Toronto, Canada. 2013. Standing next to a large bronze, meditating statue of Shiva, the Destroyer, Maharani Emporium owner Rupert Lalla, tugs at a gold chain around his neck. He pulls the attached gold figure up from beneath his green plaid shirt. Bringing it forward so I can see it more closely, he reveals a tiny figure with an elephant head, human body and four arms in various positions — Ganesha.
I take this as a good sign since I’ve been grilling Rupert in his Toronto shop about this Hindu god and why Indians choose him for their cars as the preferred dashboard deity.
A bit about Ganesha
Totally fitting as a dashboard deity, Ganesha is the Hindu god of protection, wisdom and remover of obstacles. He also is the son of the god of destruction and recreation, Shiva, and the Hindu goddess of power, Parvati. Often called the easiest god to worship, Ganesha, according to Hindu belief, accepts any devotee’s prayers — whether formal or informal. Embracing Ganesha as their god of choice, residents of Mumbai hold Ganesh Chaturthi, an eleven-day festival solely devoted to the elephant-headed god.
In 2010, during a trip to Bali, I noticed that Ganesha was everywhere on the “Island of the Gods,” since the Balinese place him near entrances of buildings and temples. Stationed in the parking lot of an elephant preserve in the jungle, appropriately, was a large moss speckled volcanic Ganesha sculpture complete with a jewel-encrusted headdress. The contrast of the dark rock and the electric green moss on the statue all against the backdrop of the dense, vibrant jungle captivated me.