With inclusion of some of the significant Vaishnava elements : mace, lotus and crown, this exceptionally cute and colourfully conceived image of Lord Ganesha presents a delightful blend of two traditions, the Vaishnavite and Shaivite. A towering crown, usually multi-tiered, often associated with Vishnu in consideration of his regal position, is as much an essential, and perhaps more natural and aesthetically strong feature of the Ganapati iconography. In Ganapati images a spiral crown with graded rise also has an aesthetic aspect. With its upwards rise and great splendour it aptly balances his downwards descending massive trunk. A bald-headed elephant trunk planted on a human torso would be aesthetically a weak image.
A formal lotus seat comprising stylized lotus motifs is also associated with a number of classical forms of Lord Ganesha; however a lotus flower affording him a seat in its realistic form as here in this statue is more widely a feature of the iconography of Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s consort. Only in his manifestation as Sankatahara Ganapati Lord Ganesha has been conceived as seated on a lotus flower. In this statue he is seated on a thousand-petalled lotus so prominent that it appears to be a row of two or more flowers. Mace is a new addition in the attributes that Lord Ganesha carried. The form, a half quadrangle which emerges, creates a pleasant geometry. This synthesis of two sets, and thus, of two sectarian lines, was not casual. From around seventh-eighth centuries Lord Ganesha, though Shiva’s son, was the model of sectarian synthesis of Vaishnava and Shaiva sects. He enjoyed equal reverence in Jain and Buddhist pantheons too.
This statue of Lord Ganesha does not adhere in its exactness to a specific class of his images as early texts elaborated; however, a sublime image pursuing best of classical models and iconographic standards set in early Puranas for figural anatomy, body-colour, profile and posture, and divinity that it breathes, it reveals a rare feeling of classicism. The image’s gold-like lustrous complexion, six arms, set of attributes carried in them, style of trunk, ears, ensemble and ornaments and sitting posture, all have behind them centuries’ long traditions. It is a form which eyes love to see, though scripts do not have a class to put it into, perhaps because it is a class by itself.
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.