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Ian Dunn
396708.  Sat Aug 23, 2008 7:09 am Reply with quote

While people like Pliny the Elder and William Dampier are considered to be the patron saints of QI, Ganesha could be considered to be the patron God, seeing as he is not just the Hindu deva of intellect and wisdom, but he is also quite interesting.

For example, there are several myths concerning how Ganesha got his elephant head. Some myths claim that he may have had even five heads. Myths as to how he got his head include:

  • He was born with it. As simple as that.
  • Shiva the Destroyer cut of his human head when Ganesha came between him and Parvati, who happened to be Ganesha's mother. Then Shiva replaced it.
  • Shani (Saturn) looked at Ganesha with his evil eye, and caused Ganesha's head to turn into ashes. Vishnu the Maintainer replaced Ganesha's head.
  • Shiva gave Ganesha the elephant head and a protruding belly to make him less alluring.

Wikipedia article

Last edited by Ian Dunn on Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:24 pm; edited 1 time in total

396728.  Sat Aug 23, 2008 9:56 am Reply with quote

My Ganesh statue, copper and bronze I think:

As the destroyer of obstacles and lord of good beginnings, he's invoked prior to any undertaking, e.g. weddings, and is first placed in a new dwelling.

His image is made up of man, elephant, serpent and mouse. His image is quite specific - everything is as it is to symbolise something.

His belly contains infinite universes.

668711.  Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:17 am Reply with quote

The one involving Shiva as Ganesha's father is the most common, according to Brown, in Ganesha: Studies of an Asian God. It's pretty cool to consider that casual decapitation was, in a sense, quite de rigueur for Godly behaviour. Still, the two major strands in Hinduism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism, both have their own origin myth. The other two, Shaktism and Smartism (clearly the dominant religious trend on QI :-) don't concern themselves with the Gods too much, seeing them mostly as metaphors, as is mentioned in another thread on Gods. Fascinating stuff, could go on and on about it, but I just wanted to add a bit specifically about Ganesha, whom I've always found QI.

Davinni994 wrote
His image is made up of man, elephant, serpent and mouse. His image is quite specific - everything is as it is to symbolize something.

Very true. Here's a list, if anyone's interested:

Ze broad expanse of his 'ead zymbolizes 'ees (and by extension, our own, in all the following cases) ability to cogitate creatively. Or think big.

His elephantine ears but small human mouth symbolize 'talk less, listen more', an advocated trait on his part. Gotta love QI that way, as you can have it both ways with impunity over here. Oh, and the trunk symbolizes versatility and adaptability, some also consider it to be a symbol for kundalini, the uncoiling of serpentine shaped spiritual power up our spines, the great awakening and all of that.

His extensive girth signifies an ability to digest all that life has to offer, the mundane and commonplace as well as the spiritual and significant. It's all important on some level. The bowl he carries usually is said to contain a sweet confection of some sort, often coconut or jaggery, which symbolizes the reward for tapasya or spiritual penances. A brief reading of the Ramayana serves to enlighten the central role such rewards can play as granting means to fulfill one's destiny or karmic cycle.

He carries an axe to symbolize the ease with which all temporal attachments may be detached and disposed of as the unimportant encumbrances they are in the face of the quest for moksha. But it doesn't make him ascetic. The offerings placed at his feet symbolize the world's pleasures, to be taken full advantage of. But they are placed below him to signify his control over them and not, as is often the case, the other way around.

Finally, the mouse which he rides symbolizes desire, and again, the fact that he rides it or it looks up at him with worshipful obeisance signifies his (and what should be our own) control over it.

Ganesh Chaturti is a major festival in India, especially in the state of Maharashtra and its capital, Bombay. Its history is QI, when the early nationalists (pre-Gandhi, essentially) were looking for a visible symbol around which to unite Indians to stronger modes of direct opposition to colonial rule, the idea they landed upon was to use religion. One early nationalist, Bal Gangadhar Tilak by name, "...transformed household worshiping of Ganesha into Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav in 1894", to quote wiki , a major festival now right up there with Diwali and Holi as national holidays in the Indian calendar. He was part of the Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate, that every Indian schoolchild gets taught about in the wonderfully left-leaning pro-nationalist (ie pro Congress Party) history that is taught in most schools in the country. They were dubbed the "extremists", who wanted the Brits out of the country altogether, unlike the "moderates", who just wanted a bit more autonomy and delegated responsibility. Gandhi was the latter for quite some time, right upto and after WWI, when he finally realized that the British had (mostly) no intention of keeping the promises they made about dominion status for India. So began the next phase of the Indian Independence movement, the so-called Gandhian phase. Its a lot more complicated than that, I've made no mention of the other major currents in the movement apart from the role of the Congress* , but that's the gist of it.

*The tension between Gandhi and Ambedkar is particularly revealing, because it brings out with striking clarity that the Congress, which claimed to represent the whole of India, didn't even represent all the Hindus (as the Muslim League claimed it exclusively did). Just upper caste Hindus, according to the best known of the "lower caste" leaders.

668901.  Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:17 pm Reply with quote

I acted as avatar for Lord Ganesh for one of my sister's weddings when I was about 6. It involved getting up at about 4am for puja several days in a row, and being smeared with some yellow mud-like substance. Not that fun really.

682041.  Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:47 am Reply with quote

I have read that Ganesha rode a rat (not a mouse) because the rat was good at getting into difficult places ie at getting around obstacles.

I also have read that Ganesha was a god of obstacles - that he could be invoked to place obstacles as well as remove them.

From Don Handelman "Myths of Murugan: Asymmetry and Hierarchy in a South Indian Puranic Cosmology" (1987) 27 (2) History of Religions pp 133-170 at p 148 (footnote omitted):

"Ganesha is wholly the creation of his mother, Parvati. According to myths of his birth, she made him of her sweat, of her skin rubbings, of the water in which she bathed after making love to Shiva, or of turmeric. In all instances he was created to protect the entry to her chamber. He prevented the access of Shiva, who cut off his head. After the entreaties of Parvati, Shiva replaced the head with that of an elephant. He was made the first son of Shiva (hence his name, Pillaiyar, the son) and the leader of the Shaiva demigods, the ganas (and so his name, Ganapati). He is the Lord of Categories who inserts or who extracts obstacles. He is thought of as somewhat effeminate or asexual, and he often is depicted as a bachelor who sits on the river bank, watching the girls bathe and waiting for one who resembles his mother."

682120.  Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:28 pm Reply with quote

Welcome Persica, and thanks for the post :-)

Sadurian Mike
682123.  Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:34 pm Reply with quote

I did like the Simpsons episode where Homer dressed as Ganesha to try to get Sanjay out of an arranged marriage, but ended up being chased up a tree and pelted with stones.

682135.  Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:14 pm Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
I did like the Simpsons episode where Homer dressed as Ganesha to try to get Sanjay out of an arranged marriage, but ended up being chased up a tree and pelted with stones.

It was Apu, wasn't it?

Sanjay is Apu's cousin, father to a child whose name is Jamshed but sounds suspiciously like Dumbshit when spoken with an Indian accent.

Sadurian Mike
682141.  Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:23 pm Reply with quote

Dah, you're right of course.

And I'm only on my first Apfelkorn.

682213.  Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:32 pm Reply with quote

Should that not be d'oh!

682304.  Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:33 pm Reply with quote

Having dug deeper into my treasure trove, I found the references to Ganesha and his riding a rat and other references to his power to create obstacles:

"Ganesha is a remover of difficulties and a god of wisdom. His axe denotes a pioneer who demolishes obstacles, his trunk is all-inquisitive and all-tasting, his big belly is all-receptive, and the rat, his vehicle, goes everywhere."

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy "Indian Images with Many Arms" (1913) 22 The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs pp 189-196 footnote 10 at p 197
The accompanying illustration is of a Javanese representation of Ganesha.

"Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god of auspiciousness, is popularly accepted as the first son of Shiva and Parvati. He is the deity who controls obstacles - inventing them or removing them - and the one who is worshiped before any serious undertaking."

Martin Lerner "Far Eastern Art" (1983) Notable Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art) pp 78-88 at p78
The accompanying illustration is caption: "STANDING GANESHA Cambodian, Pre-Angkor period, ca. late 7th-early 8th century. Calcareous sandstone, height 17'/4" (43.8 cm)."

Ganesha "is the guardian of thresholds, not only spatially in that he stands at the front entrance, but in that he is addressed at the beginning of any enterprise. Under the title 'Ganapati' he is certainly the most popular general deity in ordinary Hinduism.
"Similarly Ganesha, the elephant-headed "son of Shiva," rides a rat (which to the European mind seems absurd); the rat, like Ganesha the guardian of thresholds, can find a way through all obstacles.
"The proposition that "Ganesha's trunk is phallic" is not an invention of psychoanalysts, but an explicit element in the iconography (Figure 11). We can only "understand" the imagery involved, however, if we appreciate that the figure as a whole is the equivalent of an androgynous representation of Shiva. Likewise we cannot appreciate the full incongruence of representations of the ponderous dancing Ganesha unless we know that they are the equivalent of the elegant dancing Shiva Nataraja. Nor can we understand the image of Ganesha as an ascetic monk (Figure 12, which comes from Java), unless we know the story by which the active creative/destructive aspect of Shiva is the counterpart of his inactive aspect. For example, in the story of Shiva and Parvati, Shiva is the ultimate ascetic, whose impregnable passivity in his yogic exercises is so powerful that the continued vitality of the cosmos is brought under threat. So Parvati/Kali is created as the irresistibly seductive female, with the function of sapping the power of the immovable and unseductable Shiva. With a background awareness of theology such as this we are less surprised when we turn this Ganesha figure round and find he has become a demon destroyer, a truly ambivalent creation (Figure 13)."

Source: Edmund R. Leach "The Harvey Lecture Series. The Gatekeepers of Heaven: Anthropological Aspects of Grandiose Architecture" (1983) 39 (3) Journal of Anthropological Research pp 243-264 at pp 257-9
The figures referred to are:
Figure 11. Ganesha and Shakti. (D. Desai (1975) Erotic Sculpture of India p 92)
Figure 12. Ganesha as seated mendicant monk. East Java.
Figure 13. Back view of figure 12.
A. Getty (1936 OUP) Ganesha plates 30a & 30b

1256571.  Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:25 am Reply with quote

Did you ever wonder how Ganesha lost and gained new head?


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