spiritual sojourn : Morphing Ganapati
Researchers differ in their opinions on the form of the elephant-faced Ganapati. Some hold the view that Ganapati is a deity presiding over the...
Researchers differ in their opinions on the form of the elephant-faced Ganapati. Some hold the view that Ganapati is a deity presiding over the harvest and that he is a village deity created by ryots. These scholars opine that the basis for the concept of Ganapati is the symbolisation of agriculture
Dr Janamaddi Hanumath Sastri
Parvati and Parameswara, regarded as the parents of Ganapati, are the symbols of the earth and the Sun respectively. Siva goes out and Parvati goes to take a bath. Symbolically, the Sun goes behind the clouds. It rains and the earth has a bath. The crop comes out of the earth. This is the offspring of Gouri. After some time, Siva returns. But now Gouri’s son (crop) stands preventing Siva (sun) from touching Gouri (Earth). Then the crop is reaped. The harvest on the earth looks like a heap. Such a heap resembles an elephant. The harvested crop brings joy. This is the story of the birth of Ganapati.
Ganesha born out of the dirt scoured from the body of Parvati is none other than the produce harvested by our ryots. The granary in which the sifted grain is preserved; the leather bucket used for drawing water from wells for irrigating the fields; the dry measure for grain; winnows, plough, sickle, etc., serve as parts of forming the shape of Ganapati.
A base is formed to make a huge granary (Lambodara) stand firmly. A tube is fixed to the mouth of the granary. Then the mouth of the granary resembles the face of an elephant. The nails are fixed on either side of the tube to prevent it from falling inside. One of the nails belongs to the previous year. That is now worn out. The other is meant for the coming year. If two winnows are fixed on the two sides of the upper part of the tube, it becomes “Surpakarna” (winnow-eared one). If the leather bucket for drawing water from a well is placed above the tube, it resembles the tusk of an elephant. If an artificial serpent is made and wound round the granary to scare away rats, then we have the completed image of Ganapati.
The worship of the lay of Ganapati in the month of Bhadrapada in the rainy reason, the presence of ears of paddy and sugarcane in a hand of Ganapati’s idol and Ganapati’s fondness for ‘Durva’ grass etc. are particulars that stress the argument that Ganapati is basically the deity of agriculturists.
Basing on the above, a sloka is said to have been composed by Manu, and scholars like Monier Williams propound that Ganapati is the deity of sudras or ryots.
It is believed that Ganapati is the deity presiding over education and the arts such as dance and music. Yogis regard him as the deity presiding over ‘Muladhara Chakra’, one of the six seats of consciousness in human tabernacle. The worship of Ganapati for thousands of years has transcended the differences of race and religion. Ignoring these paints, it is not possible to swear by the above sloka. We have the idea that Ganapati is the presiding deity of harvest and that the assembly of the granary and other agricultural implements is the books for the concept of Ganapati’s idol. But his strange concept is a far-fetched one avowed by cleverness and effort.
The lovers of Tantric tradition say that Tantric symbols (mystic formulae) are the basis for the concept of Ganapati idol. The worship of gods, in the form of pictures, had been in vogue before the worship of gods in the form of beautiful consecrated idols came into being. There is a tradition even today, among the Tantrics, of worshipping triangular, hexagonal, circular, and other geometrical diagrams for invoking the power of the deity. At the time when worship of these diagrams began, the five elements -- earth, water, fire, wind and sky used to be worshipped. Then there used to be a particular geometrical diagram for each one of these elements.
According to “Sivacharachandrika” and ‘Kalaprakasa tantra’ etc., people used to worship the diagrams of a rectangle, a circle, a triangle, a crescent, a flag-staff or crystal, treating them as symbols of the five elements. When the faith gained ground and when all the symbols representing these five elements were artistically assembled, the outline of the physical form of Ganapati’s idol become manifest.
On drawing the rectangle (earth), the circle (water), inverted triangle (fire), crescent (sky), flag-staff or crystal (wind) one above the other in this order, the outline of the physical form of Ganesa would emerge. Another conjecture is that the enthusiasm of sculptures, artists and pouranikas, these diagrammatical representations might have in course of time been artistically decked with hands, feet, ornaments and a crown etc.
The above two ideas regarding the concept of Ganapati’s image have the merit of opinions, but lack the strength of authentic theories. Even before the concept of the image of Ganapati took shape, the idea that Ganapati was the elephant-faced son of Ambica had already been established. Besides, there are Ganapati chakras worshipped by the observers of tantric tradition. It took centuries for Ganapati to evolve into a handsome god, just as his evolution from the Rigvedic times to the Puranic times had taken some centuries. It is said in Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana that the shape of Ganapati has been undergoing a change in every age.
Perhaps, Ganapati, in the beginning of the Puranic period, was like his father, worshipped as a phallic symbol. Modakeswara Ganapati in Nasik and Swayambhu Ganapati in Wardaha etc., appear as boulders. Many idols of Ganapati known as Chintamani Ganesa appear as crude stones without much of a shape.
The next stage is the worship as stones broadly resembling the elephant head as Ganapati idols. Sarvajanika Ganapati of Junnar Chitnatmai Ganapati at Thevoor Sidhi Vinayaka at Sidhataka etc., are instances of this. The second stage is of the two-shouldered Ganapati. The idols of Ganapati of Idagunji and Gokarna are notable in this respect. Except bald head, granary like belly, short body, short legs and sacred thread, there is no other decoration for these idols.
Of these two-shouldered idols one is said to be in Vietnam. It is pucca clay idol. It is short in size with a pot belly and with coarse cloth fastened round the waist, with a long stout stick in the right hand, with bowl in the left hand and with a bald head. It has not got a sacred thread. It has an expression of satisfaction in the face.
It is said that the idol of Ganapati in Amaravati, regarded as very ancient, is the first step in the sculptured image of Ganapati. This idol is seated, weighed down by a long serpent-shaped wreath held up by many ‘ganas’. The idols of Ganesha dating back to the period of the Pallavas are not available in the south, particularly in Tamil Nadu. Pallavas are said to have invited Ganapatya Brahmins to Tamil Nadu. Some idols of Ganapati of that period are available. They have no ornaments other than the crown.
Decoration of the Ganapati began during the period of the Cholas. The construction of a separate temple was taken up for Ganapati. Many artistic changes followed in the shape and decoration of the idols of Ganapati by the time of the Hoyasalas (AD 1006-1343). With ornamental decorations all over the body, with a beautiful diadem, a winning smile on the countenance, the idols of Ganapti gained in attraction and popularity. Today, there is no end to the manifestations of Ganesha.