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Ganesha, remover of obstacles

10th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Title
    Place where the work was made
    Central Java Java Indonesia
    10th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    volcanic stone
    67.0 x 40.0 x 35.0 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Anonymous gift 1985
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The most common account of how Ganesha obtained his elephant head relates to the occasion when Ganesha, then a handsome youth created by Parvati from the slough of her skin, was decapitated by Shiva's hordes ('gana') when Ganesha, on Parvati's instructions, barred Shiva from entering her apartment. To appease Parvati's anger at the loss of her son, Shiva sent out his followers with instructions to sever the head of the first living creature they encountered which was an elephant. Ganesha has become one of the most popular of the Hindu gods. In this image, his corpulent body sits on a double lotus throne with the soles of his human feet touching. This pose, unknown in India, is unique to Java and Cambodia. The snake coiled around the sacred thread across his chest, the elaborate headdress with a crescent moon and a skull, as well as the vertical third eye in the centre of his forehead, all indicate his close association with the Hindu god Shiva. Of his four arms, his front right hand holds his broken tusk; his front left hand (now missing) would have held a bowl full of rice, sweets or jewels, while his two posterior hands would have held an axe and a fly whisk.

    In Shaivite temple complexes of Central and Eastern Java where the Siva image (or lingam) would occupy the central niche and face west, his elephant headed son, Ganesha would sit opposite him. Statues of Ganesha, who was honoured as the remover of obstacles, were also found on dangerous sites such as river crossings, ravines and slopes of volcanoes.

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Central Java

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Walking with gods, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Jun 2019–05 Jan 2020

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 10 publications

  • Provenance

    Private Collection, 1960s-Aug 1985, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, acquired in Sydney in 1960s. Donated to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1985.