Ganesha and Consorts, 18th century
Opaque watercolor on paper 13 3/4 in. x 10 1/8 in. (34.93 cm x 25.72 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, The William and Edith Cleary Collection1992.8.406
The Imperial Mughal School influenced painting of the Hindu Rajput courts during the 17th and 18th centuries, though in the 19th century, Rajput painters looked to each other for inspiration. Mughal influence in this painting of Ganesha, consorts, and attendants is minimal, suggesting a late 18thcentury date. Artists working in Bundi, a state in southeastern Rajasthan, are known for their preference for vivid colors, but they did not necessarily aim to achieve the verisimilitude of Mughal spatial depictions. In this painting, the central figure of Ganesha is seated on a carpet that seems to float in an undefined landscape.
There are various tales of how the Hindu god Ganesha received his elephant head. In one version, Shiva arrived home from a journey and found a young man blocking entry into his wife Parvati’s chambers. After his many years apart from Parvati, whom he was anxious to see, Shiva became enraged at the youth’s audacity and cut off the boy’s head. Parvati was distraught to see what he had done, for Ganesha was their son. Chastised and anguished, Shiva rushed off to bring back the head of the first creature he found.
Ganesha is beloved in India as the Remover of Obstacles. His image is the first that one encounters upon entering a Hindu temple, where young and old alike beseech him for aid in everyday needs. Though Ganesha’s head is that of an elephant, his body remains human, and his love of sweetmeats is credited with contributing to his elephantine bulk. He holds his typical attributes of an elephant goad, sweetmeats, and a kendi (lustration vessel). Here his consorts sit on his lap, and his vehicle, a rat, lies on the carpet.