If you Google Ganesh today you should plan for a wildly nontraditional yet richly visual and conceptually stimulating ride. The elephant-headed deity, the Overcomer of Obstacles, is the focus of religious festival processions from Mauritius to Manhattan, as recorded and shared online through Youtube videos. He is available for darshan, the South Asian ritual visual exchange between deity and devotee, at the popular urban Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai, via closed circuit TV and real-time video on the World Wide Web, making him available to devotees around the globe. His likeness is imprinted on “god posters” plastered across the subcontinent, reproduced on the web, and digitally altered with the touch of a computer key, not just by devotees and t-shirt designers around the world, but also by Indian print firms now employing the digital medium to produce “new” poster and printed calendar designs from very old paintings.
A new India has emerged and its presence is truly global. How globalization of a god like Ganesh was made possible, and its implications, rests in the complex interplay of institutional categories and social practices previously theorized as distinct—the temple (religion), the market (commerce) and the museum (cultural heritage).
Global Ganesh originated out of two Mellon Foundation supported research trips and meetings including scholars of art history, religious studies, political science, film, history and communication based at Kenyon, Denison, Vassar, Middlebury, Furman, and Scripps and led by Natalie Marsh, Director of the Gund Gallery.