The Puranas perceived arrogance that Lord Ganesha in his Ekadanta manifestation commands as the aspect of personality that breeds non-acceptance and thereby disharmony with the world and thus with oneself for one is not only destined to live in it but is himself the world, its microcosmic form. Hence, arrogance does not target so much beyond as within oneself. Lord Ganesha as Ekadanta vanquishes arrogance and breeds and nourishes harmony with the world around, the people and the environs. Mythically, Ekadanta eliminates diversions and promotes singleness of mind and symbolises utmost sacrifice to help the righteous as also to punish the wicked. A single tusked form apart, almost a universal feature of his iconography occurring invariably in most of his images, the moon-related myth gave to his image also another most salient feature, the ‘nag-bandha’ – a bellyband consisting of a serpent, mythically the serpent Vasuki. While punishing moon for its arrogance he also punished Vasuki by tying it around his belly for frightening his mount mouse that throwing him away ran for life.
In every form Lord Ganesha is the custodian of knowledge and promoter of learning; however, as Ekadanta his role as the patron of literature is outstanding. As one of the traditions in regard to his single tusk form has it, it was for scribing the great epic Mahabharata that he had removed one of his tusks. After great persuasion sage Vyasa agreed to compose the great epic but on condition that he would dictate it nonstop and wanted someone who recorded it uninterrupted. Lord Ganesha agreed but when taking dictation his pen broke. Pressed under the condition he removed one his tusks and noted with it the rest of the epic. The myth affords the rationale not only as to why the worship of Ganesh precedes the worship of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, when a child begins schooling, but also as to why, till recent times before the use of ivory was legally banned for minimizing cruelty against the innocent animal, an ivory pen was considered as the most prestigious tool of learning.
Dually auspicious and effective, the image, conceived with a huge pot-like belly, combines along with his Ekadanta form his Lambodara and Mahodara manifestations that vanquish infatuation and anger, the two most injurious weaknesses in human nature. Manifesting either as Lambodara or Mahodara – the forms with extra large belly, Lord Ganesha is believed to contain all the universes within it, unfathomable knowledge and all stores of riches. Highly auspicious and delightfully modeled, both forms bless the devotee with natural wisdom, great common sense, ability to face every crisis, and with abundant riches.
Except a variation or two in the attributes that the two forms carry, the two images are almost identical, being four-armed, carrying in normal right hand the broken tusk, ‘modak’ in one of the other hands and a pot in the knotted trunk, and a large pot belly often tied with a serpent comprising a bellyband, alike characteristic of both forms. In other two hands, Ekadanta carries rosary and battle-axe, and Lambodara, noose and goad. The pot : ‘purna-ghata’ is symbolic of accomplishment which the great Lord makes possible. In both manifestations the figure of Lord Ganesha is voluminous cast with bold but highly balanced forms. Hence, ‘utkut akasana’, as this brass-image has, is the best suited sitting mode for these forms. Installed on a three-tiered high pedestal consisting of an octagonal base moulding adorned with lotus forms, a plain narrower one in the middle, and another, as large as the base moulding, on the top, the figure of Lord Ganesha has its thighs straightened as if to support the belly’s volume and bulk on them. In both manifestations the figure of the elephant god has an average height and is adorned with few ornaments, a modest crown and often just a loincloth.
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.