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Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings Paperback – March 30, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0195057423 ISBN-10: 0195057422

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 30, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195057422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195057423
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,241,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Excellent intro text."--W. Sax, University of Canterbury (New Zealand)

"Reads easily...informative. Gives alternative views, balanced, clear. Recommended as a good source book."--Forrest Wood, University of Southern Mississippi

"Paul Courtright's ingenuity and skill have produced a comprehensive, interesting study about one of India's most popular gods....Definately a must for the mythologist and indologist alike. It is a critical, thorough study that has been long overdue."--New Canadian Review

"Balances rich textural, anthropological, and interpretive resources....An opulent exposition of Ganesa and his worship."--Choice

"Intelligent and eminently readable."--Religious Studies Review

"Seasoned and insightful, obviously based on many years of thought, research, writing, and rewriting....Crammed full of information, well organized, and still a delight to read....Masterful."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"Another of [the] year's treasures." -- Commonweal

"Courtright has collected much primary material, especially from the Puranas, presented some possible ways of understanding it, and culled the best of the secondary literature. In these respects, the book contributes significantly to the study of Sanskritic Hinduism and its regional realization."--Journal of Religion

About the Author

Paul B. Courtright is at Emory University.

Customer Reviews

It is a colossal waste of money and time to buy this book and or read it.
Thomas Mathew
Rather this book is about Ganesha who has a central place in a Hindu's relation to the divine.
Bemused Thinker
Oxford University Press, USA had put out an edition in 1989, which is still available.
Sanjay Agarwal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Rajeev D. Majumdar on April 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Having read this book, I find myself refreshed by the author's approach; however, the conclusions he comes to are by no means unique, and planty of other publications in the Subcontinent and Continental Academia will agree with his lines of thought. As a post-graduate student of Hindu religious philosophy, I appreciated the work for its intriguing nature.
This is not neccesarily a book for a non-scholar. Casual laypeople, or non-scholars may find the work of the book beyond their interests or background of understanding. When using primary texts, one tends to lose (and apparently anger) those who have come to understand the subject based on popular and built up mythology and popular trends of interpretation. As we know, popular Hinduism is irrecognizeable from its forms in the 1800s, and even more so from Vedic Hinduism of thousands of years ago.
The place of Ganesh in Hinduism has undergone a radical change in status in the last 150 years, becoming very public and prominant, where before uncommon. Indeed, the modern great Ganesh Holiday, Ganesh Chaturthi - was the creation of the revisionist Bal Tilak in the late 1800s. The festival was started to create a communal religious fervor among the Hindus, on the coinciding Muslim holiday. It is in this modern form Ganesh has taken, that it is difficult for academics to procede in true analysis of early texts and Ganesh's original appearances in Hindu society, and why this book is a useful text.
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21 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Bemused Thinker on February 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
It is interesting that the two "five-star" reviews appear to largely be critiquing the Hindu Caste system rather than saying anything about the book, which is on Ganesha, not the caste system. Their point --since Hinduism is *so bad* a book saying anything bad about Hinduism (demonizing Ganesha in this case) must be automatically great. This is prejudice, not scholarship or criticism and I'm disappointed that Amazon has chosen to highlight these.
Yes, there were prenicious aspects to the caste system that need to be criticised. At the same time there are enormous positive ideas and practises in Hinduism -- many of which like yoga, meditation, bhajans, Hindu systems of philosophy and psychology have made their way into mainstream Western thinking and practise. From Thoreau to Emerson from Nietszche and T S Eliot to Walt Whitman and from Carl Jung to the Beatles, Hindu thought has had an enormous influence on the West. And no, it is not all about the caste system, neither is this book.
Rather this book is about Ganesha who has a central place in a Hindu's relation to the divine. This book seeks to use questionable theories (....) to demean Ganesha, likening the child deities fondness for sweets to a desire for oral sex, for instance. This is fine if you are on a Christian evangelical quest to "save" the pagans (as Courtright is), but if you genuinely wish to understand Hinduism, I would give it a skip.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Rohan on January 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
How did he come to a conclusion that the trunk is actually a phallus? Are there any ancient scripts available for proving the same ....
According to the ancient scripts translated by Modern Sanskrit literature contemperories, Lord Shiva who is renowed as the one who is short -tempered, cut Lord Ganesha's head once out of rage, due to his childlike activities. Parvati-mata, the sole wife of Shiva ( never otherwise mentioned in Scripts) cajoled him to make render him his head, to which Shiva looked for a head to but could not find one instantly so replaced his head with the White elephants head--which is also called as an AIRAVATA .
I would like to pass on the message to Mr. Courtright, regarding his so called well-written book, after lots of research done in this chapter. Mr. Professor FREEDOM OF SPEECH doesnt mean to publish any thought that one possess without any concrete proof regarding the matter. If you really wanna know about LORD GANESHA you can contact me at my mail address. If not, and your sole idea is to practice blasphemy in the camoaflage of FREEDOM OF SPEECH, I would highly recommend you to continue your practices in PORNOGRAPHIC stories and other related industry. And good luck for the same.
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sushim Mukerji on October 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is insensitive to Hindu faith. Lord Ganesha is always depicted as having a fat belly. He has short stature and a face of an elephant. The author (Paul B. Courtright) has taken the liberty of ghastly speculation on Lord Ganesha.
On page 111: "Ganesha's broken tusk, his guardian's staff, and displaced head can be interpreted as symbols of castration."
Page 111: "Both in his behavior and iconographic form Ganesha resemples in some aspects, the figure of the eunuch."
Page 111: "Although there seems to be no myths of folk tales in which Ganeshas explicitly forms oral sex; his insatiable appetite for sweets may be interpreted as an effort to satisfy a hunger that seems inappropriate in an otherwise ascetic disposition, a hunger having clear erotic overtones."
These are outrageous speculations.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roman Midnight Music on June 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm finding it fascinating that folks are criticizing this book out of being offended that the author came to all these different conclusions and ideas based on the story of Ganesha. What does that say about the book? It says that it's controversial and a lot of people don't like having their religious ideas dissected, related to things they may not have thought of (that Ganesha is phallic) and turned into a dry study. Does that make this a bad book? No.

I am Hindu. I do worship Ganesha. I will say I did find the book in some parts fascinating and other times dry. I found the reading about all the variations of the Ganesha origin story not offensive but interesting because it makes you step back outside of yourself to look at the bigger picture. Yes, the author does seem phallically obsessed, though I wouldn't call it offensive for tone reason ... who says he's right? It's his opinion, yet so many of the comments here treat his opinion like it's high and mighty. It's just an opinion no worse or better than any other. Let alone, every other religion in the world gets dissected, so why can't Hinduism? No one has a problem when Jesus is turn from a real man to a myth, but yet to turn Ganesha into a study brings out the militia. For me, what the author does is push the story to the limit in every direction to try to uncover everything he can about the idea of Ganesha in all contexts.

Now, I will say that it is not the book I thought it was going to be when I bought it. I thought it would be more 'human', more 'real life', more 'actual practice' of the worship of Ganesha. I thought it would praise Ganesha through an in-depth study of the story and the facets of Ganesha. It doesn't.
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