My Ganesha

March 15, 2007


Everywhere you go in India–in taxis, homes, stores–you find images of Ganesha, the benevolent elephant-headed god known as the remover of obstacles.

At first just another oddity, in time his omnipresent benign gaze seems an essential part of the Indian experience.

So by the time I reached Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, unconsciously I was already in his thrall.

Mamallapuram was home to the first great dynasty of southern India, the Dravidians. Unlike the Roman and Greek civilizations that thrived concurrently and have since vanished, the Dravidian culture still lives today in its elaborately carved and actively utilized stone temples.

One of its legacies is stone carvers who make their living pursuing the craft of sculpting granite statues for temples and homes. The workshops of these artisans line the highway leading to the city, and after a tour of the temples, I stopped on the road to examine some of the work being done now.

Unfortunately, the voice of reason, otherwise known as my aunt( or Massie, as she would be called in Hindi) had elected to retire to the hotel for a restorative massage.

Past endless Parvatis, Vishnus, Shivas…inevitably, I found myself standing before a six foot tall Ganesha. I began a discussion with the master stonemason with the aid of my guide and the driver (how long did this sculpture take, how much does it weigh, how much does it cost, etc.) and soon a crowd had collected. Before I quite realized it, a shipping agent had been sent for, I was sitting in the courtyard with the artisan’s wife and children, and heated negotiations about price had begun.

What is an Indian resort without a resident god? Thus I rationalize the purchase of a two thousand pound plus statue for (currently) an empty field in Mexico.