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This brilliant brass-statue of the elephant god Lord Ganesha, exceptional in its luster and magnificent in its beauty, represents him, though not without some variations, in his Kshipra Ganapati manifestation, the red-hued Lord quick in acting upon a prayer. Though not one of the earliest eight forms that texts perceived as prevailing over eight demons, symbolic of eight demonic natures in man or eight basic human weaknesses, Kshipra Ganapati is one of his thirty-two forms under which the early Puranas classified him. Inclusive of the early eight these thirty-two forms related to various other aspects, especially his nature, his effectiveness, power over disruptive forces, quickness to act in granting a boon or accomplishing a prayer, and overall effectiveness as the ultimate divine power.
The red-hued Ganapati Brass Statue, red indexing his youthful vigor and great energy, the essential attributes of Kshipra Ganapati, manifests him as one who acts with utmost quickness in his grants. The quickness of Kshipra Ganapati is not revealed in any of his bodily acts or demeanor, which better reflects in his forms like Nratya Ganapati or Simha Ganapati, but in his effectiveness, his power, and intent to effect. “Kshipra’ is one of the epithets that the Rig-Veda attributes also to Lord Vishnu as this earliest text, equating him with the sun, or alternating the sun and Vishnu mutually, perceived him as fast-moving spanning the universe in three strides. The subsequent Puranas humanized this Vedic attribute of Vishnu. They personified him into the god, one of the Trinity, who rushed as the fasted ever or any to protect and help a devotee summoning him. Unlike Vishnu, and almost like contemporary days, e-power Kshipra Ganapati affects his bounties by commanding and dispatching his divine powers.
Sprawling in full ease, a sitting mode classified in Indian iconographic tradition as Utkut Akasana – both legs diagonally turned, collected, and laid on the seat, as manifests in the statue, is the usual body posture of Kshipra Ganapati. Ordinarily, the seat that Lord Ganesha enshrines in the statue seems to consist of a single molding with a plain top and the rising adorned with repeats of a design-motif, a tiny plant form that seems to radiate its aura above; however, with its roots and trunk drew skywards, and foliage and the glow that it radiates, earthwards, the plant motif reveals a rare symbolism. Of all trees and plants it is only the mythical Kalpa-Taru – the wish-fulfilling divine tree, that has its roots skywards, and its foliage, earthwards. As texts prescribe, a sprig of Kalpa-taru is one of the attributes that Kshipra Ganapati carries in one of his hands. This image of the elephant god does not carry any. The artist seems to have modified his vision of Kshipra Ganapati. He has modeled the divine figure with one of his hands held in ‘abhaya’ – a gesture of assurance, which he thought was more relevant to Kshipra Ganapati form. The iconographic element of Kalpa-taru he has incorporated with the ‘pitha’ – seat, he is seated on and pervades.
As is the classical tradition, this brass image of Kshipra Ganapati represents him as four-armed. For transforming it into lustrous red, which is the body color of Kshipra Ganapati, except some selective parts, such as the trunk, palms, and attributes carried in hands, the statue has been anodized in copper blended with a bright reddish tint which in contrast endows gold-like luster to the undyed parts. The body color represents youthfulness, vigor, and physical and spiritual energy. Broadly, Kshipra Ganapati carries in his hand's goad, noose, broken tusk and sprig of Kalpa-taru, and either of a pot of gems or ‘modak’ is held in the trunk. In reasonable deviation, the image replaces the ‘Kalpa-taru’ element as a form in the ‘pitha’ and incorporates instead ‘abhaya’. Similarly, it replaces broken tusk, symbolic of sacrifice and the means of accomplishing an end, with ‘modak’ that the hand holding it is feeding to the trunk, symbolic of accomplishment and hence more appropriate to the imagery of Kshipra Ganapati. The image is in ‘utkut akasana’ revealing carefree ease as in intimate moments. Perfect in modeling, unparalleled in luster, the two halves cast with delightful symmetry and strange visual effects the image reveals great aesthetic beauty and far greater divine aura.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes in the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr. Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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