Ganesha appeared in his classic form as a clearly recognizable deity with well-defined iconographic attributes in the early 4th to 5th centuries. Shanti Lal Nagar says that the earliest known iconic image of Ganesha is in the niche of the Shiva temple at Bhumra, which has been dated to the Gupta period. His independent cult appeared by about the 10th century. Narain summarizes the controversy between devotees and academics regarding the development of Ganesha as follows:
[W]hat is inscrutable is the somewhat dramatic appearance of Gaņeśa on the historical scene. His antecedents are not clear. His wide acceptance and popularity, which transcend sectarian and territorial limits, are indeed amazing. On the one hand there is the pious belief of the orthodox devotees in Gaņeśa's Vedic origins and in the Purāṇic explanations contained in the confusing, but nonetheless interesting, mythology. On the other hand there are doubts about the existence of the idea and the icon of this deity" before the fourth to fifth century A.D. ... [I]n my opinion, indeed there is no convincing evidence of the existence of this divinity prior to the fifth century.
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