Introduction of Ganesa Beyond
The Indian Frontiers
There are quite a few images of Ganesa which can be ascribed to
the Gupta period but they are supposed to be rather doubtful specimens.
There are, however, some images in Afghanistan which have recently
come to light. Of these, one was found some years ago at Gardez
and was subsequently removed to Kabul where it is now worshipped
by the Hindu residents of Kabul in Dargah Pir Rattan Nath near the
Pamir Cinema. The sculpture is a typical product of the Indo-Afghan
school. " ... It is made of inferior marble and is about 60
cms. high and 35 cms. broad bearing on its pedestal an inscription
in two lines" which records that "This great and beautiful
Maha- Vinayaka was consecreted by the renowned Shahi King, the illustrious
Shahi Khingala, who was Parama-bhattaraka Maha-rajadhiraja in the
eighth year (of his reign), in the maha-Jyestha masa. sukla- paksha.
trayodasi, Visakha nakshtra and Simha lagna." On the basis
of the palaeography of their record, it can he assigned to the early
6th century.2 However. we do not know anything about this king Khingala.
But it is interesting to note in this connection that Kalhana. in
his Rajatarangini records that a very ancient king named Narendraditya
also bore the name of Khinkhila.3 But Narendraditya of Kashmir who
bore this peculiar title was a late king and cannot be identified
with Khingala, who, as the record explicitly states was a Shahi
king. He was an early king as attested by Aurel Stein and in that
case may be identified as the issuer of those coins bearing the
legend Khinga or Khingi on them.
On stylistic grounds also the image can be dated to the end of
5th and the beginning of 6th century. It depicts the god standing
in the alidha pose, his hands, legs and the chest are muscular suggesting
a strong Hellenistic influence. The trunk, which is broken, was
turned to the left while the broken tusk is clearly indicated on
the left. A close-fitting coronet on the head, a necklet (kanthi)
fitting close in the neck are all noteworthy as in the Gupta sculptures
of Sarnath. The ears have been camouflaged into foliage and this
has mislead earlier visitors into thinking that they were wings.
The god had originally four hands, all of which are unfortunately
broken. His yajnopavita is a snake with which he is said to have
secured his belly full of modakas when, according to the story,
the moon laughed at him from. the sky. His undergarment is a short
dhoti (ardhoruka) on Which designs like lion's head (kirti-mukha),
lotus buds and tasselled fringe of swallow's tail occur while the
torso the belly, the naga-yajnopavita, the urdhvamedhra and various
designs on his undergarment, all suggest that the inspiration is
from Magadha. However, the anatomy of the figure, with an emphasis
on muscular hands and legs, is c1ear]y suggestive of the lingering
Another interesting marble image of Ganesa is reported from Afghanistan.
It was found at Sakar Dhar (Shankar Dhar), ten miles north of Kabul,
from where are reported very interesting images of Surya and Siva.4
It represents a standing Ganesa wearing an undergarment (antariya)
which is characterised by the acanthus motif. What is remarkable
is that the stem of the acanthus is intended to show Ganesa as urdhvamedhra,
for the acanthus design appearing to hang on it. The bulging belly
is not, however, of huge proportions that Ganesa is usually associated
with. He wears a naga-yajnoopavita with the knot simulating the
snake's head. The chest is muscular as is common in Gandharan sculptures.