Lord Ganesh and me
Lord Ganesh, elder son of the supreme god Shiva, had a bad beginning – his father chopped his head off due to a misunderstanding. Quickly regretting what he had done, Lord Shiva replaced his son’s head with that of the first being he saw, which happened to be an elephant. But things ended well after all, for Lord Ganesh grew into the most knowledgeable and thoughtful of gods – grew, you might say, into his elephant’s head.
Many kalpas later, he acquired a further mark of distinction by breaking off one of his own tusks for the sage Viyasa to use as a pen to write the Mahabharata with.
Beginnings and endings are the special province of Lord Ganesh, which could explain some part of my fascination with him and the iconography that describes him. My life has been unusually full of beginnings and endings – good ones that ended badly, bad ones that ended well.
Memories. Acrylic on canvas, 70x94cm
I first began to feel the urge to paint him some time during the early Nineties, during a relatively tranquil period of my own life. Little did I know, then, that my tranquillity was soon to end... though perhaps my growing identification with the imagery of Ganesh unconsciously foreshadowed what was to come.
Whatever the reason, I found increasing solace and self-realization in painting Lord Ganesh as the years went by. I have always been a maker of images: mostly, these were images other people wanted. But in my own time, when working for my own pleasure, I found myself losing interest in all other subjects but Ganesh. Pillayar, Big Brother (as he is also known), became my only model.
Life. Acrylic on wood, 100x100cm
He poses for me in my mind, often in postures and manifestations only a student of his lore and mythology will recognize. The images he brings to me transcend convention, formality, dogma and even gender. Their meaning is sometimes obscure even to me, and over the last twenty eight years, I have spent much time pondering what the wise have written concerning him. Sometimes their words help me understand. Other times, I must be content to act as the unquestioning conduit of his inspiration.
Thousand petaled lotus of light. Acrylic on canvas, 152x120cm
For myself, I am not conventionally religious. Temples and churches are buildings I rarely enter. But even the most doctrinaire materialist may sometimes be chosen to serve the purposes of a power higher than themselves. This is what it feels like when I am at work on a painting like The Thousand-Petaled Lotus of Light or the one of the GOD within paintings: I have been chosen to make visible the luminous energy of the god, whose force, it is said, drives human consciousness to evolve from its lowest to its highest manifestations. Lord Ganesh’s soulful gaze, which I strive so hard to capture, both reflects and rewards my unquestioning, grateful acceptance of his inspiration and love.