Collecting the Remover of Obstacles

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 Papiermâché 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.

62 thoughts on “Collecting the Remover of Obstacles

  1. I’m not a worshiper, but I think the statures are beautiful. You have a nice collection.
    The images are a glimpse into the journal of your life.

  2. Once again your story and photos have be leaning over my computer with my coffee, totally enraptured by it all. I think my favorite is your Nepali Ganesha, though I love them all. And thank you for the education on Lord Ganesha. Wonderful post.

  3. I love your collection of Ganesha, each one with its own story as to how you acquired it. He is The Remover of Obstacles as you say and getting them home intact proved that.They are all works of art. Skilled artisans will attest to that and would be pleased to see that they made their way into a home that treasures them. Thanks for sharing.

    • I hope so. The artist who made the first one I bought was delighted about the sale, but I don’t think he was too happy it went to a foreigner. However, as he’s still my favourite after all these years, I hope he can feel how loved his creation is.

  4. I was given a Buddha statue by someone who had him hidden away in a closet. I have always loved it and it makes me happy to see him in my garden. I wouldn’t wish to belittle your beliefs, but I would be sad to part with him. I can’t help but think he’d be happier in my garden than in the closet I rescued him from.

    Thanks for the education on Ganesha. I love all the variations and particularly the stories that go with them.

    • My dear, it’s just tradition to put the statue higher than humans – I’m sure yours looks wonderful where it is and gives you great joy, especially as you’ve rescued it from the dark of a closet!

  5. just beautiful, each wonderful story illuminating your life, and the Remover of Obstacles allowing you to stay in Sri Lanka … i love how each statue expresses a different part of the great Ganesha …. oh, Abode of Happiness!!! (i have one only, a metal one from Bali who just had to come home with me about 10 years ago, now he sits outside the yoga barn welcoming all who enter)

  6. Wonderful! We have a lovely Ganesha from Indonesia, made of wood and beautifully painted. He has a sort of staff in his hand? I knew he was something to do with good luck and wealth… But love the description at the beginning.

    • Depending on which of his 108 manifestations is being depicted, he’ll have a whole array of different things in his hands. Check out Shasnthz’s collection:

    • Thanks for sending me over to Shaanthz’s collection Lynne – I’d love to see it in its entirety cause she’s got so many – like a whole set of Lord of the Music – that I’ve never seen before.

  7. Thanks for this post Wanderlust. I also love the Hindu gods and goddesses and when I travelled to India was enchanted and fascinated by their beauty and colour, especially Ganesh. I often feel the same about the image of Buddha too. but I’ve always been concerned that I shouldn’t collect them because they are not part of my religion – or that I am not part of theirs perhaps more like. however reading your post makes me realise that its ok to have them if we respect them and cherish them. Your collection is lovely. Thank you for sharing.

    • I think respect is the key, Pink, and perhaps a little understanding of what it is they represent – the same as if I had a collection of crosses.

      As well as being works of art – or at least of skilled craftsmanship – the gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon are wondrously, riotously colourful and I don’t see how it can do any harm to collect some, under those circumstances, if they give me joy.

  8. Your collection is lovely and I really appreciate you sharing it with us. I had no knowledge of the Ganesha before I read this and found this really interesting. It seems there are a lot of really beautiful things, some would consider artworks, that pertain to faith, religion or culture. It would never have occurred to me that it would be a bad thing to have something like this because I am not of that faith. I had a beautiful Budha when I was young of rosewood. I loved it as a beautiful piece of artwork. As I am a Christian, I did not worship it. Over the years I have admired and purchased several Menorahs. Again, they are works of art with some amazing stories behind their history or design. This did not make me Jewish. Your Ganesha are beautiful and I would be proud to own and display such an artifact.

    • I agree entirely, though I do view them as more than works of art. For me they are images from someone else’s faith and just as if I had a collection of crosses, or Orthodox icons – such glorious things – I hope I’d respect and admire them as both art and icon.

      • Yes, I didn’t mean to imply I wouldn’t consider them still as a faith icon. I have great respect and interest for other peoples faith.

  9. Nothing takes place in India without propitiating Vigneshwara (Vigna = obstacle)!! And although I am not very religious either, there is something very soothing about listening to Ganesha Stotras. I particularly love the first one, your terracotta baby, with his Maharashtrian headgear! Thanks for sharing your collection 🙂

  10. Remover of obstacles. I love this title the most. In my minds eye now Ganesha is an elephant standing majestically on the rooftops, hands(?) on hips, cape flapping in the breeze, superhero style. 😉

    I love the first Ganesha and the image of you carrying him like a baby, wrapped in silk, lovely 🙂

    • I always think of him as the Remover of Obstacles, and it was interesting that Madhu said:

      “Nothing takes place in India without propitiating Vigneshwara (Vigna = obstacle)!! And although I am not very religious either, there is something very soothing about listening to Ganesha Stotras. ”

      My image of him is a little different – but certainly a superhero of sorts. There’s a book – one of my all-time favourites, in fact – called Red Earth and Pouring Rain, by Vickram Chandra, where he plays a delicious character in the story: funny, and crafty, and wise, and loving, intuitive, formidable …

      Glad you enjoyed the image of a silk-wrapped baby and I on the plane back to Lanka:)

      • Luckily, you would have no reason to see the gentle Ganesha as a rooftop superhero, I on the other hand have spent days listening to the stories of two boys after playing their treasured new Batman game on the Wii, and, I have to say that it has temporarily warped my brain 😉

        I am not a religious person either, but I have a warm place in my heart for a god who has names that include things like loveable, beloved and happiness.

        • “… a warm place in my heart for a god who has names that include things like loveable, beloved and happiness.” – a particularly welcome being for humans whose brains are addled by small boys putting their Batman games on repeat, repeat, repeat … 🙂

  11. I have a small one sitting here on the shelf above my desk…
    I was drawn to set a pearl on it…
    a wonderful journey through your thoughts….
    Thank you for sharing….
    Take care….
    You Matter…

  12. The Ganesha are captivating. I love your assembly, and the stories of their provenance. The Ganesha that belonged to your mother is very touching. I had been unaware of the protocol of placing the Buddha statues high, but I have been uncomfortable with their proliferation in garden centres & stores, encouraging their application to décor. The G.O. has a selection of tiny Buddha statues which seem to find him, and are placed on a shelf with our special travel mementos, and seem at home there. We have a goddess, who arranged her own incarnation, sent me to a sculpture class, came to life under my hands, and gave me several bad moments when I had to disassemble & re-construct her shapely body. Her name is Lunara. She is positioned centrally in our living room and has a generous lap to hold all the little offerings we find for her. Thank you for sharing another special part of your world 🙂

  13. How jolly they all look. The things we choose and which choose us build up the patina of our lives and illustrate out history, don’t they? Whatever the object, it’s what they mean to us that’s important, at the end of the day. I like to look around my own home and reflect on the stories attached to each thing. If it doesn’t have a resonance of something, of memory, beauty or usefulness it shouldn’t be there! I loved your story of how your Ganesh found their places with you.

    • “The things we choose and which choose us build up the patina of our lives and illustrate out history” – love the way you put it, and yes, they’re the outward manifestation of our journey through life.

  14. Hey, thanks so much for checking out and “Liking” my Anza-Borrego Desert Pictorial Highlight!! I love that place so very much (as you could probably tell from the pictures and descriptions alone), it is magnificent and incredibly special to me. Which is probably why I chose it as my first Bioregion Pictorial Highlight, which I’ll be trying to do about once a week. As you well know, it seems important to utilize a variety of media in our work.

    Hope you’re having an incredible time in Sri Lanka (that’s where you are, right). I must’ve missed it–how long are you staying in the region?

    Aside from being “confined” to California at the moment because of parole restrictions, I’ve tended the last six years to limit my travels to the western United States, and mainly California. There’s just SO MUCH to see and do, and nature is my #1 priority anyway, I’m not looking for culture–not that I don’t think it’s fascinating, I just prefer the company of trees or geological features to that of human masses =) But then again, nature COULD be considered a form of culture, really.

    Anyway, thanks again, and I look forward to further travel adventures of yours, and to your response if you’re able!

    –Love and Liberation–

    Jan @ TheRewildWest

    • Can relate to your preference for ‘trees or geological features”. What’s that old hymn say … “only man is vile.”.

      I’ve been living and visiting Sri Lanka for almost 20 years now. Been here 4 years this time, but it’s about to end, which is sad, but also exciting – a new phase of my life opening up.

      Good luck with the Bioregion series. See ya’ around.

  15. Thank you for keeping all of us homebodies informed and inspired. I have nominated you for the Illuminating Blogger Award. If you choose to accept, the details are on my blog. Please keep safe wherever you go.

  16. What a beautiful collection and the wonderful stories behind each one. My favourite is the terracotta one. It sounds strange but he looks so happy out in the garden – that photo gives me a sense of peace and calmness.

  17. Great Post. I had an Indian Literature earlier this year and was attracted to Ganesha from the start. I have to find a little figure for myself !

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