Thanks to Indian merchants who travelled around the world in ancient and medieval times, the deity of new beginnings, wisdom and fortune, Ganesha also has a seat of honour in many South Asian countries. Centuries of cultural exchange and intermixing between India and other countries has manifested itself upon the deity as well, and so the beloved Ganpati, still worshipped in many countries, also takes as many forms as there are cultures in the Subcontinent, and Asia in general.
Ganesha takes the form of Kangi-ten (god of bliss) in the Shingon and Tendai schools of Japanese Buddhism. Interestingly, Kangiten is depicted as an elephant-headed male female couple embracing each other, a symbol of joy and prosperity.
A predominantly Buddhist nation, Thailand worships Ganesha as Phra Phikanet. His association with the fine arts makes the deity a favourite with creative artists, and so Thailand’s Department of Fine Arts carries an image of Ganesha in its logo!
Worshipped as Maha-Peinne (Great Bliss) in Myanmar, Ganesha is a popular deity as he is fabled to remove obstacles and bless every new venture with good fortune.
Bali in Indonesia has the fourth largest Hindu population in the world. Balinese Hindu customs and mythology is quite different from Indian lore. Ganesha here wards off evil spirits and destroys demons. He is strategically placed at the entrance of a temple, and looks rather stern!
Not only that, the 20000 Rupiah currency note in Indonesia also carries an image of Ganesha!
Home to the largest Hindu temple in the world, Cambodia, while predominantly Buddhist, is heavily influenced by Hindu practices. Ganesha idols are a common sight, a remnant of the Khmer empire.
Hinduism and its intermixing with other religions has also resulted in Ganesha being a prominent figure in Tibetan Buddhist mythology, which was carried to Mongolia and China. Some records portray him as an independent figure, while some regard Ganesha as a manifestation of the Buddha.
Title image: wiki