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This magnificent brass-cast, details unbelievably fine for a metal-cast, as fine as carved out of a piece of ivory – equally precise, uniform, well-defined and appropriately conceived for each part, represents the elephant god Lord Ganesha, the god of auspiciousness and good, who accomplishes everything without obstacle leading to optimum success. His image has been conceived with four arms carrying in the upper ones a battle-axe and noose, in normal right, his broken tusk besides imparting ‘abhay’ – freedom from fear, and in the normal left, a coconut. In classical vocabulary of Ganapati iconography the image is a synthesis primarily of three forms, Vakra-tunda – one with a curved trunk, Ekadanta – one with single tusk, and Bhakti Ganapati – the devoted one. In one of his hands he is holding a coconut which is essentially a feature of Bhakti Ganapati iconography. In none of his other classical forms he carries coconut, the most sacred fruit for making offering. The Lord of all three worlds, whose priority in worship over all other gods Vishnu himself prescribed, Ganesha is also the humble devotee of his father Shiva, the primary source of his all divine powers.
Besides the rare artistic merit of the image even scripturally this benign blend of Ganesha’s two manifestations is exceptionally significant. When commemorating with the sacred syllable ‘Aum Ekadantay Namah’, the single-tusked elephant god ends duality, leads to one-pointed mind, singleness of object, and guides to the right path. The Ekadanta form of Ganesha also suggests that he would not hesitate in sacrificing even one of his body parts for accomplishing a devotee’s prayer. With his long curved trunk Vakratunda reaches far off regions – known or unknown, all directions, every object and all devotees, however full of curves is their path. Commemorated with the hymn ‘Aum Vakratunday hum’ the remover of evil Vakratunda straightens the crooked ways of those with curved and cruel minds and bestows bliss. Bhakti Ganapati breeds humility, freedom from arrogance and ego and is symbolic of an incessant will to serve. Goading to right path, not penalizing any, is the essence of Ganapati. A compassionate bearing and a pleasant face, as in this image, thus define the overall iconographic vision of Ganesha. A noose is one of his most favoured attributes for it is by his noose that he holds evil to let the good prevail.
A pleasant blend of different forms this image of Lord Ganesha, rare in lustre and as much ornate in character, is exceptionally simplified and lovable. There enshrines on its face benignity, celestial calm and composure. Usually modeled with a large pot belly, flabby build and disproportionate anatomy this figure of Lord Ganesha is exceptionally balanced. The belly does not have such volume as rendered it cumbersome; the feet and hands are a bit heavy but fingers, especially nails, are tall and delicate. The trunk is a bit elongated but not unrealistically curved or knotted. Its middle part has been adorned beautifully using a floral-chain design but its upper and end parts are plain affording pleasant breathing space. The image has been cast with an elaborate forehead that an auspicious ‘bindi’ – circular mark, and a trident motif define.
Lord Ganesha has been represented as enshrining a gorgeous tall throne raised over four exceptionally ornamented legs and with a moderately sized fire-arch with Mahakala motif atop. Mahakala, the God of time who ultimately claims all things and is above them all, stands for God's triple Act, creation, preservation and dissolution and is obviously an extension of Ganapati’s conventional imagery. Except a pair of a tiny icon – a blend of the forms of elephant and crocodile, Mahakala figure has been conceived like the auspicious Shrimukha. The circular arch, the main component of the arched back of the throne has been as beautifully conceived and cast. With his right leg suspending below, and the left, stretched towards the right in semi-yogasana posture, a sitting mode known in iconographic tradition as ‘lalitasana’ – a form revealing great aesthetic beauty, the lovable Lord Ganesha is in absolute ease. A hooded serpent, symbolic of timeless life, around his belly serves as his belly-band – Naga-bandha. Besides his beautifully incised crown and its hallo-like looking back and elegant jewelry the ‘antariya’ that Lord Ganesha is wearing is exceptionally beautiful.
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.