Besides what is visually represented the statue, when read between the lines, seems to reveal something which the mind would now hardly concede. There was a phase in the growth of Hindu theology when the worship of ‘ling’ was widely targeted. Not only was seen emerging in defense a huge body of Shaivite and Shakta texts with innumerable myths and legends, number of Shaivite institutions to include one like the seat of Shankaracharya and the rise of ‘Ling-pithas’ : the twelve ‘Jyotirling’ shrines , but was also brought to forefront the Shiva’s son, the most innocent and lovable deity Ganesha, a composite form uniting two worlds : human and animal, and animal, the most mighty but as much innocent, sportive, vegetarian and harmless, not resorting to violence unless provoked. The Ganapati cult was soon so popular that from around the seventh century no shrine-structure : Shaivite, Vaishnava, and sometimes even Jain, was constructed without a Ganapati icon as its ‘lalat-bimba’ – lintel. This statue, with a firmly stationed Ganesha, not a formal image but a realistic ‘Pratihara’ – guardian of the Shiva-ling, might be seen as a symbolic representation of the Ganesha-cult supporting Shaivite line.
This aspect further reflects in the statue. In its standard format a ‘Shiva-ling’ icon consists of two components, the ‘ling’ and the ‘yoni-pitha’ – pedestal symbolic of ‘yoni’ or vulva, being its base which contains it. However, unlike its standard form in this statue the ‘ling’ icon is not contained by the ‘yoni-pitha’. On the contrary, the ‘ling’ holds the ‘yoni’ icon on its middle and across it and further, across a disc, symbolic of the earth, descends into the earth’s womb. As is the mythical position, this transforms the dimensions of ‘ling’ into endless ‘ling’ which is the cosmic ‘jyoti’, elevating the ‘ling’ to the status of ‘Jyotirling’, the immeasurable light in the myth the ends of which neither of Brahma and Vishnu could find. Vine-motifs, symbolic of ‘prakriti’ – nature, carved on the rising of the disc and the base it stands on further emphasize their cosmic symbolism. The artist seems to proclaim that far beyond a sense-organ, or the symbolism denotative of the act of copulation and the incessant procreative principle, the ‘Shiva-ling’ is the eternal endless ‘Jyoti’ : the life on the cosmos.
The statue consists primarily of four parts : the ‘ling’ proper with ‘yoni’, the ‘tri-punda’ mark and the ‘tri-netra’, carved prominently on its face, defining its ‘Shiva-ling’ as well as the statue’s ‘Mukha-ling’ identity; the image of Lord Ganesha on its left; a squarish base consisting of three mouldings, base and top being plain, that in the middle adorned with vine decorative patterns, and a half circular moulding just under the ‘ling’ icon, its proper base; and, a circular ‘prabhavali’ with a prominent Kirttimukha motif atop. The height of the ‘Shiva-ling’ has been so conceived that Lord Ganesha’s arm held on it aligns to it on the ninety degree angle. On the left, the ‘prabhavali’ merges with the figure of Lord Ganesha. The ‘prabhavali’ symbolizes cosmos and Lord Ganesha is cosmos manifest. Obviously where there is Ganesha ‘prabhavali’ or any motif symbolizing cosmos becomes irrelevant and merges into him. The pot-bellied Ganesha has large ears, wears a loincloth made from tiger skin and a floral disc behind his head. Held over his left shoulder his sash extends across his figure to his right and covers the ‘yoni-pitha’ part of the ‘Shiva-ling’. Conditioned by contemporary norms, the artist mind might have conceived his image of Lord Ganesha with a son’s mind.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.