Indonesia's historical ties with India and Hinduism are centuries old. Scholars believe that Hindu influence on the archipelago can be traced back as early as 78 AD. By 414 AD there were at least two schools of Hinduism on the island of Java – and by the 4th and 8th centuries, Hindu kingdoms had taken root in East Kalimantan and West and Central Java.
Wherever Hindu merchants sailed, the elephant god followed. A seated, four-armed Ganesha holding a broken tusk, a garland and bowl of sweets – thought to be from the 8th century – was found in Chandi Banon Temple in Central Java. A 13th century Ganesha statue from Bara in East Java shows him in his more tantric, Southeast Asian form as both Creator and Destroyer of Obstacles.
Even earlier visits were paid to these far-away islands. In Indonesian Kalimantan on the vast island of Borneo, 5th century inscriptions suggest that this was the easternmost limit reached by Ganesha. Kalimantan's Goa Gunung Kombeng, also from the 5th century, boasts a four-armed Ganesh along with his father Lord Shiva and his mother Durga, the witch.
In India, Ganesh is usually paired with Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. On Hindu Bali, the elephant god is more often coupled with Devi Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning, Music and the Arts. Ganesh's role as protector is also more pronounced on this little Indonesian resort island – he can be seen, more stern-faced than usual, sitting at the gates of temple after temple obstructing the path of Bali's unseen army of demons.
It didn't take the deity long to make the short jump from Java to Bali. Ten minutes' south of Ubud is the famous Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave – inside this dark, sculpted, natural temple is an 11th century stone carving of Ganesha – known on Bali as Dewa Ganesa. Take a day-trip from Sanur's family-friendly beaches in the south of the island to Bali's cultural heart of Ubud, and you'll see a thousand varieties of Ganesha for sale. ✨🐘✨ #namaste#garden#design