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11th century

India, Tamil Nadu

Copper alloy

H. 21 1/4 x W. 10 3/4 x D. 10 7/8 in. (54 x 27.3 x 27.6 cm)

Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.26

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Ganesha, the son of Parvati and Shiva, is one of the most popular gods of the Hindu pantheon. He is worshipped as the god of good luck and remover of obstacles. Ganesha's elephant head is the result of a quarrel between Shiva and Parvati. Angered by Ganesha's refusal -- at Parvati's request -- to let him see his wife while she was bathing, Shiva cut off Ganesha's head. In order to soothe Parvati, who was devastated with grief, Shiva agreed to replace Ganesha's head with that of the first creature he saw, which happened to be an elephant. Metal images of Ganesha from the Chola period are fairly common as they were carried at the forefront of every temple procession and were essential at temple festivals. As a result, shrines generally commissioned more than one image of the god. The figure stands on a double inverted lotus base superimposed on a rectangular, terraced base with four loop rings for fastening during processional use and with two vertical prongs at the extreme edges of the rectangle.