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Ganesha, c. 950-1000

India: Tamil Nadu, 925-1025
overall: 16 x 8-1/2 x 6 in. (40.6 x 21.6 x 15.2 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on View

Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is easily recognized by his elephant head and chubby, child-like body. Several different myths describe the origins of his elephantine features. One of them explains that when Ganesha refused to allow Shiva to enter a room where Parvati was bathing, Shiva cut off his head. Despondent, Parvati demanded that Shiva replace their son’s head with the head of the first being that walked by, which happened to be an elephant.

Ganesha’s potbelly reflects his love of sweets. He is often portrayed carrying treats such as mangoes or ladoos (sweet pastries) in his left hand, while his trunk curls to his side to pluck one for a snack. His front right hand holds a piece of one of his tusks, sometimes said to have broken off in his struggle with Shiva.

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