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This delightful polychrome statue shows the god Ganesha, with his elephant head and human body. The figure of Ganesha, originally Hindu, is very popular in Asian cultures and now transcends many religious barriers. He is commonly worshipped by all branches of Hinduism, Jains and Buddhists.
There are many and conflicting stories surrounding the persona of Ganesha. Some say that he was the son of the gods, Parvati and Shiva, some say he was created by one or other of them, and some say he was just found by them.
However, Parvati and Shiva are common to all of them. Equally, the stories about how he came by his elephant head are very varied. A popular story is that Parvati created him out of dust from her body and set him to guard her while she was bathing. When her husband, the god Shiva, returned he was enraged at this stranger who barred his way, and smote off his head. The mother’s grief surprised him and, to make amends, he sent out for a head from the nearest living being. His servants returned with an elephant head which he fixed to the boy’s body, and thus brought him back to life.
Another version has him as the child of Parvati and Shiva. At a gathering to celebrate his birth, the Sun God was persuaded against his will to look upon the child, whose head was immediately burned to ashes, or severed from his body. The god Vishnu rushed to the river and returned with the elephant head which was then attached to the infant’s body.