Searching for a Dashboard Deity

My Vegas Ganesha bringing me good luck on the road.

My Vegas Ganesha bringing me good luck on the road.

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.

A Ganesha statue outside a jungle elephant preserve. The electric green moss transfixed me.

A Ganesha statue outside a jungle elephant preserve. The electric green moss transfixed me.

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.

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Gimme Shelter — In a Balinese Elephant Cave

© Stephanie Glaser

Kurt and I with Eddie and Kasey © Stephanie Glaser

Goa Gajah or the “Elephant Cave” is a beautiful ancient Hindu complex near Ubud, Bali (what isn’t beautiful in Bali?) The entrance is a bit intimidating since it looks like a dragon’s mouth.  A place to worship, the Inside of the cave is rather small and at one corner stands a small statue of the Hindu deity, Ganesha, who has an elephant head. Photography is not permitted, and visitors and worshippers, alike, must cover their legs (except children and this was good since it was so hot and humid, the cave was somewhat stifling!)

A bathing temple with fountains is also part of the lovely grounds. Another open air building stands nearby in the peaceful and serene setting. It is believed the spiritual complex was built around the 11th century as a sanctuary for Hindu priests.

© Stephanie Glaser

The bathing temple © Stephanie Glaser 2010

© Stephanie Glaser

Eddie and Kurt check out the grounds © Stephanie Glaser