Introduction of Ganesa Beyond
The Indian Frontiers
OF ALL THE gods and goddesses
of the Hindu pantheon, Ganesa is the most interesting not only on
account of his importance, but also because of his iconographical
He is depicted with an elephant's head, a bulging belly and in
a variety of poses. In point of time the god appears to be a late
addition to the hierarchy of Hindu deities but, at the same time,
it is noteworthy that he achieves a very exalted position in the
hierarchy of gods and goddesses within a very short space of time.
The general opinion seems to favour the view that his worship began
sometime in 6th century A.D. and during the following two or three
centuries we witness his rapid rise to prominence, so much so, that
by tenth century an independent sect-of course within the folds
of Hinduism-commonly known as the Ganapatya comes into being. Ganesa
was also borrowed by other religious systems such as Budhism and
Jainism, and his worship spread almost all over Asia (except the
western regions) where Buddhism and other sects of Hinduism became
living faiths. Ganesa is still accorded a very high position by
the Hindus and it is one of the most important deities worshipped
in India today.
The worship of Ganesa, the elephant-headed deity, in the late
Gupta and the post-Gupta periods can be said to be an established
fact. This has been conclusively proved by the evidence furnished
by an inscription on an ancient column at Ghatiala near Jodhpur
(Rajasthan). The inscription is dated 862 A.D. and has been taken
to be the earliest of its kind in the praise of this deity. The
column is crowned by four images of Ganesa, seated back to back
and facing the four cardinal points. This shows that by 862 Ganesa,
in the form of the elephant-headed god, had risen to that exalted
position where he was worshipped independently and invocated for
success. However, earlier images of the god are met with in the
rock-cut temples at Elephanta, Ellora and Badami in western India.
The images of Ganesa ascribable to 6th century A.D. are far and
few between. Noteworthy among them are those 10 the Gupta temple
at Bhurma (District Panna, Madhya Pradesh) and Udaygiri hills near
Vidisa (Madhya Pradesh). They have been adequately noticed by scholars
who agree that the worship of Ganesa was in vogue in the Gupta period.
In this connection it is interesting to note that Varahamihira in
his Brhatsamhita prescribed the details regarding the fashioning
of the Ganesa images) The work is dated to the beginning of the
6th century and it can therefore be surmised that .the images of.
Ganesa must have existed in the still earlier period.
It appears that the worship of Ganesa began in the Gupta period
around 4th-5th cent. A.D. and spread to other lands quite early.
The Ruddh1st lost no tune in borrowing the deity in their own pantheon
and Ganesa travelled to d1stant lands along with Buddhism. Thus
in South-east Asia he was worshipped as a Hindu deity whereas m
the Far East, he was adored as a Buddhist deity. The following account
amply shows that the elephant-headed god was worshipped almost all
over Asia (except West Asia), and as such he is perhaps the only
Hindu divinity whose worship was so widely distributed in terms
of space and time.