Except a minor variation that begins appearing in later Puranas themselves, this image of Lord Ganesh has been conceived and carved pursuing in every exactness the standard format of Srashti Ganapati imagery. Srashti Ganapati is a four-armed form of Lord Ganesh carrying in them elephant goad, noose and ‘bhagna-danta’ – broken tusk. In initial iconography he carried in his fourth hand a ripe mango which in subsequent versions was alternated by ‘modaka’, perhaps by being identical, or ‘modaka’ being assuredly sweet, and hence, a constant source of release and redemption for in Ganapati iconography sweet symbolised release or ‘moksha’, and both, mango and ‘modaka’ being its source alternated without affecting the image’s symbolic dimensions. Some texts perceive him as carrying a ‘japamala’ – rosary, another ladder of release and ‘moksha’. This image of Srashti Ganapati has further magnified this aspect by replacing a single piece of ‘modaka’ by a basket of them.
In all kinds of images the mouse is Lord Ganesh’s regular mount whether he rides it or keeps stationed. Not a mere symbol of tiny size, Srashti Ganapati rides a mouse of larger size that takes its load happily in friendliness and the auspicious elephant god sits on its back in absolute ease. Appropriately sized the mouse in this image is in great jubilation in holding on its back it Master, and with his both legs squatting, a sitting posture identified in iconographic tradition as ‘utkuta akasana’, Srashti Ganapati is seated on its back in full comfort and complete ease. The artist of this piece has ingeniously retained the wood’s natural colour : the deep brown, for it is close to red which, as prescribed in early Puranas, is the body-colour of Srashti Ganapati.
The artist has not added any subordinate imagery : Prabhavali etc., for enhancing his role as Srashti Ganapati; however, in his image itself some aspects have been meaningfully magnified. With large pot-like belly he treasures ocean’s riches and entire knowledge into his being, and as Ekadanta the image is endowed with single minded concentration and with the power to sacrifice ‘self’ : both being significantly useful dimensions of Srashti Ganapati who creates and sustains. A sense of unique symmetry, suggestive of cosmic balance, the very basis of creation, defines his right and left sides : ears, shoulders, position of legs, forms of elephant goad and noose among others. In his ‘dhoti’ – lower wear, fully covering the legs Lord Ganesh looks like a Brahmin or ‘pandita’ as he is sometimes called. In the superb craftsmanship of the wood-piece over-adornment has not been allowed as it could encumber it or make monotonous and subordinate its aesthetic aspect.
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.