Lord Ganesha Brass Statue Imparting Absolute Freedom from Fear
This exceptionally ornate brass statue is an example of highly balanced anatomy with delightfully distributed right and left – a strange symmetry with the center unable to contain its line and mincing to the figure’s overall rhythm: the navel and abdomen tilting to the left, and the little inflated right breast, to further right, represents Lord Ganesha in a posture as if commanding and assuring: ‘go ahead, I am there – everywhere and always, for protecting you from everything untoward and your freedom from fears and apprehensions is absolute’. It is not merely the formal gesture of ‘Abhaya’ – freedom from fear that the normal right hand of the elephant god gesticulates but the assurance reveals in his entire being: the rightwards turned trunk, the eyes cast to reflect in them the confidence of one who is undefeatable, the forward thrust of his figure and the kind of attributes that he is carrying.
This rightwards turned trunk, known in the classified iconography of the elephant god Ganesha as ‘Valampuri’, is a rare cast form of his image. An unusual aspect, this Valampuri style of the trunk has been used in the statue quite meaningfully. With this form of the trunk, not its one part, the total image seems to transform into an icon that manifests ‘Abhaya’.
Except that a prominently cast broken tusk and a pot-like inflated belly blend with this form of Lord Ganesha his aspects attributable to his Ekadanta and Lambodara manifestations – the two classical forms perceived in his iconography, the statue brings forth a completely novel form of his image. When in a dance mode his head is seen tilting to the side but in this image, the posture has been used for further re-assuring ‘Abhaya’ which his normal right hand gesticulates. As the trunk turned to the left would divert the eye to a direction different from the hand manifesting ‘Abhaya’, the artist preferred turning it to the right which not only supported the gesture of the right hand but afforded to the image a rare thematic unity making ‘Abhaya’ its core theme and thrust. Lord Ganesha accomplishes everything: auspicious detriment-free beginning and completion of everything undertaken, protection of devotees, bestowing bliss and redemption from the cycle of death and birth, by his mere presence.
This image has, however, been differently conceived. With the forward thrust of his left leg and all three hands carrying weapons, especially the mace-carrying normal right hand revealing rare confidence, this image represents him as moving to act. Except in a dance pose or in his manifestation as the multi-armed Vira Ganapati the standing images of Lord Ganesha are very rare. This statue represents him not only as standing but in an operative posture as images of Lord Vishnu in his manifestation as world commanders sometimes have. To further suggest the pace or movement the artist has conceived the form of his mount mouse under his forward-thrusting left foot. Usually his multi-armed: four or more, images have the set of his arms, along with the attribute that each carries, composed formally ringing around the rest of the body. Different from this formal placing of arms this image has all four arms extended away from the rest of the figure, as when put to act and the weapons carried in them are not just symbolic attributes but realistic in form and size.
Summarily, this medium size image of Lord Ganesha represents him as four-armed carrying in the upper right, his usual ‘parashu’ – battle-axe, in the upper left, ‘trishula’ – trident, the most favored attribute of his father Lord Shiva, in the lower left, ‘Gada’ – mace, the most preferred weapon of Lord Vishnu, and the normal right are held in ‘Abhaya’, the basic thrust and the theme of this image. This synthesis of Shaivite and Vaishnava elements reveals also in the auspicious forehead mark which is a Vaishnava ‘tilaka’ in form but styled like a trident, a Shaivite attribute. The image has been installed on an oval-shaped two-tiered pedestal, the base comprising an inverted lotus molding, and the upper, a plain molding. Lord Ganesh is standing firmly on his right foot while the left is in a forward motion. The image has been conceived with elegantly shaped and normally sized ears, one tusk broken, and a large belly. He is wearing a moderately sized crown and has behind his head a moderate halo. Though cast in lustrous brass the artist has not removed the casting material settled in the recessed parts of the image, especially what served as the outlines defining various designs and patterns with which he has adorned Lord Ganesha’s ensemble, ornaments, attributes, and even body-parts.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes in the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr. Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.