Bronze statuette of Ganesha, 18th Century, Height: 8 cm (3 in.).
In Hinduism, Ganesha is the God of wisdom, intelligence and education. He removes the obstacles of illusion and ignorance. He was the son of Shiva and Parvati. He played an important role in Tantrism.
Ganesha is traditionally represented with a large human body, four arms and an elephant's head with only one tusk. He seats on a lotus throne, his trunk facing his left hand that holds a sweet (ball). The rat is his vehicle and is sometimes represented (either Ganesha sitting on or near the rat, which may also hold a sweet in his hands).
The most common attributes of Ganesha are:
- The axe (parashu), traditional weapon of Shiva, which destroys desire and attachment, and thus removes sorrow and agitation.
- The noose (pasha), which is used to capture the error.
- The elephant goad (ankusha), symbol of his mastery over the world.
- The broken tusk
- The cake, the sweetness that rewards the seeker of truth.
There are many different stories that explain how Ganesha got his elephant's head. The most classic one relates how Shiva returning from a long period of meditation in the Himalayas, found a young man blocking the door of his house in order to prevent him from entering while Parvati was bathing. This boy was the son that the goddess had conceived herself with the dust and the ointments that she had scraped off her skin, to keep her company in her solitude. Furious at being denied entry to his house, Shiva drew his sword and cut off the head of his "son" which rolled off and disappeared. Realizing his mistake, Parvati told Shiva the whole story. She was inconsolable and insisted that he brought back life to her son. Shiva promised to replace the head with that of the first creature that would appear, more precisely by the head of the first "child" out of sight of his mother. The first being that fit that description was a baby elephant whose mother was asleep, turning her back to him. By this act, even though Ganesha was conceived without him, Shiva recognized his paternity.
Ganesha was known to be very glutton which explains the almost systematic presence of a cake in his hand. His belly was so big that one day it exploded and cakes were spread on the floor. Ganesh took a snake and used it as a belt to close his abdomen. He is often accompanied by a little rat who shares his passion for sweets. As for the broken tusk, it is said that Ganesh one night fell from his rat and broke his tusk. When seeing this, the moon burst out laughing. Ganesha threw the broken tusk to it and since that day, during processions in honor of Ganesha, participants avoid looking at the moon.
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