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Under scriptural tradition Heramba Ganapati, the ultimate ‘Protector of the weak’, holds two of his hands in the gesture of ‘abhaya’ – fearlessness, and ‘varada’ – release and bliss, and rides a lion. Heramba Ganapati carries in his other hands a noose, rosary, axe, hammer, broken tusk, garland, laddu and fruit. In some texts Heramba Ganapati has been conceived as having eight arms, not ten, and carries a different set of attributes. This image has been carved in the wood’s nature colour symbolic of the colourless white, the body-complexion of Heramba Ganapati, and as having ten arms but instead of riding a lion he is seated on a lotus. The image does not hold any two of its hands in ‘abhaya’ and ‘varada’, the essence of the form of ‘Protector’. The image carries in two of its hands broken tusk and fruit but the other eight seem to have been conceived not so much to carry attributes as to vibrate the ambience by their rhythm and symphony that they create by their astonishing symmetry and waving contours.
Obviously, this five-faced and ten-armed form does not represent Heramba Ganapati in its exactness; however, it is very close to the iconographic form that scriptures identify as Heramba Ganapati manifestation of Lord Ganesha. In this image his aspect as the 'Protector of poor' reveals as strongly as in Heramba Ganapati form. With his four faces Pancha-mukha Ganesha guards all directions, and with the fifth, worlds below and above. The lion that Heramba Ganapati rides is the symbol of might and power; instead of riding on the lion this figure of Ganesha is seated on a lotus, the symbol of abundance, prosperity, fertility and riches, representing his benevolence. Lord Ganesha protects against every calamity by his mere presence, sometimes by eliminating it and sometimes by containing it. Thus, this form emphasizes not so much his power to protect, perhaps because it is his inherent nature, as it emphasizes his power to impart bliss and benevolence. Obviously, it becomes irrelevant whether the image holds any of the hands in ‘abhaya’ and ‘varada’, or not. The shift from lion to lotus might have been the requirement of form too. A lion’s figure with an average size could not conveniently hold on its back an unsupported isolated figure with a difficult and disproportioned iconography consisting of five elephant-heads and ten arms.
An elaborate lotus flower installed on a lotus pedestal enshrines the figure of Lord Ganesha. He is seated in Lalitasana with his right leg suspending down and the left, stretched horizontally along the seat in semi-yogasana posture. His symmetrically conceived ten arms, five on either side, seem to surge like ripples of a rivulet. Except a broken tusk and a fruit that his normal two hands hold and a laddu that each of his five trunks carries, the attributes that his other eight hands carry are hardly identifiable. The statue has been carved with fine details : ripples-like pleated antariya and every piece of ornaments. Though of moderate height, the crowns that cover his five heads are splendid. His pot belly, ornamental bands around the belly and waist, and the Vaijayanti like long lace with decorative frill are simply gorgeous. On the pedestal’s right there is a basket of laddus, and on the left, his mount, the tiny mouse.
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.