Stone Elephant


According to Hindu mythology, the Goddess Parvati molded a boy out of turmeric paste and infused life into it to keep guard while she bathed. And thus Ganesha was born. Parvati instructed Ganesha not to allow anyone to enter the house, so Ganesh stood sentry. When her husband Shiva, the God of destruction, returned from his errands, Ganesha stopped him too. Shiva was so enraged at Ganesha’s nerve (understandable) he decapitated him with his trident, and hurled his head into the sun. With me so far?

When Parvati emerged from her bath she was annoyed with Shiva and demanded he replace the boy’s head at once. (Why he didn’t decapitate her too, I don’t know.) Anyway, I suppose they were out of turmeric paste, or there must have been a sale on elephant heads at the local bazaar because… well, you know what happens next. Indians can’t resist a deal, I suppose. (I think I botched this myth, but long story short: elephants feature heavily in Hindu iconography.)

Let me start over.

I don’t know what you do for a living. I couldn’t possibly. But in the case that you are one of those guys who sit on the ground in hot dusty India and carve —with pencil-thin tools between your fingers—elephants inside of elephants inside of elephants from hunks of raw soapstone, I’m a fan of your work. This particular pachyderm is only one level deep but it is still impressive for a carving that fits into the palm of your hand. And it was on sale too.