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Ganesha, late 16th century

India: Tamil Nadu, 1501-1600
6-1/2 x 4-5/8 x 3-3/8 in. (16.5 x 11.7 x 8.6 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Michael Phillips and Juliana Maio
© Norton Simon Museum

On view

The elephant-headed god Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and the god of wisdom and prudence. The son of Shiva and Parvati, he is also a learned scribe who wrote the epic Mahabharata as it was dictated to him by the sage Vyasa. Several stories tell of the origin of his head, one of which involves Parvati's brother, the planet Saturn, who destroyed it with his evil eye. Remorseful over his sister's grief, Saturn grafted onto his nephew the first available head, which happened to belong to an elephant. Ganesha's trunk usually hovers over a handful of sweets, accounting for his corpulent belly.

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