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Unknown artist

the elephant-headed Hindu god


Unknown artist Seated Ganesha 9th - 10th century, Bronze, National Gallery of Australia, CanberraSeated Ganesha 9th–10th century bronze National Gallery of Australia
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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: an elephant.

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).