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Both images of Lord Ganesha, contained in the two-tiered fire-arch, are four-armed and in ‘lalitasana’. The left-turning posture of the trunk in both images, known in scriptural tradition as ‘edampuri’, is also identical. A ‘laddu’ is a common attribute that the both trunks carry. The attributes : goad, noose, broken tusk, and a mango motif, that the four hands carry, so also the order of carrying them : goad and noose in upper hands and broken tusk and mango in the lower, are also the same. In both images the elephant god is pot-bellied, has large well unfurling ears and meditative eyes, and is identically bejeweled. Both images have identically conceived large temple-tower-like crowns and an elegantly designed band around the belly. Conceived with slightly different design-patterns, the dimensions of the fire-arches in rising perspective, that is, on sides, are similar, though they reveal considerable variation in their apexes, both in height and forms.
Despite these similarities the iconographic vision of the two images appears to be different, the bottom image manifesting him as Ekadanta, while the upper one, as Tryakshara Ganapati, both forms being largely alike. Ekadanta, as well as Tryakshara Ganapati, are usually four-armed forms of Ganesha, both being pot-bellied and both carrying the broken tusk in his normal right hand as here in these images, though in Ekadanta form it is a feature defining the image kind, whereas in the other, it is merely one of the broad attributes of the image. In Ekadanta form other attributes vary, though more usually these are axe, ‘laddu’ and often a rosary; in Tryakshara form these are goad, noose and mango, and these attributes rarely vary. Both, Ekadanta and Tryakshara Ganapati, have been conceived as lotus-seated, though in this artifact, only Ekadanta is lotus-seated whereas, perhaps for breaking monotony, Tryakshara Ganapati has been conceived as riding his mount mouse.
Ekadanta manifestation of Lord Ganesha, one of his initial eight forms enumerated in various Puranas, the Mudgala Purana in particular, is believed to prevail over man’s arrogance or ‘moda’, one of man’s eight major weaknesses, the other seven being pride, jealousy, infatuation, greed, anger, lust, and possessiveness or ego. These initial eight manifestations of the elephant god are believed to prevail over these eight weaknesses. Arrogance breeds non-acceptance and hence disharmony with the world one is destined to live in. Ekadanta Ganapati vanquishes this arrogance and makes life harmonious. Ekadanta Ganapati is also the patron of literature. It is said that it was for scribing the great epic Mahabharata, when sage Vyasa dictated it, that Ganapati had removed one of his tusks and using it as pen recorded it. Actually two things are hardly different. Only a harmonious mind might sing of life and the world. Hence, whether Ekadanta vanquishes arrogance or blesses with the ability to sing and write are only two faces of the same coin.
Tryakshara Ganapati is the Lord of the sacred syllable AUM, its form, sound and pervasion, the aspects that the holy syllable manifests. ‘A’ of the holy syllable, the essential component of all letters, is present in all sounds, ‘U’, the holy syllable’s middle part, defines descent, and ‘M’, its end-part, ascent of all sounds. Thus all sounds exist in AUM, and rise and fall by it, that is, the sound in every form is a mere transform of AUM which Lord Ganesha as Tryakshara Ganapati manifests in his body and form, ‘A’ manifesting his lower part – the total movement, enabling all sounds to move and travel, ‘U’, his belly that expands horizontally as well as vertically – the character of ‘U’ sound, and ‘M’, his head, ascendance being the character of both, head and ‘M’. And, there where Tryakshara Ganapati presides, the sacred syllable AUM defines the ambience, which symbolizes the abundance of life and its growth – something which the plant motifs carved as fire-arches around the two figures, and the parrot couple indicate.
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.