Mythos 48 – Ganesha and Enlil

 

The Rear of the Oxford Palette from Circa 3,150 BC

The Rear of the Oxford Palette from Circa 3,150 BC

The Pre-Dynastic art of ancient Egypt has left us a plethora of confusing non-terrestrial creatures, alongside recognizable terrestrials. One example of this is the Oxford Palette, also called the Minor Hierakonpolis Dogs Palette, the Ashmolean Palette, or the Two-Dog Pallette. The Oxford Pallette is dated to circa 5,150 years ago (3,150 BC), and includes carvings of many terrestrial animals such as giraffe, lion, and gazelle, along with serpopard, griffin, and an upright walking elephant-headed being. Serpopards and griffins are well known throughout ancient Egyptian, and Mesopotamian mythology and iconography, while the upright walking elephant-headed being is unknown. This resulted in the upright walking elephant-headed being having been classified as a pro-Sha, or in other words an early-Set-creature. Unfortunately this theory ignores the fact that the fully developed Sha was represented much earlier in Egyptian pre-history in tombs from the Naqada 1 era, circa 6,000 to 5,500 years ago. Whatever the upright walking elephant-headed being depicted on the Oxford Pallette was meant to represent, the closest thing surviving into modern culture is the god Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. As with Garuda and Hanuman, worship of Ganesha is widespread through the Eastern religions, being a major god in many Hindu, Buddhist, and Jainist denominations.(1)Alice Getty (1936) Gaņeśa: A Monograph on the Elephant-Faced God, 1992 reprint, pages 37–88

Ganesha is known under many names throughout South and Southeast Asia. The modern North-Indian Hindu version of Ganesha appears to be a synthesis of similar Aryan and Indus/Dravidian elephant-man gods that emerged circa 1500 years ago.(2)A. K. Narain (1991) “Gaṇeśa: The Idea and the Icon” in Robert Brown, editor: Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, Page 27 The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound formed from the words gana meaning group, and isha meaning lord. (3)A. K. Narain (1991) “Gaṇeśa: A Protohistory of the Idea and the Icon” in Robert Brown, editor: Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, Page 21-22 In this context the term gana is believed to be the Ganas, a group of ghosts or phantoms that attended Shiva.(4)Anna L. Dallapiccola (2002) Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend As such Ganesha can be translated as the Lord (Isha) of Phantoms (Gana), an identical name to the Sumerian Enlil.(5)P. Michalowski (1989) “The Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur.” Mesopotamian Civilizations, Volume 1 Throughout South and Southeast Asia Ganesha has many names including:

  • Vinayaka in north-Indian languages, by Hindus and Buddhists
  • Mahā Wināyaka in Pali, a Classical Indo-Aryan language
  • Pillai or Pillaiyar in Tamil(6)Paul Martin-Dubost (1997) Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds, Page 367
  • Maha Peinne and in Burmese
  • Phra Phikhanet and Phra Phikhanesuan in Thai
  • Aiyanayaka Deviyo and Gana deviyo in Sri Lanka
jasper cylinder seal MNB 1167 at the Louvre

jasper cylinder seal MNB 1167 from Uruk circa 4,100 – 3,000 BC

While the elephant-headed god was a prominent feature of the ancient Asian religions, he is completely unknown in Egyptian history, and nevertheless found in Egyptian art dating to the unification period of Egypt, along with serpopards and griffins, both of which are virtually missing from Egyptian art in later periods, yet are common in Mesopotamian and Central Asian art. The term serpopard was invented by archaeologist to describe an animal unknown in the paleontological record. Serpopards are leopards with long snake-like neck, which sometimes have horns. They are often misidentified as poorly-represented giraffes by novices, however the Oxford Pallette clearly shows a giraffe along with a serpopard. Serpopards are found in ancient Mesopotamian seals, such as the jasper cylinder seal MNB 1167 at the Louvre, which was found in the ruins of Uruk, and dated to between 6,100 and 5,000 years ago. Ancient carvings of griffins are also found throughout Central Asia, it the region once dominated by Aryan tribes such as the Persians, Scythians and Tocharians.

References   [ + ]

1. Alice Getty (1936) Gaņeśa: A Monograph on the Elephant-Faced God, 1992 reprint, pages 37–88
2. A. K. Narain (1991) “Gaṇeśa: The Idea and the Icon” in Robert Brown, editor: Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, Page 27
3. A. K. Narain (1991) “Gaṇeśa: A Protohistory of the Idea and the Icon” in Robert Brown, editor: Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, Page 21-22
4. Anna L. Dallapiccola (2002) Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend
5. P. Michalowski (1989) “The Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur.” Mesopotamian Civilizations, Volume 1
6. Paul Martin-Dubost (1997) Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds, Page 367