India and Hindu culture has influenced many countries of East Asia. The evidence of practices similar to that of Indian Subcontinent can be seen around the world. This result of commercial and cultural contacts. On the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi let’s see how ‘Vignahartha’ Ganesha worshipped around the world. The worship of Ganesha by Hindus outside of India shows regional variation. The acceptance of Hindu ideas in ancient times still continue today in world religions.
Ganesha was a deity particularly worshipped by traders and merchants, who went out of India for commercial ventures. As ganesha removes every obstacle when prayed to, his worship was adopted by many foreign cultures. In fact, He is one of the most venerated Gods in Asia!
We can see people of thailand bend down and join hands in front of ‘Phra Phikanet.’
The Thai people love their Elephant-headed God, Phra Phikanet or Phra Phikanesuan the one who grants wisdom and the remover of obstacles. His shrines are present all over Thailand. He is also present on the emblem of the department of Fine arts!
His ‘birthday’ Ganesh chaturthi is celebrated all around Thailand.
Tibetan idea of Ganesha show different reprentation of him. In one Tibetan form, he is shown being trodden under foot by Mahākala, a popular Tibetan deity. Other depictions show him as the Destroyer of Obstacles, sometimes dancing.
Ganapati, Maha Rakta (The Great Red Lord of Hosts or Ganas) is a Tantric Buddhist form of Ganapati related to the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Tantras. This form of Ganapati is regarded as avatar of Avalokiteshvara.
There is another legend in Tibetan mythology which attributes to Ganesha a role in establishing an institution of Lamaism. According to scholar of Buddhism, Y. Krishan, the theory of Ganesha and Lamaism goes that in the 11th or 12th century, Ganapati took hold of the brother of Sakya Pandita in his trunk and set him down on the peak of the Meru mountain and prophesied that one day all of the provinces of Tibet will be ruled by his descendants
In Myanmar, the King of Brahmas called Arsi, lost a bet to the King of Devas, shakra or Indra, who decapitated Arsi as agreed but put the head of an elephant on the Brahma’s body who then became Ganesha– a God who removes obstacles. But the Brahma was so powerful that if the head was thrown into the sea it would dry up immediately. If it was thrown onto land it would ho barren. If it were thrown up into the air the sky would burst into flames. Indra, therefore, instructed one princess to carry the head and they would take turn one after another for a year each.
A Ganesha statue from the 1st century was found on Mount Raksa in Panaitan Island, the Ujung Kulon National Park, West Java.
Similar idols can be seen in the town of Bali, where Hinduism exists harmoniously with other religions of the region. Ganesha as in Hindu culture is worshipped there also. In the same form too
The story in Japan is very different than the Indian. In India, the God is the one, shining his love over the devotees. However, in Japan, Binayaka is said to be of evil nature, creator of dispute and leading people towards immoral ways!
There are various versions of this story, but the most popular one is where the king of Vinayakas, turned bad and started slaughtering humans. The people prayed to Lord Avalokiteshvara, who took the female form and pacified this god. Thus, he is the remover of obstacles, and is worshipped by the people of Japan!
This may be due to the influence of Buddhism, to establish a supremacy the depiction goes as hindu God was controlled by a Buddhist one.
Ganesha travelled to Borneo, the farthest point to the east. There, in a cave at Kombeng, a four armed Ganesha is seen among other gods. Two of his attributes, axe and japamala, can be identified. He has a straight trunk, protuberance between the eyebrows and a Jatamukuta.
Ganesha can be seen as the sixth century Kung–hsien. He sits in vajrasana holding a lotus in the right hand and either a sweetmeat ball or jewel in the left.
At Tun–huang, Ganesha is shown with Kartikeya, his brother. Ganesha is shown wearing pleated lower garment and flowing scarf, seated in ardhaparyankasana carrying a broken tusk in his left hand and a ball of sweetmeats in the right. He is seen lifting it with his trunk turned in that direction.
From a humble deity worshipped in regular household, Ganesha poojana rose to unbelievable heights, surpassing the familiarity of Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He is the one who traversed practically many continents like none other divinity crossing the lengthy borders at all sides of this vast country-India.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth