Ganesha, also known as Ganapati, or Vinayaka, is one of the best-known and worshipped Hindu deities. As the God of Beginnings, and the remover of obstacles, Ganesha is commonly invoked by devotees to make new beginnings auspicious and solve problems. The pot-bellied deity with an elephant-head and a sweet tooth is one of the most adored in India.
The Upcycled Ganesha Sculpture at the Heritage Transport Museum
Analogous to his role as Goddess Parvati’s doorkeeper, you find the Elephant-God greeting you at the very entrance of the Museum. But this sculpture is very different from the ones you see at any museum. This 500-kg Ganesha, is made using auto-parts like disk brakes, fenders, clutch plates, flat gears, shaft gears, spark plugs, connecting rods, automobile chains, and crank shafts. It was commissioned by Ford, one of India’s most popular carmakers in 2017.
About the God Ganesha
It is believed that Parvati sculpted Ganesha using clay from the riverbank and named him “Vinayaka – one born without a man”. His many attributes describe his personality and tell interesting stories about him. Just like any other Hindu deity, Ganesha too, has a ‘vahan’ or vehicle – the Mouse! But if you notice carefully, you’d find a snake wrapped around his belly. Only with Ganesha, can the Snake (predator) and Mouse/Rat (prey) co-exist. Similarly, while Ganesha is known to be the problem-solver, he’s also known for creating obstacles. Known for his wit, he once outsmarted his brother to win the fruit of wisdom from Narada. His broken tusk too, has many associated stories, one of them alluding to his role as a scribe for Sage Vyas’ Maharabharata. As the God of Writing and creative arts, he’s often seen in a dancing pose – taking after his father.
Ganesha & the Balancing Act
Ganesha represents the balance – between his parents Shiva and Shakti; between the reclusive hermit and the one who wants to engage with the world; between the material and spiritual. In Ganesha’s form, this balance is reflected. His elephant head, (indicative of our own animal/material tendencies), combined with a human body that can imagine a possible peaceful existence between the snake and rat. This consciousness or knowledge of our human ability to imagine lets us overcome our fears (like animals) fostering ambition(human quality). This balance thus enables us to reflect on what we are and what we can be.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesha being a popular deity amidst the rich and poor alike, became a unifying symbol during India’s Nationalist movement against the British. In 1893, Bal Gangadhar Tilak (one of the leaders of the Nationalist Movement) in a bid to unite India, hosted a “Ganesh Utsav”, promoting it as a national festival ‘to bridge the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins’
# Many of the objects Ganesha holds have symbolic meaning. They either relate to an event in Ganesha’s life or represent a particular characteristic of Ganesha’s personality. Discuss the symbolism behind elephants (wealth and strength) and other animals (like the mouse and snake). What do they symbolise?What other myths and legends do you know of that connect to these animals? You can also discuss the meaning of his “fat belly” or “large ears” etc.
# Find out more about Shiva and Parvati; and their attributes. What aspects of both their personalities does Ganesh represent? Let kids think of how they represent a mix of their parents’ qualities.
# Observe the different representations of Ganesha. Discuss the feeling different artworks / sculptures evoke. What tools / techniques do you think the artist has used to “convey” this feeling?
- Visual Art: Students can also make their own up cycled-Ganesha!!
- Ask students to think of their own personal qualities and attributes. If they could depict each, with objects, what would it be? Students can make a self-portrait collage using pictures from magazines, newspapers, etc.
- Make a Ganesha Calligram using different adjectives and words to describe the deity (or the artwork)! Here’s an image of a Ganesha calligram we found on the internet:
- Read some stories about Ganesha. What skills does he use to overcome obstacles? Write a story about how a friend helped you overcome a problematic situation.
- Brainstorm on similes inspired by Ganesha and his form.
- History : for older students, have them research about Ganesh Chaturthi and other nationalist-strategies that were used by leaders of the time to evoke a sense of togetherness and patriotism amidst people.