Ganesha- The journey across borders
Discovery of trade routes and the quest for land has contributed to inter mingling of cultures in the world. It is because of commercial and cultural contacts that Hinduism has had a huge effect particularly on East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Ganesha is one of the Hindu deities who landed in foreign land and became a popular figure. His teachings have now become universal because of globalization.
Trade not just helped build economies but also evolved cultures. The popularity of Lord Ganesha also spread across different parts of the world because of the traders and the merchants. It is known that any auspicious work marked by Lord Ganesha in the beginning turns out to be fruitful. Hence the significance of Lord Ganesha holds importance in the matters of trade. Migration of Hindus in search of promised lands also contributed to the spread of Lord Ganesha’s popularity. The period from 10th century was marked by the development of new networks of trade and exchange. Evidence of the deity in the 5th and 6th century (the Gupta period) has been found but it is through merchants that the popularity of Lord Ganesha spread across borders. The merchant community’s earliest inscription is that of Lord Ganesha, before any other deity.
The globalization of Lord Ganesha is further substantiated by the close association of some religious sects with trade. It is through this connection of commerce that the ideas of worship of this deity were exchanged. For instance, Ganesha is worshiped by Jainas because the connection of Jainas to the trading community is strong. In Buddhism the popularity of this deity was mainly because of the Guptas. The Guptas built sculptures that depict confluence of Buddhism and Hinduism through Ganesha. In some sects and countries such as Japan, Ganesha is believed to be an avatar of Buddha.
In the modern era it is the exchange of ideas through migration that has resulted in spread of Lord Ganesha’s affluence in places other then the Indian subcontinent and East Asia. Southern and Central America, Mexico, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and even parts of the Malay peninsula have seen a rise in Hindu population. Hence one can see many temples in these countries which are extremely popular. The region of Angkor Vat for instance thrives on Hindu temples and has elaborate temples and caves depicting Hinduism. We can also find idols and carvings of Lord Ganesha in this region.
It is not just the spread of Hindus in the modern era that has contributed to the popularity of Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha’s teachings are more universal than any other deity in Hinduism. Although various religions may not practice the act of worship of this deity but they still hold his spiritual significance in high regard. It is the acceptance of this deity’s values that has led to the global status of Lord Ganesha.