The Sanskrt word ‘ekdanta’ is a portmanteau of ‘ek’, which means one, and ‘danta’, which means teeth. The ekdanta or one-toothed roopa (form) of Lord Ganesha is of special literary significance. According to legend, He is the one to have scribed the epic Mahabharata upon the dictation of its author, Sage Veda Vyasa, by turning a piece of His own tusk into a pen.
In the ekdanta Ganesha that you see on this page, the right tusk of the Lord is broken near the very root. The broken bit is pressed by the thumb against the palm of the right anterior hand, leaving the aashirvada (blessing) mudra intact. The rest of Him is the traditional chaturbhujadhari (four-armed) iconography, bedecked with sumptuous silken clothing and adornment aplenty.
Both the front and the back of this composition have been sculpted with great detail and symmetry. The Lord is seated in a rudimentary bhadrasana upon an ornate chowki. Miniature Ganesha figures are carved into its body. To the right of the Lord’s feet is His vahana, the mouse, in utter supplication; while to the left is a kalasha-and-coconut arrangement indispensable to ritual worship.
Obviously, the emphasis is aimed at defining the image as representing
the elephant god’s Ekadanta manifestation. In early texts, like the
Mudgala Purana, Ekadanta Ganapati has been alluded to as one of his
initial eight forms with which the basic classicism of Ganapati
imagery comes into being. These eight primary manifestations of Lord
Ganesh were conceived as prevailing over eight weaknesses inherent to
human nature. Subsequently, the number of such form was expanded into
thirty-two but the significance of his Ekadanta form was never
diluted. Under this classicism Ekadanta Ganapati is believed to defeat
‘moda’ – arrogance or ego that leads the mind to not accept what one
has before him and thus creates disharmony with the world he is
destined to live in. Ekadanta Ganapati vanquishes this arrogance,
which makes life harmonious with one’s world.
Tradition reveres Ganapati as the supreme patron of knowledge and
wisdom; however as Ekadanta he presides over literature, scriptural
knowledge and script. His Ekadanta form-related myths are many;
however, quite relevant among them is one related to writing the great
epic Mahabharata. The Mahabharata-related myth contends that Ekadanta
Ganapati was its scribe. As the tradition has it, gods assigned to
sage Vyasa the responsibility of writing down the Great Epic. Sage
Vyasa accepted it on condition that he was provided with a scribe who
wrote down whatever he spoke uninterrupted. After all others failed,
gods prayed Ganesh for accomplishing the job. Ganesh agreed but on a
counter-condition. He asked that as he would write uninterrupted sage
Vyasa would also dictate non-stop. It is said that in the course of
writing his pen broke. To keep his words, Ganesh broke his right tusk
and using it as pen continued writing and the great text was scribed.
Perhaps thus, the precedence of Ganapati-worship over the worship of
Saraswati, the goddess of learning, might have begun. The myth also
provides the reason as to why, when a child was put into a school, an
ivory pen was considered till recent past as the most auspicious tool
to initiate learning.
A regular feature of the Ekadanta iconography, he has a four-armed
form carrying essentially in the normal right hand his broken tusk as
he has in this brass-cast. Varying a little from the iconographic
tradition, in two of his other hands he is carrying a noose and an
axe, both most artistically designed and cast. In the fourth, Ekadanta
usually carries a rosary, the tool of meditation; contrarily, in this
statue he is carrying a pot of jewels symbolic of riches but also the
unexplored wisdom of which rosary is an effective tool. This form of
Ganapati assimilates with his form also the attributes of Kshipra
Ganapati and Uddanda Ganapati iconographies, at least the pot of
precious jewels, an element used often with these other two forms.
Essentially a votive image, the seat the image enshrines has
consecrated on it a ‘purna-ghata’, and has on its other corner the
Great Lord’s mount mouse blowing a trumpet in the mood of festivity.
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.
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