Lord Ganesh

Lord Ganesh is everywhere. His image appears on tshirts, village walls, inside trishaw taxis, and sometimes, even in Budhist and Taoist temples.

His physical form is delightful to look at. He is elephant headed, has a large bellied body, many arms, he has a snake around his waist and he rides on a mouse. He enchants the faithful and transcends every cultural boundary. He represents hope, optimism, goodwill, and some healthy indulgence. His magnanimity shows us that spiritual awareness is not at odds with the good life.

In one way, Lord Ganesh is to Hindu philosophy what diagrams are to mathematicians. The symbolism of his many arms and hands offer a diagram for meditation, and his hands can be viewed as a philosophical template. In one he holds a noose symbolizing restraint and the bondage of desire. In another, he holds an axe to break the ties of materialism. The sweets in a third hand symbolize the pleasures of knowledge and spiritual wisdom, while his fourth hand is raised in the symbol of enlightenment which comes from liberation of all desire. The ever present mouse symbolizes the ego, which he always rides or has at his feet, representing control of ones ego.

Even his unique shape takes the form of a philosophical diagram. Lord Ganesh is after all a combination of four different animals. He has the head of an elephant, the body of a man, his belly is bound by a snake and he rides on a mouse. These contradictory animals, elephant and mouse, man and snake are contained in a single image, creating a unity in which all contradictions can be contained. This also points to a moral imperative, that opposites can and must live in peaceful co-existence. Non-violence and humanism derive from that imperative. An elephant does not kill to survive. It is a symbol of ahimsa or non violence. A human body circled by a snake connects the elephant to a mouse, the union of the small with the great, the microcosm with the macrocosm, illustrating the intimate connection between all life forms. As a meditational diagram, Lord Ganesh incarnates Hindu philosophy's fundamental law, the unity in diversity that is humanity's primary duty to maintain.


Lord ganesh in art


Vinayaki, the female ganesha

Vinâyakî is a feminine form of Lord Ganesh; she has an elephant head and the body of a female.

She is commonly believed to represent the Shakti of Ganesh/Vinâyaka, or the creativeness of the god. According to J. Herbert (1930), the Ganesh Shakti is diversely represented. Sometimes, she is a twin figure, one is Buddhi (supra mental power of unerstanding), the other is Siddhi (higher cleverness and superhuman power both) or Riddhi (perfection); these goddesses are represented with normal human bodies, but in esoteric situations, the Shakti is named Vinayaki/Ganeshânî, and is represented with an elephant head and a woman body. This female form is also believed to symbolise the duality of nature.

References to Vinayaki are commonly mentioned in the Puranas. The Matsya Purana mentions Vinayaki as one of the two hundred celestial others created by Lord Shiva to kill a very dangerous demon called Andhaka. Linga Purana mentions Vinayaki as a demonness deity with an elephant head. (often considered as the very first Vinayaki), which was found amidst the restored sculptures of the Causath-Yogini temple in Jabalpur.

The Vinâyakî iconography is similar to that of Ganesh; for instance, she is represented with two or four arms, standing or seated, sometimes she is dancing. More complicated forms are unknown. Emblems are the same as Ganesh emblems; however Vinâyakî can bear a vînâ. Her hands can show the abhaya or the varada mudra .

The earliest evidence of a female Ganesh or Vinayaki is a weathered terracotta plaque from Rairh in Rajhasthan, which dates back to the first century. Thses feminine Ganesh forms have been discovered in 64 Yoginî enclosures or temples. Eighteen such Yoginî temples have been indexed in India with one, supposedly, in Sri Lanka.


Forms and symbols

there are several forms of lord Ganesh, far exceeding those of any other God in Hindu mythology.

The general idol of Lord G consists mainly of an elephant head with one broken trunk, a huge abdomen with short legs , and his vehicle,a mouse standing nearby. He is adorned with garlands of tender flowers, fruits etc. He is shown generally with two or four hands but sometimes even up to twelve hands are shown with various types of objects in each hand, symbolising a specific strength or attributes.

He is usually shown holding sweets (Modakas, Ladoos etc.), sugarcane, bunch of corn-ears and also various types of weapons like the bow & arrow, wheel, conch, sword, club, hammer, axe, noose, goad etc . Sometimes some uncommon items like honey, pot of gems, etc are also shown in his hands.

Lord Ganesh is shown in a variety of different colors like orange, crimson, goldenyellow, blue, white etc, which is used to depict moods associated with what he holds in his hands. Sometimes he is shown with his consorts on his lap and sometimes he himself in a feminine form known as Vinayaki. (See Vinayaki page on this blog)

The various types of idols used to project various aspects of life have different names associated with them. Below are some of the names wuth brief descriptions.

BALA GANESH: depicted as a child or boy with playful articles around him, sometimes in the lap of his father or mother (Shiva & Parvathi). Crimson color. Plenty of sweets around

NRITHYA GANESH: Shown with hands swaying in a dancing pose, and having divine ornaments on hands and legs. Crimson color, golden hued belly, and holding tusk and other articles.

SIMHA GANESH: Shown as lion faced elephant with one trunk; White in color; Holding wish yielding creeper, or a veena (a musical instrument), a lotus, a sword, and a pot of gems, and posed in boon giving gesture.

URDHVA (or UDVA) GANESH: In golden color, holding green colored goddess, blue flowers and usual favorite articles including a bow and arrows. Sometimes six hands are shown.

EKAKSHARA GANESH: Red in color, with a crescent moon in the crown; three-eyed, seated in Padmasana pose wearing serpent ornaments and hands holding usual articles and showing granting of boons desired by the devotees.

TRIAKSHRA (TRYAKSHA) GANESH: Also known as ‘OM’ Ganapathi Shown as sitting in the midst of ‘OM’ (A U M ), the symbolic origin of Creation, Golden faced elephant with a sweet in his trunk. Different poses with usual articles are available.

DWIMUKHA GANESH: Two faced deity but only four hands, bluish green or turmeric yellow, red silk garments, crown with gems and with usual tools in hands in a mood as harbinger of prosperity.

TRIMUKHA GANESH: Three faced deity shining like a Palasa flower, red complexion, seated on golden lotus, left hand in a protective and right hand in a reward giving poses. Among others holds a pot of nectar and a rosary.

YOGA GANESH: As a great Yogi, in blissful meditation with yogic girdle and a staff (Yogadanda), color of morning Sun; blue garments; holding prayer beads, sugarcane and a noose

VARA GANESH: Vermilion (Kumkum) complexion, three eyes, crescent moon, dish of honey and pot of jewels in hands, with a greenly clad goddess holding a lotus and a flag seated in his lap.

DHUNDHI GANESH: As in city of Kashi in India, Sindhu color, prayer beads, pot of gems, a tusk, and an axe in his hands.

KSHIPRA PRASADA GANESH: Crimson in color, three eyed; Highly ornamented, seated on a throne of Kusha grass , holds a club , a sprig of Kalpavriksha tree, a dancing lotus along with other usual articles.

RUNAMOCHANA GANESH: Said to release humanity from bondage; white crystal like body clad in red silk garments, holding rose apple and tusk in hands.

DURGA GANESH: Huge body, golden and crimson complexions , yellow and red garments depicting the great power of destroying evil like goddess Durga. Eight hands carrying all tools of power.

HARIDRA GANESH: Turmeric yellow color with yellow garments; Three hands holding usual objects and fourth giving refuge to devotees

EKADANTHA GANESH: Single tusk, blue-black color, huge abdomen with axe and other usual articles in his hands and around

SHRISHTI GANESH: Posed as the Creator of Universe, red complexion riding on a huge mouse holding rope, noose, tusk, and mango

UDDANDA GANESH: Crimson in color; As punisher of evils, with greenly clad goddess on the lap; ten hands, holding all the usual sweets, fruits, weapons and also special articles like gems, gada(mace), pomegranate, red lily etc.

SANKATAHARA (or SANKASHTA) GANESH: As remover of sorrows, complexioned as the rising Sun, represented in a celebrate form but sometimes seated on a red lotus with greenly clad goddess on his lap; and holding specially blue flowers and payasam (milk boiled and sweetened with added ingredients like nuts) in addition to his usual favorite articles

TARUNA GANESH: Crimson colored and shining with brilliant youthfulness; six hands full of usual articles and specially rice cake and guava fruit.

BHAKTA GANESH: White colored ; Devotional mood; Cocoanut, Jaggery, and mangoes in hand.

VEERA GANESH: Twelve handed, armed with all weapons of power including nagapasha (Serpent noose), a spear, plough, and an axe.

SAKTI GANESH: With a complexion of a setting Sun, posing as a destroyer of fear, embracing tightly the greenly clad goddess holds his favorite articles in his hands

DWIJA GANESH: Color of the white moon with a face of a dignified elephant; Holds a book, staff, and Kamandalam (water bowl) in hands

SIDDHI GANESH: Golden color radiating with wealth and prosperity and usual articles on hand.

UCCHISTA GANESH: Blue in color, holding a blue lotus, pomegranate fruit, Veena (musical instrument), and a rosary, posing a protective mood

VIGHNA GANESH: Golden color; Adorns conch, darbha grass, and a dagger in addition to his usual articles; Well ornamented; powerfully posed to remove all obstacles and with twelve hands full of weapons along with other usual articles.

KSHIPRA GANESH: Glowing brilliantly like bandhooka flower and holding a pot of jewels and other usual articles.

HERAMBA GANESH: Snow white complexioned, two hands in a gesture of protection, riding a lion, having five elephant faces and eight hands with the usual articles

LAKSHMI GANESH: Snow white complexioned; Has a parrot in one hand, a sword, nectar, and usual articles in other hands ; Lotus bearing maidens serving Him on the sides; Engrossed in the trumpet sound of the elephant to indicate protection to the devotees.

MAHA GANESH (or MAHAGANAPATHI): Face of Divine elephant, crescent on the head, red in complexion, three eyed, embracing his consort with a lotus in her hand, and holding his other favorite articles.

VIJAYA GANESH: Crimson color, shown as a successful warrior after destroying all evil obstacles..