800-year-old palm-sized statue of Ganesha found in Goa’s Canacona

published on May 30, 2014

PANAJI: A unique palm-sized statue of Ganesha lying ensconced in a niche on the ground in a quiet village of Canacona taluka has caught the attention of a few heritage lovers, as its antiquity is shrouded in mystery.

Barely a few kilometres off the National Highway 17 on a path less traversed, the beautiful statue of Lord Ganesha, who is fervently worshipped by Hindus in Goa, surprisingly lies in the open outside a small temple of Vetal. The hamlet is tucked away in a partly-forested area, a stone’s throw away from Canacona town. “The idol has been in the same place as long as we can remember,” says Arjun Gurko Gaonkar, a village elder. A freelance history researcher and human rights activist, Cyril Fernandes found the statue recently during his field trips.

“I was excited seeing the idol accidentally during one of my study trips,” says Cyril Fernandes. The stone idol is barely 4 inches by 4 inches in size and fits snugly in the palm. It is a four-handed idol with the right upper hand holding a battle axe and the lower left hand holding a bowl with ‘modak’ (sweet).

The trunk is shown almost touching the modak. The materials in the two other hands are not clearly visible, but it appears that the left upper hand has a raddish and lower right hand a lotus. The belly spots ‘Nagbandh’ jewellery with cobra design.

The idol most probably belongs to the period between pre-Portuguese era and post-Chalukya Badami period around 1200 AD of Goa’s history.’

Manguesh Deshpande, former superintending archaeologist at the state archaeology department believes that the statue may have been privately worshipped. “Any statue of less than eleven fingers (angulas) in size is worshipped privately,” he said. But the Ganesha idol is actually outside the Vetal temple in a tribal-dominated village, and this needs some explanation. Villagers say there is no tradition of worshipping the statue. “But, at the time of any traditional function or utsav, neveth (prasad) is placed near the idol,” a villager said.

A Ganesha statute of a similar size can be seen near a spring in the midst of a habitation in Morlem, Sattari. “The statues were installed with a specific purpose of motivating people to keep the water body clean,” a source said. The villagers are opposed to any idea of reinstallation or alteration of their heritage assets.

“There should be no modification or reinstallation of the idol or any other religious or heritage asset. It should be preserved in situ,” says Devidas Gaonkar, a researcher of tribal traditions. A Ganesha statue of a similar size can be seen near a spring in the midst of a habitation in Morlem, Sattari.

“The statues were installed with a specific purpose of motivating people to keep the water body clean,” a source said. The Canacona statue has less ornamentation, which means its antiquity dates back still further in the past.

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