This plaque depicts the popular Hindu god Ganesha. Ganesha is popularly thought of as the son of Shiva and Parvati and is worshipped for his ability to remove obstacles. He is also the guardian of doorways and the lord of beginnings and his name is invoked before any new undertaking is commenced. Although there are a number of stories describing how he received his elephant head, the most common recounts that Parvati, while Shiva was away, created Ganesha from the dry skin she sloughed off in a bath. She sent him to guard the door to her bath. When Shiva returned home he did not realize that it was his wife's son guarding the door. Denied entry to her chamber, he lopped off Ganesha's head when the two came to blows. When he discovered the truth, Shiva ordered that the head of the first sentient being that came into view be given to Ganesha. Thus, he received the head of an elephant. Ganesha was just a child at the time and he is usually depicted with a chubby body and holding a bowl of sweetmeats, shown here in his lower left hand. His other three hold a rosary, an ax, and a broken tusk. The last object alludes to a well-known tale in which the portly Ganesha hurled a tusk at the moon in embarrassment after the moon saw his stomach burst from overeating.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of the Himalayas," December 15, 2010–December 4, 2011.