About this object

History of use

Indian popular religious prints have been published for nearly a century, first by German presses, later by Indian ones. The prints may take the form of calendars, posters, or simply images. The style of the representations is European. In the beginning they were Hindu images, but are now acquiring elements both of folk art and a romantic secularism. It is a living art currently influenced by the movie industry and non-Hindu religions. The images are a vehicle for advertising and are also used for religious purposes.

Cultural context

calendar art; popular religious art

Iconographic meaning

Elephant head identifies this god as Ganesh, lord of hosts, remover of obstacles. It is thought Shiva was responsible for his decapitation and subsequent renewal with new head of an elephant. Appearance explained by symbolism includes: trunk bent to remove obstacles, obesity which contains whole universe, and four arms which represent four categories into which things can be divided. As remover of obstacles, he is worshipped at start of rituals or journeys and, as a god of wisdom, he is invoked by seekers of knowledge. Endowed with an affectionate nature, he is popular and his images are found in many Shivaite households, and as a guardian deity on outskirts of villages. Horizontal stripes on his forehead identify him with Shiva. His mount is a mouse which permits him to solve problems were small size is important. An elephant can trample everything in its path, but a mouse can slip into small places to achieve same end of removing obstacles. Always shown with a broken tusk, which has several different explanations.

Physical description

Rectangular shaped calendar print. Depicted is Ganesha with elephant facial features and four arms. Back right hand holds an axe, front right hand is positioned upraised with palm facing out; back left hand holds an open lotus flower, front left arm is positioned across chest and is holding a golden ball-like object. A flower garland is around neck. Wears an elaborate temple mount crown and a circular halo of light is positioned behind head and shoulders. Upper body is bare except for pink wrap with gold trim draped around neck and arms. Wears several necklaces and matching jeweled gold bracelets on each of four wrists. Facial features show elongated large ears, two eyes slanted up and out from centre face. A large elephant trunk is curled to right. Left tusk is broken and right one is intact. On forehead are three horizontal stripes with a red dot in centre. Stamp mark in upper right hand corner identifies Shankar tools and implements. Red signature ‘Ravi’ in bottom right corner.