If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

The Hindu deity Ganesha

Hear the origin story of the Hindu deity Ganesha and learn how to identify depictions of Ganesha with the use of artworks in the Asian Art Museum's collection. Learn more about Ganesha on education.asianart.org.

Want to join the conversation?

  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user The Q
    Two questions:What does the broken tusk represent? Less important:What are sweetmeats? I see mention of sweetmeats all the time in my cherished historical fiction books...
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leaf green style avatar for user Harshit Tiwari
      well i do not say that manita ohja is wrong but there exist one more story too that i do not remember well but it goes like this
      there was a saint who was writing ancient texts lord Ganesha was just roaming around or playing or doing something like that but he was enjoying what ever he was doing , the saint saw him and asked to help him he said yes i will but on condition that you will have to say it all very fast.
      the saint agreed he then might have said words like rapper Eminem . Ganesha was trying to cope up with speed but his kalam (the pen which in ancient time used to be of peacock's hair diped in natural color now can be called ink)was breaking again and again so he break his one of his tusk and used it as kalam the pen. there r potos of him writting with his broken tusk too,nut i m preetty much sure that i have not heard or seen any thing like a fight between kartik and ganesh.
      (7 votes)
  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Sojourn Soulman
    Couldn't the guy have just put Ganesha's own head back on instead of chopping one off an elephant?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leafers tree style avatar for user Manita Ojha
      Actually Shiva went around to find an animal head to put on Ganesha, but he didn't want to take one's life. He found an baby elephant who's mother had died, which meant that the baby would have died as well, so he gave the elephant another chance at life, and Ganesha had a new head. And because Ganesha is a god, he wouldn't die, he would just not do anything until he got a new head.
      (6 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Koichi Lee
    what kind of art from is this?
    Did the art form of Ganesha change over time?
    We have a 9th century statue of the seated Ganesha in the Honolulu Museum of Art and the one in the video is from the 13th century, I wanted to know if there were any changes or has the style never changed?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Of course the styles change, yet remain similar enough to be recognizable. I suggest that you use Google Image Search, or something like it, to look up different statues of Ganesha from the different centuries and compare them. You'll see similarities (because, after all, Ganesha is Ganesha) and differences based on the styles of the times during which the statues were carved or cast.
      (1 vote)
  • purple pi purple style avatar for user Residuum
    Why does Ganesha have multiple arms? Is it an attribute of a god?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • leafers sapling style avatar for user 2028113
    I understand why my teachers don't talk about this...
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

I now Ganesh is the son of Shiva and Parvati he's worshipped all over India and he is the remover of obstacles and the God of good fortune you recognize him by his elephant head and there is an interesting myth that tells us how he got his elephant head Parvati is alone feeling dejected and lonely Shiva as you know is the is the wild yogi the ascetic who disappeared into the mountains for eons so piratey decides to fashion a clay image of Ganesh and breathes life into him and lovingly she raised him one day before she went into bed she asked Ganesh to guard the entrance to the to the house and as luck would have it Shiva returns from one of his meditation trips and finds Ganesh barring entry into his own home Shiva doesn't recognize who ganesh's and Ganesh has never seen his father before and so in his rage Sheila decides to chop off Ganesha's head why with thee when she realizes what has happened is horrified and asks Shiva to restore Ganesh so Shiva realizing what happened walks out onto the street and grabs the head of the first creature that he sees which happens to be an elephant and so he decides to replace ganesh's head with that of an elephant and here we have a wonderful 13th century stone sculpture of Ganesh you can see it is ornately carved and he holds his many attributes in his four hands in his upper right hand he holds an ad in his lower right hand he carries a broken tusk and in his lower left hand he holds a bowl of sweetmeats and you can see from his rotund belly that he is very fond of eating and it is tied with a cobra to prevent it from bursting you you