Lord Ganesha and Dogon Concepts of Creation
By Laird Scranton
Although the earliest surviving images of Lord Ganesha date only from the late centuries BCE, the elephant god of India is understood to be one of the most ancient and continuously popular deities of Indian culture. One could even argue that his popularity extends into modern pop culture. According to various myths, like Disney’s Pinnochio, Ganesha was fashioned in the image of a boy, and then life was breathed into him. And like Disney’s cartoon elephant Dumbo, Lord Ganesha was also closely attended by a mouse avatar.
In the view of the archaic Sakti (“shakti”) tradition, Lord Ganesha was understood to be the son of two mothers, known as Dharni Penu and Tana Penu, and was always pictured with them. In more recent Hindu traditions he was seen as the son of the goddess Sati, who was the consort of the god Siva (“shiva”). In one well-known Hindu myth, Sati fashions Ganesha from clay and gives life to him while Siva is away on a long trip. Sati assigns her new son the role of gatekeeper, charged with guarding the door while she bathes. Siva returns home early, is challenged by Lord Ganesha, presumes the boy to be an intruder, and beheads him! Once the mistake is realized, Siva makes it his personal quest to secure a new head for Lord Ganesha. On his quest to find one, Siva encounters a wise, old white elephant along the road. Knowing that he is approaching the end of his own life, the aging elephant offers to sacrifice his head in order to restore Lord Ganesha to life. Thereafter, Ganesha, the son of Sati, came to be associated with the head of a white elephant.
Perhaps because of his role as gatekeeper, Lord Ganesha is traditionally seen as the placer and remover of obstacles, and so comes to be associated with a person’s good and ill fortune. However, according to Yale professor of religion Phyllis Granoff, Lord Ganesha is also intimately associated with eight progressive stages of material creation – associations that are reflected symbolically in eight incarnations of Lord Ganesha. The cultural lineage that demonstrates these relationships seem to begin in a region of the Fertile Crescent that is now southeastern Turkey, and migrated southward and eastward from there into India.
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About The Author
Laird Scranton is the author of a series of books and other writings on ancient cosmology and language. These include articles published in the University of Chicago’s Anthropology News academic journal and Temple University’s Encyclopedia of African Religion. He is featured in John Anthony West’s Magical Egypt documentary series and in Carmen Boulter’s documentary The Pyramid Code. His work is also featured in a book called Lost Secrets of the Gods (2014), and he co-authored Ed Nightingale’s The Giza Template (2014).
He is a frequent guest on a wide range of radio and podcast interview shows including Red Ice Radio in Europe and Coast-to-Coast Radio with George Noory. He is also a frequent presenter at conferences whose focus is on ancient knowledge. These include Walter Cruttenden’s Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge (CPAK), the A.R.E.’s Ancient Mysteries Conference, and Scotty Roberts and John Ward’s Paradigm Symposium. His articles have been published in the University of Chicago’s academic journal Anthropology News, Temple University’s Encyclopedia of African Region, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
His books include:
The Science of the Dogon (2006) (Republished edition of Hidden Meanings (2003))
Sacred Symbols of the Dogon (2007)
The Cosmological Origins of Myth and Symbol (2010)
The Velikovsky Heresies (2012)
China’s Cosmological Prehistory (2014)
Point of Origin(2015)
The Overthrown Boat (due in 2016)