’s back, identified in classical tradition as ‘utkuta akasana’, and his mount mouse being his seat, a form revealing utmost happiness, are aspects of his form as Srashti Ganapati.
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.