In utter defiance to set norms, the elephant god’s girdle ascends far above his rounded belly, and his loincloth, slips below his waist. Not with ecstatic or exalted moves, to which he is known to resort in his Nratya Ganapati manifestation, he has been represented in this wood-carving as dancing effortless like a lotus tossing with the lake’s delicate waves revealing beauty of form and delicacy of ‘bhava’ – sentiment, a dance-form identified in Indian classical tradition as ‘lasya’ – an expression of lovable tenderness, a dance form revealing beauty. One of the ‘Adigurus’ – pioneer teachers of dance, Ganesh danced to all modes, moods, rhythm and pace; however, it is in ‘lasya’ that his divinity – the quality of being auspicious, good and delightful better reveals.
A dance-mode is one of the most popular, as also one of the earliest iconographic manifestations of Lord Ganesh. In his context dance was always an act revealing sublimity. Even in great ecstasy and rapture or even in exuberance he is not rumpus or rowdy. A slightly tilted head, a little raised legs, minor body curves, tenderly moved arms, and over and above all, a kind of divine serenity defined the dance form of the loving god. Shiva danced to create, or to destroy, Kali, for suppressing and eliminating evil, and Krishna, for subduing wrong, but Lord Ganesh danced for aesthetic delight, perhaps with no other object than to delight and elevate thereby. In this representation the intrinsic rhythm bursting out powerfully and yet effortless, a few curves of his figure, and the rapture reflecting on his face, are used to define his dance.
Adherence to canonical standards seems to have little bothered the wood-carver. What appears to have engaged his mind were body-curves that revealed rhythm, balance of different parts, unity of conflicting forms, and quaintness of the entire figure. He seems to have taken special delight in conceiving a queer pot-like belly, rounded ankles, horse-shoe-like turned ears and arms so modeled that on one hand they carried the usual attributes and on the other, accomplished a role in the totality of the conceived form. In conceiving his figure as single-tusked and as pot-bellied, the artist might have meditated on adding further divinity to this form of Lord Ganesh.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain
specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of
numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the
curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New
Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of
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