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Man and Animal Mythologies in Indian Art

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Introduction

Man and animal mythologies in Indian Art The Hindu pantheon has, in a famous example of hyperbole, over 330 million deities. In a sense India is God-intoxicated, there is god everywhere, in all things: within/without, above/below, in the six degrees of separation and in the three planes of existence. There are gods for vegetation, gods for weather, gods for nature, gods for geographical areas, gods for villages, gods for the house, gods in the temples, gods in running water, gods in deepest forest and in icy mountain heights. There is no situation, environment and place that the Indian does not have a god for. Ganesha (or Ganesh) is the elephant-headed god. Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Gana) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikay. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha did not start the race like Kartikay did, but simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother as the source of all existence Many stories describe how Ganesha got the elephant head. ...read more.

Middle

Some figures may be seen with six, some with eight, some with ten, some with twelve and some with fourteen hands. The pictures and icons of Ganesha are very beautiful with rich glowing colours. I like the icons as they are very tactile. The physical attributes of Ganesha are themselves rich in symbolism. He is normally shown with one hand in the abhaya pose of protection and refuge and the second holding a sweet (modaka) symbolic of the sweetness of the realized inner self. In the two hands behind him he often holds an ankusha (elephant goad) and a pasha (noose). The noose is to convey that worldly attachments and desires are a noose. The goad is to prod man to the path of righteousness and truth. With this goad Ganesha can both strike and repel obstacles. His pot belly signifies the bounty of nature and also that Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the Universe and protects the world. The 'pot belly' makes the icon or picture appear very happy and 'cuddly.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Ganesha's large head is symbolic of the wisdom of the elephant. His large ears, like the winnow, sift the bad from the good. Although they hear everything, they retain only that which is good; they are attentive to all requests made by the devotees, be they humble or powerful. The 'elephant head' makes the character look out of proportion and therefore I dislike the visual look but find it quite strange. Ganesha's trunk is a symbol of his bias (viveka), a most important quality necessary for spiritual progress. The elephant uses its trunk to push down a massive tree, carry huge logs to the river and for other heavy tasks. The same huge trunk is used to pick up a few blades of grass, to break a small coconut, remove the hard nut and eat the soft kernel inside. The biggest and smallest of tasks are within the range of this trunk which is symbolic of Ganesha's intellect and his powers of discrimination. Indian art in the Hindu shrines shows the deities being depicted in different physical forms. The colours are always vibrant and the detail in the paintings appeal to me as well as understanding the symbolism of the artefacts. ...read more.

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