These seven statues, each an excellent piece of art, carved out of fine Bangai wood, a timber of high grade used for South Indian temple wood carvings now for generations, represent a rapt Ganesha playing on different musical instruments. From left to right, all seven images represent him as playing on ‘mradanga’ – long drum, ‘shahanai’ – large pipe, male-female drum set, flute, ‘vina’ – stringed instrument, a lyre, guitar, and ‘mataka’ – earthen pot, Indians used as a musical instrument since ages. When struck with palm and fingers with varying beats the air that the ‘mataka’ contained within vibrated and produced sound which, when regulated with the other hand by holding it on its mouth and releasing it gradually, produced desired musical effect. Though each an isolated piece complete in itself, for suggesting the timelessness and universality of Lord Ganesha the wood-carver has represented him as playing on one hand on a ‘mataka’, the most traditional instrument of Indian masses used even as part of Indian classical music, and on the other, on a guitar, a modern and global instrument – one, the primitive, and other, the ultimate.
This set of seven images is unique in imparting a great message. Each image of the set represents Lord Ganesha as playing on a different instrument but Lord Ganesha is one; so is his act of playing, whether on this instrument or that; and, so is his act’s outcome, the music produced with one instrument or the other. Lord Ganesha has thousands of manifest forms, and over a thousand names but strangely, in all seven pieces his form is common, same anatomy, figural dimensions, number of arms and all except what of the gestures or body’s movements pertained to playing on a specific instrument. Lord Ganesha is the inherent spirit that enlivens all forms. This re-affirms the Indian metaphysical doctrine of the spiritual unity of the multitudinous forms of matter. A brilliant approach, the artist did not string all representations by carving them on a single log of wood but discovered their unity in their diverseness, in the commonness of the act performed, and in such act’s outcome. Thus, despite that each piece is isolated and unattached, and also does not narrate a single episode or act, all seven images comprise a set in absolute unity.
A deity of masses, tribes and folks, in popular imagination Lord Ganesha is their companion in all things, material or spiritual. He enshrines a sanctum but also queues up with devotional crowds. Despite the huge bulk of his figure he not only dances for them but also performs acrobatics. On village ‘chaupala’ – public square, he sings for them – their woes and moments of jubilation, loud and wide; he is their dancer, singer, stage performer and all. To the illiterate tribes of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashtra … Lord Ganesha reads out Mahabharata, Ramayana or Bhagawata Purana, and to the jubilant masses chanting 'Ganapati Bappa Morya' he stages 'Tamasha' and performs 'Bhangada'. Besides a dance-form he is best realized in an image representing him as playing on a musical instrument, and such images of the elephant god have always been very special for in representing him as playing on a musical instrument not just the instrument but even his figure seems to vibrate and produce rhythm.
This excellent wood-panel consisting of seven images of Lord Ganesha, each carved with exceptionally sensitive hands and affectionate touches, portraying not only his form but also his intrinsic being, represents him as playing on seven different musical instruments, namely, ‘mradanga’, ‘shahanai’, male-female drum set, flute, ‘vina’, guitar, and ‘mataka’. All seven figures, installed on identical rectangular ‘chowkis’ – platforms, are seated identically in ‘utkut akasana’, though while the five figures have their right legs laid along the ground, and left, raised and turned from knee height, this position alternates in other two images. They have their left legs laid along the ground, and the right raised and turned from knee height. Similarly, fully absorbed in the melody that their instruments are producing five forms of the elephant god are right inclining, while two of them, turned to left. Unlike most of his images all seven figures have been conceived with normal two arms, large bellies and identically modeled trunks, though differently gesticulated. The seats they are sitting on consist of three tiers, two courses of risings consisting of stylized lotus motifs, and the third, the tops being plain mouldings with rounded corners. Clad just in a loincloth and adorned with few ornaments this panel of Ganesha shall attribute exoticism to any space, a corner in a sitting hall or a seat in shrine.
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