A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ganesha outside India

(With Anant Chaturdashi, we come to the end of the 10-day Ganapati festival. The following is my last article on Ganapati, for the time being, as the subject is so vast that one never knows when once again, I might want to write on Ganesha!)

Ganesha, though is a young god in the Hindu pantheon, his popularity rivals that of Shiva, Vishnu and other gods and goddesses. The Ganapati cult has also its followers in other parts of the world, especially in countries that were influenced by Buddhism. In many of the Asian countries, inscriptions, idols, etc. were found which bear testimony to the worship.

The worship of Ganesh was introduced in Japan around 9th century, by one Koloho Daishi. Ganesh here was worshipped as Kangi-ten of Daisho Kangi-ten (god of joy and harmony). Kangi-ten is not very famous today, but is secretly practiced by the Shingon sect. Representation of Kangi-ten is similar to the elephant-head god as we know, except that there is a difference. Kangi-ten is represented by two elephant-headed characters, one male and the other female, both facing each other and in an intimate embrace. This lends credence to the tantric roots of some branches of Buddhism. However, few representations show Kangi-ten without the female counterpart.

Mongolia too has seen some Ganesha worship. Temples have been found where four-handed Ganesh images have been found. Here too Ganesha has been seen in a similar form as above (Ganesha and Ganeshani) and is known to be fighting demons. In such images, he has always been shown with a radish in one of his hands, and in some, his vahana, the rat too has been depicted with a radish in its mouth.

Ganesha worship was also quite common in Burma, especially by the merchants. In Burmese language he is referred to as Mahapienne (great god), and merchants were known to carry small idols of the god whenever they travelled on work.

Similar worships were known to have taken place in all those areas which came under the spell of Mahayana Buddhism. There were difference myths woven to make stories where the Buddha and Ganesha were supposed to have interacted. The mythological intermingling is quite common as cultures started losing their borders.

Finally, the Roman god Janus. Janus was not an elephant headed god, but was a two headed god, one looking at the past and one towards the future, and thus the month of January is named after him. However, Janus like Ganesha, was worshipped at the beginning of all things, prior to planting and harvest, besides a host of auspicious moments, like birth, marriages, etc. This is the common aspect that Janus shares with Ganesha. Another similarity that can be inferred is that Janus was known to be a good of the gates, and Ganesha was created to guard the gates of Parvati.

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