In Focus

Necklace with pendant of Ganesha

Ganesha is the elephant-headed deity, son of Shiva and Parvati, who is evoked by Hindus upon waking every morning, for he is the overcomer of all obstacles and the god of success and good luck. Many houses have an image of Ganesha at their entrances to ensure the well-being of the dwellings and their inhabitants. Many stories explain how Ganesha acquired his elephant head, but one of the most preva­lent is that Ganesha was created from the dirt his mother, Parvati, removed from her body. After he was created she assigned him the task of guarding the door when she was bathing. Shiva returned home quite surprised to see this boy in his house and in anger snapped off his head. Parvati was devastated and Shiva, to con­sole her, rushed out to find the head of the first being he encountered, which was an elephant.

This necklace was probably not intended for secular use, but rather was made for a temple treasury to be worn by the images installed in a temple. While carved images of deities remain unadorned in museums today, in their original tem­ple contexts each image would have been richly dressed in fine clothing and elabo­rate jewelry including necklaces, bracelets, crowns, and much more. Jewelry in pre-modern India was worn equally by men and women—both mortals and deities— so this particular necklace could have adorned male or female deities. Since Shiva is by far the most popular deity in south India, in all likelihood this item of jewelry is probably from a Shaivite temple complex.

The necklace appeals strongly to contemporary taste in its simplified, abstracted design. The five-piece collar is covered with a fine filigree in which pat­terns were created by applying gold wire and granulation over a solid gold ground. By contrast Ganesha’s face consists of a solid gold sheet with ruby eyes and a simple, centrally placed, raised band of gold that extends down his trunk. It ter­minates in a circular ball representing the end of the trunk.

Excerpt from

Catherine Asher, "Necklace with pendant of Ganesha," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Have: Yale University Press, 2013), 136.