Above: a copper sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva
Nataraja, India, eleventh century. See the original
in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Below: the elephant-headed god Ganesha. See
the original bronze statue in the Cleveland
Museum of Art. The god Ganesha is the Lord of
Success. He is the Remover of Obstacles, hence
he is worshipped before starting any new venture.
He is also the god of education, wisdom, literature,
and fine arts.
Ganesha is the son of the god Shiva and the goddess
Parvati. The myth describing how he came to have
the head of an elephant tells how Parvati, wishing
to bathe, set her son Ganesha to guard her privacy.
His father Shiva approached, and Ganesha told him
on Parvati's instruction not to enter. Angered by
Ganesha's interference, Shiva beheaded him, but
Parvati demanded that Shiva restore their son to
life immediately. Shiva sent his servants to bring
him the first living thing that they could find to
supply a replacement for the head which he had
just severed from Ganesha, and the first creature
they found was an elephant, whose head Shiva was
then obliged to use in restoring the boy to life.
It was however an entirely auspicious event: in
Hindu belief, the elephant embodies wisdom.
Ancient Egyptian Instances
Ancient Greek Instances
More Hindu Instances