The atmosphere of secrecy surrounding these images, 'and, in general, everything associated with the god, explains why, in the Buddhist pantheon, he is one of the very rare deities who inspires fear in the Japanese'. Kangi-ten is represented by effigies, generally small; these are usually of metal (due to immersions in oil), but wood is not excluded. His image is sometimes found at the centre of the rings of the stave of a pilgrim (khakkara), in the place of the small stupa usually found there: this indicates that the pilgrim belongs to a Tantric sect. Kangi-ten may represent a fairly large number of forms that can be classed under two main headings: esoteric and exoteric forms.
Esoteric forms : Kangi-ten has a dual nature, especially in Tantrism. He is therefore represented by two human figures with the heads of elephants, face to face and tightly interlaced. Their sexual organs are occasionally apparent and joined (as is the case in this particular sculpture). They wear a cloth thrown over the shoulders, and their hips are also covered. The feminine element wears a simple crown (or tiara), jewels and bracelets, and her feet step on those of her partner. This feminine body is supposed to be a metamorphosis assumed by Avalokitesvara to contain the fearful energy of Vinayaka (Ganesha) and to make it beneficial. Her right tusk is broken. Both bodies are white. At least three forms are known :
1. Heads cheek to cheek and looking in the same direction, trunks intertwined.
2. Heads resting on the right shoulder of the complementary deity, and looking in opposite directions. This form is of the sculpture in question.
3. The male with an elephant's head, and the female with that of a wild sow (very rare and secret).
These forms are worshipped secretly because they are supposed to possess terrifying power. They are carefully sheltered from view in small portable sanctuaries (Japanese - zushi) in the temples of the esoteric sects.
Exoteric forms : These forms usually consist of a single male figure, without a female counterpart. They are less secret and are usually venerated by individuals who attribute great power to them. They may assume several forms :
1. A single human figure with an elephant's head (Ganapati). He is seated, with two arms, and holds various omaments: in the right hand a Japanese radish (daikon), in the left a ball of thread, a parasol, a bow and arrows, a rosary and a sword.
2. With four arms and four legs (sometimes Tantric ). In his right hands he holds an axe, a ball of thread (sometimes on a tray) or a rope and a trident. In his left hands he holds an elephant's tusk or a stick, or an axe and a single-pointed vajra.
3. With six arms. His head is turned to the left, the trunk raised, the right tusk broken, the body orange or red. In his right hands he holds a stick, a rope, an elephant's tusk (or a needle). In his left hands he holds a sword, a tray of fruit (or a ball of thread) and a cakra.
4. Standing on a rock, with four arms. In his right hands he carries an axe and a ball of thread, and in his left hands a rope and a knife.
5. Standing on a rock, with six arms. His right hands hold a five-pointed vajra, a rope and a sceptre or a stick. His left hands hold a sword with the hilt ornamented with a five-pointed vajra, a ball of thread and a cakra.
These forms are far from being the only ones, because not all of them are known, and the significance of their attributes is also unknown. Kangi-ten is specially venerated in the Matsuchiyama sanctuary at Asakusa, Tokyo, and in the Ikoma sanctuary in Nara.
He does not appear to have been the object of a special cult in Tibet; in fact, his image is found only in the form of Ganesa, as a demon, holding a flower, a rat or a skull cap, under the feet of one of the forms of Mahakala. His cult does not appear to be attested in China, although it is almost certain that this complex deity was venerated secretly in the temples of the esoteric sects. Not even a single image of him from China is, however, known to exist.