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A delightful visualization of the elephant god, while his figure’s lower half creates beauty in the body’s movement that the dance manifests, its upper half obtains such beauty in stillness – cessation of every movement, in the state of mere being. The source of entire knowledge that Lord Ganesha is believed to be, this image of him manifests by its one half all forms of knowledge that relate to dynamics : the sciences that study pace or movement, and by the other, all classes of knowledge that relates to the form’s consistency : a form fixed into lines or graphics, statics or the form-consistent geometry. As the image’s lower half reveals dance, its upper part reveals geometry – the science of consistent forms, in the form of a perfect and delightful symmetry which defines the body’s right and left aspects, the nose-line of the Kirtimukha atop the ‘prabhavali’ – fire-arch, being the centre. Not merely in the body’s right and left, this symmetry reveals also in the form of the ‘prabhavali’.
Blending dance into the form of Ganesha composed of an elephant trunk, a large belly and overall figural bulk is even ordinarily a challenge to a sculptor in any medium but it becomes far greater when he has to conceive such figure with six arms holding in them various attributes and has to carve it in an uncompromising medium like wood. However, what poses a far greater challenge to him is to conceive and create in one image two moods, two sets of emotional bearing and two anatomical models as he was required to effect in this statue. Corresponding gestures of all body parts contributing to one mood or mode, and hence mutually supporting, sometimes one part compensating even a shortcoming of the other, is the usual and easier way of carving figures, but when the body’s two parts are conceived in conflicting modes, one not aligning with the other, as in this statue, the sculptor’s challenge is multiplied. It would obviously be difficult to switch to a static posture revealing symmetrical balance and poise when he has yet not finished carving movement and dance, vigour, energy and movement, in the figure’s other half.
Despite that the mood, mode or demeanour of the figure’s upper half is undefined, the statue represents the elephant god as engaged in dance which he is performing effortless and without an objective. Apart that dance is the essence of Ganapati imagery Nratya-Ganapati is also one of the classical forms of his image and this statue manifests some of its aspects, at least the element of the dance and the attributes – elephant goad, noose, broken tusk and ‘laddu’ that he is holding in four of his six hands, if not the lotuses held in other two, which are also his attributes in Nratya Ganapati manifestation, though the other significant feature, exaltation or ecstasy that defines Nratya Ganapati imagery, is missing. The image has been installed under a ‘prabhavali’ – fire-arch consisting of vines and a Kirtimukha motif atop on a large fully blown lotus with a three-tiered base under it. Consisting of conventionalised lotus motifs the pedestal has the form of an octagon, an auspicious diagram creating and circulating energy and thereby life which combined with lotus stands for both, the massive energy flow and its guided course.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on 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.