Ganesha is the elephant-headed son of Shiva, one of the three most important deities of the Hindu pantheon, and his consort, the goddess Parvati. He is widely worshiped as the remover of obstacles and the bestower of good fortune, prosperity, and health. He is also the patron of arts and writing in the Hindu culture.
Parvati (15th century)Kimbell Art Museum
Parvati made Ganesha by scraping the oils from her skin and forming the clay into a son. Parvati is said to have created Ganesha in human form to be both a son and to act as her door guardian.
Four-Armed Ganesha (5th–6th century A.D.)Kimbell Art Museum
How did Ganesha get his
charming elephant head? It’s a brutal tale.
One day, Ganesha was guarding Parvati's chambers while she was taking a bath. When Ganesha refused to admit Shiva into Parvati’s bath chamber, the enraged god cut off the child’s head.
In order to placate the distressed Parvati, Shiva replaced the boy’s head with that of the first living thing he could find—an elephant.
Ganesha’s boyish and chubby body and his elephant head make him an approachable and lovable deity
Hindu deities are often depicted with multiple arms to symbolize a multiplicity of superhuman powers.
Ganesha has four arms, which would each hold the deity’s usual attributes.
He would have held a bowl of sweets in his lower left hand, which his trunk extends toward to eat.
In his upper left hand, he would have held a rosary.
In his upper right hand, he would have held a noose or a weapon.
In his lower right hand, he would have held a broken tusk. This refers to the Hindu legend where Ganesha broke his tusk off in order to continue writing the Indian epic, Mahābhārata, after his quill broke.
This relief also features a snake wrapping around Ganesha’s torso and a third eye on his forehead, attributes that connect him to his father, Shiva.
His head is adorned with a floral crown and ringed by a halo.
Above him are two celestial beings holding a banner or canopy above his head.
In the lower right-hand corner, we see a kneeling devotee. He is either praying or making offerings to Ganesha. The benevolent god Ganesha grants success and prosperity and protection against adversity.
The Kimbell From Home
Indian, Four-Armed Ganesha, 5th–6th century A.D. Terracotta relief. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas