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Red Case: Myths and rituals
Ganesha the elephant-headed Hindu god
Seated Ganesha 9th–10th century bronze National Gallery of Australia enlarge
Hinduism is the main religion and philosophy of India and
Ganesha is one of its most popular gods. He is the god of success and
destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of
education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Ganesha is one of five main Hindu
gods; the others are Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga.
A number of stories explain how Ganesha came to have an
elephant's head. One version tells of how, one afternoon, the goddess
Parvati wanted to take a bath. She created a young boy, Ganesha, to protect
her privacy while she bathed. Her husband, Shiva, came home and found
this strange child who would not let him visit his wife. Outraged at Ganesha's
disrespect, Shiva cut off his head. Parvati was so upset at the loss of
her new son that Shiva agreed to bring him back to life. He did so by
attaching the head of the first animal to be found asleep and facing northward:
This sculpture of Ganesha is over 1000 years old and is made of bronze,
and would have been used in Hindu festivals. If you look closely, you
will see that Ganesha’s stomach has been rubbed so much that it
is smooth and shiny. That’s because Hindus believe that rubbing
Ganesha's stomach will bring good luck. Ganesha holds symbols in his four
hands: a goad (for prodding elephants and making them move forward), a
noose (a coil of rope for catching all difficulties), a broken tusk held
like a pen (he broke it while writing the Indian story the Mahabharata),
and a rosary. He holds a sweet in his trunk (perhaps that’s why
he has such a large stomach).
- Imagine you have special powers, like Ganesha.
Draw some objects that could help you with your special powers.
- What other characters can you think of that have special powers?
- What do they use to help them produce their special powers?
- Ganesha is holding an object in one of his hands that you can also
find in the suitcase. Which object is it?