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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Dancing Ganesha (Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore)

Asian Civilisations Museum - Joy of Museums - Dancing Ganesha

Dancing Ganesha

This “Dancing Ganesha” is a sculpture full of movement and represents a favourite theme in South Asian art. Ganesha is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. This sculpture depicts Ganesha’s role as leader of the boisterous and playful ganas or dwarf follower of Shiva. Two ganas play instruments on either side of the Ganesha and at his feet sits the mouse.

Ganesha’s image can be found throughout India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal. Commercial and cultural contacts extended India’s influence in Asia and Ganesha is one of many Hindu deities who consequently reached many foreign lands.

Devotion to Ganesha is widely spread and extends to Jains and Buddhists. Ganesha’s elephant head makes him easy to identify. He is worshipped as the lord of beginnings and as the lord of removing obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the god of intellect and wisdom.

Ganesha Iconography

Ganesha is a popular figure in Indian art. Ganesha images first became prevalent in India in the 6th century, and representations of Ganesha have varied widely and have changed over time. He may be portrayed standing, dancing, fighting demons, playing with his family or engaging in a range of activities.

Ganesha has the head of an elephant, and a big belly and his statues have four arms. He holds his broken tusk in his lower-right hand and his lower-left hand he holds a delicacy, which he samples with his trunk. In other versions, Ganesha holds an axe or a staff in one upper arm and a noose in the other arm.

Exploring Asian Cultures

Reflections

  • Other than in a museum, where else do you see Ganesha images in the West?
  • Why is Ganesha a favourite with traders and merchants?
  • What makes Indian art unique?

Dancing Ganesha

  • Title:               Dancing Ganesha
  • Dates:             910
  • Provenience:  Madhya Pradesh, India
  • Materials:       Sandstone
  • Museum:        Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

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“A beautiful woman belongs to everyone; an ugly one is yours alone.”
– Indian Proverb

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Photo Credit: JOM

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