Date: 14th–15th century
Culture: India (Orissa)
Dimensions: H. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Klejman, 1964
Accession Number: 64.102
Details such as the string of beads decorating Ganesha's head ornament, necklace, bracelets and anklets, the mannered veins in his ears, and the elaboration of his curly strands of hair suggest that this ivory sculpture of the elephant-headed god was carved in the Orissa region in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.
The Hindu god of auspiciousness, Ganesha is popularly accepted as the first son of Shiva and Parvati. As the deity who controls obstacles–their invention and removal—he is worshipped before any serious undertaking. How Ganesha came to have his unusual head is the subject of many stories. According to one of the most common, once, when Shiva was away, Parvati created a human son from her body and asked him to guard the door while she bathed. Shiva returned home unexpectedly, and, when the boy refused to let him in, cut off his head. Enraged, Parvati insisted that Shiva replace her son's head. He did—with that of the first living being he saw, an elephant.
This seated four-armed Ganesha holds one of his tusks, two entwined snakes, an elephant goad, and a box of sweets, which he tastes with his trunk. The broken tusk in his lower left hand is a reference to another well-known tale in which the portly Ganesha hurls a tusk at the moon in retaliation for its amusement at witnessing his stomach burst from overeating.