Introduction of Ganesa Beyond
The Indian Frontiers
Thailand (popularly known as Siam) came into contact with India
at a very early period. The stylistic evidence shows the influence
of the Amaravati school on Siamese art in the early centuries of
the Christian era. Later still, the Gupta, Pallava and Pal a elements
are noticeable in Siamese art. It appears that the southern part
of Thailand came first into contact with India. It was easier for
Indian traders to push further eastward from lower Burma into Thailand.
This should explain the strong Burmese Hindu influence on the Mon
art during 6th-8th century A.D.
The Mons were devout Hindus. Notwithstanding the fact that the
Thais adhered to Buddhism later, Ganesa was popular among them all.
Several statues of the god have been found. Among these those of
the Ayuthian period are noteworthy. The early art of Ayuthia (Ayodhya)
betrays strong Indian influence. This is borne out by a fine bronze
statue which represents the god seated on a cushion in the maharajalila
pose with his trunk curved towards left. Under his uplifted right
leg is his vahana, the rat. He wears a knee-reaching lower garment
and a sacred thread of snake (naga-yano-pavita). His bangles and
armlets are simple rings (valayas) whereas the jewelled karanda-mukuta
He has four hands, the arrangement of which, according to Getty,
is rather unusual and unique.18 From the shoulder to the elbow there
is one arm, but at the elbow the arm branches into two. Of the two
upper hands, the left holds a noose (pasa) while the attribute in
the right is not clearly seen. The lower right holds a broken tusk
and the lower left rests on the thigh. However, the god is shown
with both the tusks intact. This lapse of iconographical details
may be due to the ignorance of the Ayuthian artist.
In the famous Hindu temple at Bangkok, there is an interesting
bronze statue of Ganesa. He is shown with his legs superposed. He
wears a naga-yajnopavlta. In his right hand is to be seen the broken
tusk while in the left is a manuscript. This can be taken, with
a reasonable amount of certainly, to be the representation of Ganesa
as a scribe (lekhaka) for the sage Vyasa who is traditionally supposed
to have dictated the whole Mahabharata to Ganesa. This is not unlikely
in view of the fact that the great epic had already reached as far
as Cambodia by 6th century. It may also suggest Ganesa's association
with knowledge (jnana).