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Lord Ganesha is one of the Hindu deities who have a global appeal. This happened because of trade and commercial aspects that involved exchange of ideas and materials.

Particularly worshipped by traders and merchants in approximately the 10th century, this deity was worshipped by this union despite their religion. One of the earliest inscription and statue of Ganesha belongs to this period. The ‘Jainas’ belonged to the trader’s clan and hence Lord Ganesha is worshipped by this religious community as well.   Apart from trading, migration also contributed to the popularity of Lord Ganesha in other cultures. Hindus migrated to the Malay Archipelago and took Lord Ganesha with them.  The Malay Archipelago has many statues of Lord Ganesha along with Lord Shiva. The migration of Hindus created a new culture that has a few aspects of Hinduism but is also unique. The religious texts or the literature does not support the worship of Lord Ganesha. No references of Lord Ganesha in the scriptures of Jainism exist. Lord Ganesha is still worshiped by Jainas and he also has characteristics of Kubera for this particular religious sect. Images of Lord Ganesha also appear in some old temples of the Jainas in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Ganesha appears in Mahayana Buddhism. In the Buddhist religion he is known as Vinayaka. Buddhist sculptures dating back to 5th century (the Gupta period) depict him as one of their Gods. The idol representation of the Buddhist God Vinayaka is often shown dancing. This form is also called ‘Nratta Ganapati’.  Ganesha’s form Nratta Ganapti also became popular in Tibet and Nepal. In Nepal, Lord Ganesha is popularly known as Heramba. The idol of Heramba has five heads and has the lion as his vehicle. ‘Tshogs Bdag’ is the Tibetan representation of Lord Ganesha. The Tibetan religion has ambivalent views on Ganesha. Some depictions of Lord Ganesha in Tibet show him being destroyed by the deity Mahakala (similar to Lord Shiva) while; others show him as a destroyer of obstacles. The idol is shown as dancing. In China and Japan evidence of Lord Ganesha’s idols are seen having regional quality.

Buddhism is also prevalent in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia. Hinduism and Buddhism were practiced simultaneously in these regions resulting in the interspersing of the two cultures. The resultant culture created a modified version of Lord Ganesha in all these countries. This can also be seen in Java, Bali and Borneo. Lord Ganesha (or the modified visual representation of Lord Ganesha) is believed to be the remover of obstacles in these regions as well.
In modern times Lord Ganesha is worshiped by other communities in India as well. Some “Sikhs” worship Lord Ganesha for the virtues he represents. It is the universal appeal and teachings of this deity that attract people from other religions as well. Evidence supports the worship of Lord Ganesha by Jainas and Buddhists across the world but Lord Ganesha is worshiped as per the Hindu definitions of his existence across borders.

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As a culture Hinduism is perhaps the most widely accepted religions.  Lord Ganesha is an extremely important God in Hinduism. Lord Ganesha has 108 names, each holding a specific meaning. He is also the most worshiped Hindu deities and is particularly popular in India and Nepal. The devotion to Lord Ganesha is widely diffused across other cultures also.  Historically Ganesha emerged as an important deity in the 4th and 5th century, during the reign of the Guptas. The earliest known idol of Lord Ganesha is located in the Shiva temple at Bhumra. His following strengthened around the 10th century in India. The name Vinayaka for Lord Ganesha is not just mentioned in the Puranas but also the Buddhist mantras. Lord Ganesha is also known as the Lord of the Ganas in Sri Lanka.

Ancient temples and excavations show that the worship of the God of wisdom is spread across the globe. The physical attributes of Lord Ganesha vary in Java, Bali, Borneo, Vietnam, Bangkok and Burma. Here Lord Ganesha is mainly thought of as a remover of obstacles and also as the God of success. Worship of Ganesha was in vogue before Islam arrived in Afghanistan but no conclusive evidence exists to prove the statement. A few sculptures discovered between 5th and 7th century is proof of the same. In northern China statues with inscription dated to 531 exist in many parts. Presence of Lord Ganesha is also there in Tibet. The beliefs are ambivalent in nature, which is depicted by various idols across Tibet. Sri Lanka which is dominantly a Buddhist country has about 14 ancient temples of Lord Ganesha.

There is a strong influence of Lord Ganesha in the Malay Peninsula also. Temples were built around the 6th century in various locations including Petaling Java, Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Pudu and Melaka. A dancing Ganesha is evident in the Malay Archipelago in the temple of Candi Sukuh. Other countries, that have Ganesha temples, are Mauritius (in Riviere du Rempart) and Singapore.

The popularity of Lord Ganesha not just spreads across Asia but also South and Central America and Mexico. In the modern times a significant following of Lord Ganesha exists in Britain, Australia Germany, France and Canada.  Some of the popular temples of Ganesha stand tall in London, New York, Paris, Durban, Hamburg, Melbourne and Edmonton. Comparisons of Lord Ganesha to Janus, the two headed Roman God, also exist. No conclusive evidence of Lord Ganesha’s worship in Roman culture has been found despite the similarity.

It is not just globally that Ganesha is worshiped but also in various other cultures. Where Ganesha appears as an avatar of Budhdha in Ganesha Purana, he is also shown as a different idol in Tibet. Ganesha is even represented as an idol with one to five heads. Ganesh Chaturthi in India is more of a universal festival then a festival celebrated by Hindus. The popularity of this deity not just spreads across borders but also spreads across hearts.

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