For years I’ve had a crush on images of the great Ganesha,
Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings, Lord of Writing, Lover of Beauty, Master of Poets, Lord of Music, Knowledge Bestower, Beloved and Loveable Child, Huge and Gigantic, Abode of Happiness, Chief of the Elephants, He of the Curved Trunk, He of the Single Tusk, …
I love the myriad conundrums of his mythic manifestations and metamorphoses, the whimsical humour of his appearance and of course, his connection to my elephants.
I have to admit that Cardinal Gutzman’s recent satirical post about the cult status of Buddha statues within interior decorating circles where she comes from made me a little uncomfortable. My only Buddha statue is kept up high, in the prescribed fashion, where no one but the spiders and geckos can look down on it. It’s not an alter, but it is a symbol, or statement, of my beliefs. What made me uncomfortable is the possible trivialization of someone else’s Lord – because yes, I have a little collection of Ganesha statues.
My collection began during one of my frequent Visa Expulsion trips to India, back in the early ’90s. I stumbled across this fellow, in the garden of a commercial gallery in Chennai. He’s made from unfired terracotta, and is as fragile as a flower. To take him back to Sri Lanka I wrapped him in silk saris, and carried him like a baby. In those days a first class air ticket from Chennai to Colombo was $100. We were cared for like royalty, and my Beloved and Loveable Child was enthroned in pride of place on a raised plinth, overlooking a small pool beside the living room. Since then, he’s become quite the traveller, though I’ve now begun a collection of pieces – one of his hands, part of an ear, a section of turban …
My next purchase was again from India, from the stonecutters of Mahabalipuram. Again wrapped in saris, but this time – too heavy to carry under my arm – he was placed within a small suitcase purchased specially for the flight back to Sri Lanka, he eventually found his way to his intended destination – Australia. I had purchased him as a gift for my mother, who had sounded so wistful when she saw photographs of the terracotta fellow.
I’m so happy I’ve inherited him from her, because he delighted her, and now he reminds me of that, and of her.
This Nepali Ganesha had been lovingly carried back to Oz from his mountain home by a friend. Many years later, finding himself without a home, my friend sent him to me. What a mirthful fellow he always is, though he is a little less colourful these days.
After Ma and Papa had died, I came back to Sri Lanka for a long visit, propelled by a greatly anticipated wedding. Since I was to be here for a while, I’d rented a furnished bedsit, but wouldn’t you know, what it boasted in location and utility, it lacked in charm and ambiance. A few items of beauty ware called for. I wasn’t looking for a large cast metal statue – that’s for sure, but that is indeed what I purchased and the Lover of Beauty and Abode of Happiness directed that it would be so. It was during that time that I decided it was time to come back “home” to my interrupted life in Sri Lanka.
Fifteen or twenty years ago I admired a whimsical Papier–mâché Ganesha, here in Colombo. He was a work of art, and beyond my meagre pocket. But times change, and one day, not long after I moved to this house with its turquoise doors, I came across a collection of smaller, less intricate copies – and one was in turquoise – I just had to have him. He doesn’t need adorning, but stands on a glass shelf, ever watchful, and greatly admired.
Finally, there’s the small brass image I keep with my important things – superstitiously believing that they will be protected by his presence – but I shan’t show you a picture of him, he’s a secret weapon. Almost twenty years, and I’ve yet to be disabused of the notion that people seeing him there will think again ….
Many thanks to Jake for this week’s Sunday Post challenge: Collectables.