Multivalent Lord Ganesha In Buddhist And Tantric Art

Some cultural critics might argue that remix and appropriation are newly emergent epi-phenomena of the digital world, where copies easily replicate and proliferate freely. But this flow is far from new, and this very drift could be seen as an intrinsic aspect of culture itself.

Just as music and commerce flow along the roads of humans, so too flow ideas about divinity, virtue, liberation and the marvelous. Our perceptions of reality are re-enforced or revised by these encounters, be those with humans or otherwise.

Ganapati - Red (12 hands): Tibet, Gelug lineage, 17th century.

Ganapati: Nepal, Hindu lineage, 17th century, stone.

Take our Lord Ganesha, for example, as he drifts and incarnates into the world of Buddhism and Tantra, where his ritual-function and deity superpowers transmigrate, sometimes being exalted (e.g., representing Avaloketeshwara) or subjugated (e.g., trampled upon by protector deities as a representation of the obstacles known as "idle chatter" and "gossip", impediments on the path of Dharma; this view of Ganesha was popularized recently in the opening pages of the original editions of Chogyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism).

And then there's the Tantric painting below, depicting a monkey goddess performing fellatio upon Lord Ganesha while menstruating into a cup made from a human skull. That's certainly mixing the sacred with the profane.

Ganapati - Red (4 hands): Tibet, Nyingma lineage, 17th century.

Ganapati - Red (4 hands): Mongolia, Buddhist lineage, 19th century.

All these wonderful images of Ganesha intertwined within these traditions are perusable online at the wondrous Himalayan Art archive. The Ganapati collection page gives a few further details about the appropriation/transmigration of Ganapati (Ganesha, Vinayaka, Vigneshwara, etc..) into Buddhism and Tantra; while the details are interesting, the text doesn't answer many questions. It's probably better that way —the drift is more complex than most art historians can grapple with, and satisfying explanations often evade singular, rational, linear tropes. Lord Ganesha rules categories and transcends them.

Ganapati - Red (12 hands): Tibet, Sakya (Ngor + Buddhist) lineages, 16th century.

Ganapati: Tibet, Buddhist lineage, early 20th century.

Ganapati - White (4 hands): Bhutan mural (detail).

Ganapati - Red (many arms): Mongolia, Buddhist lineage.

Ganapati - Red (12 hands): Tibet, Sakya lineage.

Click the images above for more information and to zoom in.

Link to the Himalayan Art Resources Buddhist Deity: Ganapati collection.

posted by
Spiros Antonopoulos

TAGS — art, Bhutan, Buddha, darshan, divinity, Ganapati, Ganesha, Himalayan, Hinduism, India, Indiaspora, Mongolia, Nepal, tantra, Tibet

Remarks

1 total remarks for this post. Add your own remarks below.

Tue 06 Nov 2007 at 05:14PM

CrippLeD SaM

|| Om Shri Hanumate Namah: ||

Wow, I didn't know that. Very Cool Pictures!

Some Versions of Hanuman Chalisa, Hanuman Mantra Jaap Mala, Bajrang Baan and more Mp3's can be downloaded at:

http://hanumanji.wordpress.com

YouRs SinCereLy M!sTer CrippLeD SaM

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Foremost credit goes to my wife Erin for her tireless patience + support of this endeavor. Thanks to Barry Silver for the artwork in the above banner and for his friendship, to Robert Beer for the illustrations. Thanks to Eddie Stern for his ongoing support and for providing inspiration. Thanks to my fellow farmers at One Digital Farm for help growing this.

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