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Ganesha is usually depicted either as a pictograph or as an idol with the body of a man and the head of an elephant. His unique feature, besides the elephant head, is the large belly practically falling over his lower garment. On his chest, across his left shoulder, is his sacred thread, in the form of a snake. The vehicle of Ganesha is the mouse, seen here paying obeisance to his lord.
According to the strict rules of Hindu iconography, Ganesha figures with only two hands are taboo. Hence, Ganesha figures are most commonly seen with four hands which signify their divinity.
His pot belly signifies the bounty of nature and also that Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the Universe and protects the world.
The image of Ganesha is a composite one. Four animals viz., man, elephant, the serpent and the mouse have contributed for the makeup of his figure. All of them individually and collectively have deep symbolic significance. The image of Ganesha thus represents man's eternal striving towards integration with nature. He has to be interpreted taking into consideration the fact that though millenniums rolled by, man yet remains closer to animal today than he was ever before.
Ganesha's trunk is a symbol of his discrimination (viveka), a most important quality necessary for spiritual progress. The elephant uses its trunk to push down a massive tree, carry huge logs to the river and for other heavy tasks. The same huge trunk is used to pick up a few blades of grass, to break a small coconut, remove the hard nut and eat the soft kernel inside. The biggest and minutest of tasks are within the range of this trunk which is symbolic of Ganesha's intellect and his powers of discrimination.
This is a paata painting. Pata is a Sanskrit derivation which literally means canvas so pata-painting means a scroll painting on canvas. The art of Pata Painting (or pata chitra) is practiced by the artists of Orissa, a state on the Eastern Coast of India.
The painter first chooses two pieces (generally tussar silk) of cloth and he sticks the pieces together by means of a paste prepared from tamarind seeds. They are then dried in the sun.
The tamarind paste is traditionally prepared as follows: The tamarind seeds are first kept in water for two to three days. When the seeds swell and become soft, these are ground with a pestle stone till the formation of a jelly like substance. In an earthen pot some water is poured along with this substance which is finally heated into a paste. The pieces of cloth thus pasted into one become a Patti.The Patti may be of an area of a few square meters. After the Patti is dried it is rolled up and from this roll, pieces of pata are cut and utilised for individual paintings.
The colors are hand prepared by the artists from natural ingredients like china-clay, soft clay(chalk), conch shell, red stone etc. The black color is prepared from charcoal powder. For white, the artists use sea shells which are available in plenty on the sea shores of Orissa, the home of pata paintings. The sea-shells are powdered and the powder is kept mixed with some water for two days.The mixture is stirred properly until it becomes soft and milky. This milky liquid is then heated with the gum of Kaitha fruit (Feromia Elephantum). The paste thus prepared is then dried in the sun to form a solid substance.
Black color is prepared by holding an earthen plate over the smoke of a burning wick. The soot thus collected at the bottom of the plate is thickened to a black substance. This is mixed with the gum of Kaitha fruit when used as black color in painting.
Green color typically is prepared from the juice of green leaves which is boiled and gum is mixed in the same proportion.
The materials used by these artists are totally of an indigenous character. To unite the colors they utilise wooden bowls made of dried coconut shells. The coarse brush is prepared from the root of a local plant called keya. Hairs of brushes are collected from a buffalo's neck, more fine brushes require the hair of mouse. These brushed are fixed to wooden handles. They are usually kept in the quivers made out of a hollow joint of a thick bamboo tree. The brushes may also be sometimes stored in leather cases or in dried pumpkin bowls.
It is truly said of these Pata paintings that " Strange is this world of Pata paintings, a world in itself, where every article and ornament keeps its unchanging shape, its place and importance, where every animal has its own stylized features, every personality its unerring marks of identification defined by the ancient texts, religious myths and local tradition. It is a world of myths and gods, but still more it is a world of folk imagination, the reflection of thinking and of the mental scope of millions of Indian peasants, fishermen and craftsmen, their joys, their hardships, binding faith and exacting beauty. So the paintings speak the language of their creators, they give realistic expression, a clear symbol, humorous details. They are familiar to the eye, close to the heart, bringing joy and expressing life".
Indeed the immensity of life and the diversity of the divine come together and stand in one in these Pata paintings.