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Lord Ganesh: The Unspoken Eastern Origin

Lord Ganesh: The Unspoken Eastern Origin

Dirgheswari Gasnesha

Centuries before Bal Gangadhar Tilak reinvented Ganesh as a unifying symbolism of Indian nationalism; subaltern people across eastern India; to which our site pays homage, were worshipping Lord Ganesh. So it is not just a “Lal Baugh Ka Raja” phenomenon, as it is made out to be!

He took up His axe and cut the world into two pieces; segregating soil and water; and from water was born Life!

That is the Santhal concept of Lord Ganesh. A huge elephant-head with a body of a human. An image that freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak reinvented as a unifying force for the freedom movement.

But eons before him; all over the eastern parts of India; Ganesh was worshipped; and especially in Assam; where there are so many temples to him.

The name Ganesh means Gana = masses, and Eesha = God.

The God of the masses.

That is why the Santhal tribal mythology says Ganesh created the world. And Ganesh resides – says mythological sources – in the East.

Though there is no reference or evidence that this image or depiction is – or was ‑worshipped by the Santhal community, but there is a short description of ‘Gajamati’ in eastern folklore.

The Creator of this world is called ‘Thakur Jiu’ (Life Giver) or ‘MarangBaru’ (Supreme Deity, or literally, The Great Mountain), who is the “cause of all causes,” making the Santhal religion, in a deep sense, monotheistic as well as pantheistic.

First of all, ‘Thakur Jiu’, from the water, created fish, tortoise, crocodile, earthworms and all kinds of living creatures of the water, along with sun and moon and finally, human beings.

But though there is no archeological evidence that the Santhals actually worshipped Ganesh, for the Santhals’ animistic spiritualism did not conceive temples, there have been many temples to Him strewn all across the east, especially Assam.

 

Lalmati Duramari Temple

Lalmati Ganesh TempleThe Lalmati Duramari Ganesh Temple is situated nearby Abhayapuri at Khagrapar Hills and is one among the oldest monuments of Assam.

After a detailed study, archaeologists have come to the conclusion that according to the carvings and structures of the idols, the temple and its images are down the ages of 8th to 10 century AD.

When you visit this place, you can see the monument remains and few ruined formations. A nature lover will like the beauty of these broken parts being hung, in abstract shapes.

The real reason for the destruction of the images and temple is still a mystery.

Some scholars suggest that the cause of destruction was a major earthquake that had hit the northeast region in the 8th or 10th century AD.

 

An Archeologist Writes For Us

The land of Kamarupa (Ancient Assam) is believed to be the abode of several divinities of the Hindu pantheon.

Ganesh appeared to be the favourite among the deities of temple architects.

This is discernable from the great number of independent temples and rock-cut sculptures of Lord Ganesh found in and around Assam.

Textual evidence throws light on the presence and development of the popularity of Lord Ganesh in Assam.

For instance- while mentioning the boundaries of the ancient Kamarupa, a Tantric work of the 6th century threw light on the developing images of Lord Ganesh amongst the inhabitants of Assam.

The remains of an old stone temple with a beautifully decorated door jamb at Dah-Parbatiya belonging to the Gupta period (5th-6th century AD) near the modern town of Tezpur, are considered as the one of the earliest specimens of architectural marvel in Assam.

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Dirgheswari GaneshaSpecial mention can be made of Ganesh images found at popular temple complexes like the Kamakhya, Manikarneswara, Mahabhairav, Sukreswar, Dirgheswari, Bagheswari, Ganeshguri, Pandunath, Lalganesh, Latasil Ganesa mandir, Ganesa mandir near Jorabat, Khetri Ganesa mandir, miniature images of Ganesa in Madan Kamdeva shrine, Surya Pahar and many more.

On the door jamb is found the images of Lord Ganesh along with floral and decorative motifs and sculptures.

Amongst the several rock-cut images, the image of Bohapahar near Chanaka, measuring 15 feet x 15 feet have been considered as the biggest statue of Lord Ganesh found in Assam.

The Ganesh image discovered at Pandu is ascribed to the 8th and 9th century.

Rock-cut-Ganesa-from-Vishnu-JanardanAlthough not popularly worshipped as seen in other parts of India, people of Assam worship or pay their reverence to Ganesh as a presiding deity of success.

So when the crowds during the immersion ceremony of Ganesh idols in Bombay (now styled ‘Mumbai’) chant “Ganpati Bappa Maurya, Purcha Barshi Lauhar Ya”, please do not think he is a ‘Maharashtrian God’.

It all began in the east, centuries ago.

 

This is the beginning of the East India Story!

 

Dr. Gangotri BhuyanGrateful to Dr. Gangotri Bhuyan, an anthropologist with passion for prehistoric archaeological studies focussing on Garo Hills, Meghalaya.

 

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View Comments (2)
  • Wonderful reading the article published by Sid Ghosh, especially about Lord Ganesh ji.

    One issue that always perturbs me is that every year we spend lacs of rupees in creating and decorating Lord Ganesh ji and also Ma Durga ji and then throw these in water. Their naked skeletons keep lying as junk with dealers who again sell these to the bhakts of Ma Durga ji and Ganesh ji during the next festival season. What a waste of resources. To maintain the tradition for orthodox worshipers, clay idols with only organic colours for clothing of size not more than 6 inches be immersed in water, which can be taken by one large procession representing a major geographical region like village, colony.

    Why not with the same money make permanent assets by renovating/ enlarging the existing temples or make new ones with large community halls for community prayers and functions. Also modern hygienic kitchens can be added for all devotees to share food together.

    Also we should encourage to have only one puja sthal in a geographical location and not mushroom of small pandals. This would of bring in more cohesiveness in the society like Bal Gangadhar who urged people to make Ganesh puja a public affair instead of confining to homes.

    Incidentally, I have written to the present Prime Minister on this topic among some other points..

    • Dear Sir, we are happy to have received your very encouraging letter. What you say is entirely true. Apart from waste of resources, which you so rightly pointed out, it is a major drag on our environment. However, there are powerful cartels of businesspersons who run such businesses, and it is difficult to stop them. Hope more people like you write on this issue so that there is a consensus is built up.

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