Introduction of Ganesa Beyond
The Indian Frontiers
The Burmese are professedly Buddhist and follow the Pali canon
of the Southern school. Buddhism was introduced in Burma 10 the
later half of the 11th century. However, Hinduism appears to have
already penetrated into Burma long before Buddhism. This is evident
from innumerable images of Saiva and Vaisnava gods and goddesses
which have so far been found in that country. There is abundant
evidence--epigraphical and otherwise-to show the existence of a
considerable number of Hindus, particularly Brahmins, in Burma as
priests, astrologers, architects, etc., who probably occupied positions
of influence and responsibility. This perhaps took place in the
5th-6th centuries A.D. during the time of the Imperial Gupta rulers.
It were these people who introduced and carried with them images
of various deities of the Hindu pantheon.
A good number of Ganesa images have so far been found III lower
Burma, for in upper Burma Mahayana Buddhism held sway. Ganesa being
the god who removed obstacles and granted success in any undertaking,
his images were carried by merchants and traders who went out of
India in order to achieve success in trade and commerce beyond the
seas. Their journey was extremely hazardous and full of dangers.
It is, therefore, very natural that they carried with them small
portable statues of Ganesa. Professor Ray rightly observes that,
"Ganesa found popular favour mainly with the commercial section
of the population."14 In Burma, especially in the deltaic regions
of lower Burma, Indian immigrants settled in large numbers. In this
region, which was their commercial stronghold, a number of small
images of Ganesa have been found. They are modest in size, crude
in execution and are devoid of any artistic merit. They were probably
carried from place to place by merchants and traders as they travelled
far and wide in the country.
There are two interesting images of Ganesa in the Rangoon Museum.
Both are small in size and are carved in low relief. One of them
shows the god seated in padmasana and six armed. The attributes
in his hands are not clearly visible. The upper left appears to
be holding a discus (cakra) and a noose (pasa) while the two lower
hands hold the bi/va fruit and the trunk respectively. Both the
images betray poor workmanship