The Asahi Shimbun Display
From temple to home: celebrating Ganesha

27 February – 25 May 2014
Room 3

The elephant-headed Ganesha is one of the most popular Hindu gods - the creator and remover of obstacles. A beautiful stone sculpture of Ganesha is at the heart of this Asahi Shimbun Display in Room 3 at the British Museum. Carved from schist in Orissa (recently renamed Odisha) around 800 years ago, this statue of Ganesha was originally positioned in a niche on the outer face of a Hindu temple. Standing on a lotus pedestal, Ganesha is depicted with a lion mask above his head, snakes as anklets and his rat ‘vahana’, his vehicle, at his feet. The display brings this sculpture together with other more recent depictions of Ganesha in order to explore his role as a figure of public celebration and private devotion in India.


There are many temples dedicated to Ganesha throughout South Asia and Indian artists have depicted this loveable god for over a thousand years in different forms. This Room 3 display includes a small number of 18th century representations of the god to show different regional styles for depicting Ganesha. A favourite amongst the many gods worshipped by Hindus, Ganesha is the deity whom worshipers first acknowledge when they visit a temple. Statues of Ganesha can be found in most Indian towns. His image is placed where new houses are to be built; he is honoured at the start of a journey or business venture, and poets traditionally invoke him at the start of a book. Ganesha is also popular within India among followers of other religions. Across the sub-continent, stories are told to explain Ganesha’s origins, attributes and unusual appearance, some of which are related in this display.

This presentation of Ganesha is curated by Manisha Nene of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Mumbai, who participated in the British Museum’s International Training Programme (ITP) in 2011. The ITP promotes the mutual sharing of knowledge, skills and experience as museum and heritage professionals from across the world are hosted by the British Museum and UK partner museums. During her time on the ITP, Manisha prepared a proposal for a temporary display about Ganesha, which proved so popular that Manisha was asked to develop it in collaboration with British Museum curators.

The home city of curator Manisha Nene enters the display through the focus on the Ganeshchaturthi festival, which is celebrated in Mumbai on a grand scale. On the fourth day of the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada (August - September), thousands of clay images are worshipped in households and a similar number of huge images of Ganesha are made for the public festival and worshipped for ten days. The festival comes to an end with the immersion of Ganesha images in lakes, rivers and the sea. A domestic shrine of the type installed in the homes of devotees during the festival is recreated in the display, reflecting the quiet, private counterpoint to the public festivities.

Notes to editors:

From temple to home: celebrating Ganesha

27 February – 25 May 2014.

Free, Room 3

Opening hours 10.00-17.30 Saturday to Thursday, 10.00-20.30 Fridays.

Follow updates on the exhibition via Twitter on #CelebratingGanesha and the Museum’s Twitter account @britishmuseum

The Asahi Shimbun Displays are a series of regularly changing displays which look at objects in new or different ways. Sometimes the display highlights a well-known item, sometimes it surprises the audience with extraordinary items from times and cultures that may not be very familiar. This is also an opportunity for the Museum to learn how it can improve its larger exhibitions and permanent gallery displays. These displays have been made possible by the generous sponsorship of The Asahi Shimbun Company, who are long standing supporters of the British Museum. With a circulation of about 8 million for the morning edition alone, The Asahi Shimbun is the most prestigious newspaper in Japan. The company also publishes magazines and books, and provides a substantial information service on the Internet. The Asahi Shimbun Company has a century long tradition of staging exhibitions in Japan of art, culture and history from around the world.

Lectures and Events:

Ganesha: removing obstacles across Asia

Room 3

Wed 19 Mar, 13.15–14.00

Ganesha: removing obstacles across Asia

Room 3

Wed 16 Apr, 13.15–14.00

A gallery talk by Sushma Jansari, British Museum.

Free, just drop in

Celebrating Ganesha: curator's introduction

Stevenson Lecture Theatre

Fri 28 Feb, 18.30–19.30

Visiting curator Manisha Nene gives a 45-minute illustrated introduction to the display From temple to home: celebrating Ganesha. Manisha, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum, Mumbai, recalls her journey from participant on the British Museum’s International Training Programme to curating this display and explains the enduring importance of its subject, the elephant-headed god Ganesha.

£5, Members/concessions £3

Culture, conflict and conservation: Asian elephants in India

Stevenson Lecture Theatre, Fri 7 Mar, 13.30–14.30

Maan Barua, University of Oxford, reflects upon the role of religion and culture in shaping attitudes towards elephants in India, and considers the ways in which these attitudes impact on elephant conservation. Exploring the elephant’s role as a flagship species for conservation historically and in contemporary practice, Barua assesses the challenges faced and the implications of this cultural analysis for future conservation.

Free, booking essential.

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