Ganesha is probably the most popular god in India among the Hindus and was accepted by the Buddhist and Jaina as also by the Tantrics. His very therianthropic from evokes curiosity and many attempts have been made to explain it on the basis of literary testimony which, however, is a later fabrication. Relevant archaeological testimony, however, was largely ignored. But it should be emphasized that only archaeology offers reliable data which has been employed here for the first time. It very convincingly explains the rise of the elephant- headed divinity from a sacred animal and an animal totem to the exalted position of a cult deity in Hindu pantheon. This long journey of the god from gaja to gana to Ganesa to Maha- Ganesa and a cult deity, as great as Siva and Vishnu, is truly amazing. His popularity in a large measure is due to his being a vighma-karta (obstacle-creator) changing into a voghna- harta (obstacle- remover), when properly propitiated Wherever Indians went and settled, they took Ganesa with them for removing obstacles, and therefore Ganesa is the only divinity who can truly be called the God of Asia.
Madhukar Keshav Dhavalikar, M.A., Ph.D. (University of Poona), joined Archaeological Survey of India in 1953 and worked there in various capacities till 1965. He was deputed to Greece (1962) where he participated in the excavation at Pella, the capital of Alexander. He was Lecturer in Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology, Nagpur University (1965-67); Reader in Archaeology (1967-80), Professor of Archeology (1985-90), Deccan College (now a Deemed University), Pune; and its Director (1985-90). He has carried out several excavations of Protohistoric and Historical sites in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
I was deeply interested in the iconography of Ganesa while teaching Indian iconography and wrote my first article which was published in the Vivekananda Centenary Volume under the title ''Ganesa beyond the Indian Frontiers''. It was much appreciated by the late Professor R.C. Majumdar, the greatest historian of India, who was the senior editor of the volume. He was himself a leading authority on Indian cultural influences in Southeast Asia, and advised me to continue the study as the subject was of great interest. I followed his advice and off and on wrote a few articles on Ganesa. The study gained momentum when I presented a paper on '' Ganesa at Mathura'' at the Seminar on ''Mathura'' hosted by the American Institute of Indian Studies, but my dating of early Ganesa images to the first century AD was not accepted and the paper was therefore not included in the publication. However, I am glad that my view has now received general acceptance. Later, I wrote a couple of papers on the evolution of the god.
The present study traces the origin and development of the god from a sacred animal and the totem of a tribe to a supreme divinity which is adopted by other faiths also, and that its worship spread in many different countries of Asia. He is thus an Asian god, and the emphasis therefore is not only on origin and development but on his spread in Asia. This, however, is a hard task because access to the source material is well nigh impossible. Alice Getty could write her masterpiece - Ganesa - because of the availability of data. Equally important are the works edited by Robert Brown, Pratapaditya Pal and Dubost, but for others it is a daunting task.
The spread of Indian culture in different countries of Asia - which Heinrich Zimmer calls Indian Asia - is a most glorious chapter of India's history and culture, but it is unfortunately so thoroughly neglected in India that it figures as a mere passing reference in textbooks. Indians went to these different countries in spite of heavy odds, settled there, gave the people language, literature, script, arts, religion and what not, but we are just blissfully unaware of it, rather we are not interested in it. And if anyone is interested, there is no source material available for study. I have myself been crying hoarse in different fora about it, but my fervent pleas have fallen on deaf ears. An average Indian like me cannot visit these countries for study and collect data. It is therefore necessary that some organization, something like Asian Art Archives, is established for collecting the source material such as plans and photographs of monuments, sculptures, estampages of inscriptions, etc., which can be of great help to students. This is all the more necessary because this source material is now likely to be destroyed in view of the rise of fundamentalism in some of these countries and any further delay in setting up such an organization will be of no use.
I have explained how difficult it is to get the source material for study, but I was fortunate in acquiring it. Firstly, M/s Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers (Pvt.) Ltd. very kindly permitted me to use the photographs in Alice Getty's Ganesa-A Monograph on the Elephant-faced God, which they had republished. Secondly, equally helpful has been Dr. Kirit Mankodi, an old friend from my student days at Deccan College, who is presently Director of Research at the Indo-French Research Pvt. Ltd. He also very kindly permitted me to use the pictures in the late Paul Martin - Dubost's book, Ganesa - The Enchanter of Three Worlds (1997), I am deeply beholden to them and their organizations, Mr. Michel Postel in particular. The Archaeological Survey of India and its sub-offices have supplied a few photos and I am obliged to them. I am also indebted to the American Institute of Indian Studies, particularly their Art and Archaeology Centre, Gurgaon, for supplying a few photos.
Grateful thanks are due to Dr. Vasant Shinde for the photograph of the Ganesa temple in Japan (PI. VIII), Dr. Devangana Desai for the photo showing Ganesa on horse which she noticed in Cambodia (Fig. 5.9) and Mr. Zeng Guodong for a photo of Chinese Ganesa (Fig. 6.6).
I must thank Dr. Sharad Gosavi for the elegant typing and Drs. Srikant Jadhav and Srikant Pradhan for the illustrations. The Librarians of the Deccan College and Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Mrs. Tripti More and Shri Satish Sangle respectively, and their staff, particularly Sri Dhananjay Suravase, have always been ready to help me. I do not know how to thank them adequately.
Finally I am grateful to Shri Vikas Arya, the publisher, for bringing out the book so elegantly.
|List of Illustrations||ix|
|1||Origin: From Gaja to Ga1J.a||1|
|2||Development: From Ga1J.a to Gat:lesa||32|
|3||Canesa in Tantrism, Buddhism and Jainism||64|
|4||Canesa in South Asia||74|
|5||Ganesa in Southeast Asia||92|
|6||Ganesa in Central Asia and Far East||131|
|7||The God of Asia||159|