This five faced manifestation of the elephant headed god represents his Heramba Ganapati form. In this form Ganapati is conceived with five heads and eight to ten arms. Heramba Ganapati is known and revered as the 'Protector of poor' and as the deity who bestows bliss all over. He guards all directions with his four faces and all worlds below and above with the fifth one. He has been conceived with a complexion of the moon and also as much soothing and shining. Heramba Ganapati rides a lion, has one tusk broken and wears a garland upon his chest. He carries in his hands a noose, rosary, axe, mace or hammer, fruit and 'modaka'. Gestures of protection and bliss characterise his demeanour. One and sometimes two of his hands impart 'abhaya', or the boon of fearlessness.
This magnificent piece of wood-art manifests this most difficult form of Ganesha iconography but only after severally deviating from the prescribed line. The image of the lord is not only without the prescribed lion but also without his usual mouse. It is likely that a detached and unsupported figure of the deity imbalanced by its difficult and disproportioned iconography consisting of five heads and ten arms could not be conveniently installed on a lion. The absence of "abhaya' is significant. In three of his ten hands he is upholding his broken tusk and in all five trunks he is holding 'modaka' like looking auspicious pots symbolising variedly rain, Ganga, earth, ocean and affluence, though not carrying as prescribed any fruit, rosary, or even 'modaka' in any of his hands. The garland has been replaced by lavish ornamentation and a rich girdle around his belly.
His delicately carved figure has been installed on a beautiful pedestal consisting of a lotus. With his bejewelled tender feet he appears to be moving as if for the protection of his devotees, which as Heramba Ganapati is his prime act. He is wearing a 'dhoti' with fine wrinkles on it. His pot like belly has on it a yajnopavita and a broad girdle with motifs of lotuses and beads. On all five trunks he has 'tripunda' mark characterising him as a deity of Shaivite line and a repeated circle indicative of cosmos rotating with and within the wheel of time. Ganesha , as the god of 'ganas', has his eyes fixed on this circle, that is, both the time and space are within his purview. He is wearing a lace of beads on each of his trunks and richly inlaid and patterned Vaishnava crowns on all four heads. He is holding in the hands on his right side a battle axe, broken tusk, mace and sword and in the hands on his left goad, broken tusk,noose shield and book.
Heramba Ganapati forms are a rarity in art obviously because it is tedious for any artistic or iconographic skill to plant five elephant heads on a single human torso. For a medium like wood it is yet more difficult. But the artist has immensely succeeded not only in creating a transparent moon like complexion, sensuous warmth, refined plasticity, unique luminosity and a kind of spiritual serenity in creating his deity image but has also maintained formative proportions, unity of form, symmetry of repeated members and all without letting its aesthetics suffer. The figure of the deity, with a shorter height as compared to width and small legs overshadowed by a pot like belly protruding over them, is as much quaint and child-like.
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.
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