Indonesia, Central Java
God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles
9th/10th century

74.4 x 52 x 31.2 cm (29 5/16 x 20 1/5 x 12 1/4 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Christian H. Aall in honor of her mother and father, Helen and Glen Sample, 1996.673

Ganesha is Hinduism's Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles. Before beginning a school year, taking a trip, or starting a new business, Hindus pray to Ganesha for assistance. The popular elephant-headed god is considered the son of the Hindu god Shiva and his consort, Parvati. The most often-told myth about Ganesha's creation begins with the goddess Parvati creating a boy out of the scum from her bath. She instructed him to guard her door from intruders, with no exceptions. While she bathed, Shiva returned home. Barred from entering, the enraged god loosed his superhuman anger and beheaded the stranger. Remorseful with the realization that he had killed Parvati's son, he sent attendant demons and dwarfs (ganas) to return with the head of the first creature they encountered. The head of an elephant was delivered, and Ganesha was restored to life. For his bravery in defending Parvati's door, Ganesha is also worshipped as the guardian of entrances, many of which are adorned with his image.

Ganesha is shown here with two of his attributes, a broken tusk and a bowl full of candy, of which he is very fond. Although not depicted in this sculpture, Ganesha's vahana, a rat, accompanies him as he carries out his divine duties. The rat is tiny by comparison to the portly Ganesha, but the two work well as a team. The rat can wriggle into places where Ganesha would never fit—another means of avoiding obstacles and achieving goals.