It is simply astonishing that an unmanageable anatomy, six arms, all carrying in them one attribute or other, and all revealing a posture of dance, three faces comprising elephant trunks and carrying large size crowns, not easy to hold, and a pot-belly out of proportion with rest of the figure, particularly the dwarfish legs holding it, has been balanced on the toe of a single foot and on the back of a tiny mouse. Even carving such cumbersome figure on a log of wood of moderate thickness with no extra connectors added is really challenging. Dance multiplies the pace and the movement and thus multiplies whatever such pace and movement accomplish. Obviously, Ganesha, the Lord of auspices, multiplies auspiciousness by his dance for he moves for bliss and benevolence and the dance multiplies them. Lord Ganesha is one the pioneers of dance on equal footings with Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Kali but while they danced on specific occasions as also for an specific objective Ganesha had dance as the part of his being, and it is for being his part that in dance the auspicious Ganesha found the subtlest instrument of effecting auspiciousness.
The classicism of Puranas has ‘Nratya-Ganapati’ as one of the authentic forms of Lord Ganesha but the popular tradition now for long appears to be keen to incorporate dance in most of his forms but not in exact adherence to the classical norms and this image is its example. Here dance is the basic and ultimate form of the image and the essential spirit of Lord Ganesha but the image is little keen to incorporate other features or pursue the classical norms of Nratya Ganapati manifestation. Instead of a four-armed form that Ganesha has as Nratya Ganapati this image of dancing Ganesha has six arms. Some variation surfaces also in regard to the attributes that the images of these two classes carry. Nratya Ganapati in his classical form carried broken tusk, elephant goad, noose and ‘laddu’ in his four hands. This image, though a vehement dance is still its form and spirit, has its own set of attributes. It inherits broken tusk, goad and noose from the classical iconography but a mango, dagger and a hammer or small rod with bold head like looking objects are its own.
Installed inside a brilliantly conceived resplendent Prabhavali, though composed of routine design-motifs : usual base comprising stylized lotus design, half pillars as components of a building structure, three-tiered semi-circular sides in middle with outer ring consisting of lotus motifs, and an elaborate Kirtti-mukha defining the top, this image of Lord Ganesha is unique in revealing the dance. The image seems to rise into the space of its own, and dance, as sprouting from within it. Whirlwind like moving and gold-like glistening form of Lord Ganesha balances itself just on the toe of its right foot that a blue toy-mouse holds on its back. A shadow of toil lurking on his face seems to break the composure that almost always defines it. There enshrines on his face rather a child-like innocence and a feeling of benignity. The usual mode of Ganesha’s dance is ‘lasya’ : an expression of lovable tenderness and one revealing great aesthetic beauty; however, the form of the dance that this figure of Lord Ganesha represents is more boisterous, more ecstatic, and full of energy and exuberance than the ‘lasya’ usually is. At least the gesture of his left leg has some reflection of the ‘Dance of Dissolution’ – his father Shiva’s Tandava. Obviously, dance being its theme, the image has more gesticulated rhythmic curves, and is an example of perfect anatomical balance, unity of conflicting elements and power to delight. His queerly modeled belly, rounded ankles, knotted knees and strange geometry of arms, all are quite curious.
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.