Somewhere between the sixth and tenth century, ancient India saw a surge in trade and commercial activity. This period coincided with a rise in Ganesha worship among the merchant community – early inscriptions suggest that the practice of ‘Ganesha first’ originated with traders. It’s also possible that Ganesha took on some of the functions traditionally associated with Kubera, the god of wealth and naturally, became attractive to merchant communities.
Ganesha travelled into neighboring Asian countries along with merchants seeking new markets – this is based on the finding of fifth or sixth century Ganesha images in Myanmar, where Mahayana Buddhism had taken root. In Nepal, Heramba a 16-headed form of Ganesha was popularly worshipped.
Ganesha plays a dual role in Buddhism – a Buddhist god in His own right, as well as a Hindu deity, known as Vinayaka. The Buddhist Vinayaka assumed the form of Nritta Ganapati or Dancing Ganesha, whose popularity in North India spread into Nepal and later, Tibet.