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Loving Ganesha
Chapter 5: Forms of Ganesha




of Ganesha

VERYWHERE IN THE MACROCOSM IS OUR BELOVED, benevolent deity Ganesha, at every point in time, in the forces of family, community, commerce and dharma that shape our lives, as well as in our culture -- indeed all cultures of the world -- in the physical universe and within our hearts. Of course, He is most present in the consecrated temple or roadside shrine, from which His grace radiates out from the world of the Gods. Ganesha is the Lord of beginnings, guiding the practical aspects of our lives that we may best fulfill dharma. For the Hindu, Ganesha is easily contacted, and He is thought of as lenient of our errors and shortcomings, most understanding of our humanness. So vast is Ganesha's Being that He cannot be contained by any single concept, and therefore He is portrayed in many forms. He is each of them, and He is all of them.

Ganesha is a word compounded from the Sanskrit word gana, meaning "the hosts," "multitudes" or "troops" of demigods, especially the retinue of Lord Siva under the rule of Ganesha, and Isha, "ruler," "lord" or "sovereign." This is virtually synonymous with the name Ganapati, "master of the hosts." As Ganapati, Lord Ganesha is the leader of the ganas, ruling over the celestial hosts, over the benign as well as the malevolent inner-plane beings. He controls them not as Lord Murugan does, through bravery and forcefulness, but by strategy and intelligence. We follow the path of Lord Ganesha when we resort to discrimination and sagacity to resolve our difficulties, when we proceed past obstacles in a slow, prudent and well-planned manner. Lord Ganesha is not in a hurry. He is cautious. He is patient, willing to await the right time for events to take place.

As Vighneshvara, Lord Ganesha is Lord of Obstacles, creating difficulties and obstructions if the time is wrong for us to proceed and removing those same obstacles when our success is assured. It is to Vighneshvara that we supplicate before we undertake a task, plan a change in our life or begin the worship any of the other Gods.

As Ekadanta, Lord Ganesha is the Single-Tusked One, the Patron of Literature who, when all others failed, Himself undertook to scribe the great epic, Mahabharata, dictated to Him by sage Vyasa. He offers us here the lesson in life that knowledge and dharma are of utmost importance, worth sacrificing even pride and beauty to attain.

As Siddhidata, Lord Ganesha is the Giver of Success associated with bountiful harvests and general abundance in life. It is said that Lord Ganesha is the material manifestation of the manas, or mind, of Lord Siva, and that He embodies the five elements -- earth, air, fire, water and ether -- and guides the elemental forces that produce and maintain order in the universe.

The Mudgala Purana, an ancient text on Lord Ganesha, cites eight forms of Ganesha, prevailing over eight human weaknesses or demons. Ekadanta is the Conquerer of Moda, arrogance. Dhumravarna (smoke colored) overcomes Abhimana, pride; Vakratunda (curved trunk) is the Vanquisher of Matsarya, jealousy; Mahodara (big belly) is Lord of Moha, infatuation; Gajanana (elephant face) conquers Lobha, greed; Lambodara (corpulent belly) overcomes Krodha, anger; Vikata (deformed) conquers Kama, lust; Vighnaraja (King of Obstacles) prevails over Mamata (egotism). So now we can see that our Loving Ganesha is "there" for even the lowest of the low, that there is hope for everyone, and that there really is "no intrinsic evil," only a seeming variation of the past containing all that has to be learned to live and grow from a young soul to an older one and then mature into rishi consciousness. He is "there for us." Yes, there is hope for all, and none are damned forever. It is our loving Ganesha who eventually introduces us to His brother, our Loving Murugan, the God Who sits upon the manipura chakra, center of willpower.

The Two Shaktis of Lord Ganesha

There is a confusion regarding the two consorts of Lord Ganesha: Buddhi and Siddhi, with whom He is often represented. Buddhi is wisdom, or more precisely sagacity, the intelligent and discriminating use of knowledge. Siddhi is success, or more precisely fulfillment, accomplishment or attainment. While in North India Ganesha is conceived as having two consorts, in the South He is looked upon as a brahmachari, or bachelor. Esoterically, it must be stressed that none of the Gods has a wife. Their consorts are not to be considered as separate from them, but as aspects of their being, as their shakti, or power. The Mahadevas, who live in the inner Third World, cannot be likened to men and women who live on the earth, known as the First World. They exist in perfectly evolved soul bodies, bodies which are not properly differentiated by sex. They are pure beings made of pure consciousness and light; they are neither male nor female. To better understand these divine Gods, we sometimes conceive of them as being the man if they are strong in expression or the woman if they are gentle and compassionate. In truth, this is a misconception. There are no husbands and wives in the vast superconscious realms of the Third World, or Sivaloka. Thus, Buddhi and Siddhi are properly seen as the two shaktis -- wisdom and success -- of the great Ganesha, and not as His so-called consorts. These two represent benefits or boons accrued by His worshipers. In an inner sense, Buddhi and Siddhi are the ida and pingala nadis, the female and male currents, both of which are embodied within the being of Ganesha, corresponding to Valli and Devayani, the mythological consorts of Lord Murugan.

Thirty-Two Forms of Ganesha

In temples and shrines around the planet, from Moscow to London, from Durban to Kuala Lumpur, Ganesha's worshipful image, or murti, appears in many forms. The Mudgala Purana, in addition to the above eight, lists thirty-two. We present sketches here of these on the following pages. Children will enjoy coloring them. It may interest you to know that the first sixteen murtis, the Shodasha Ganapati, are installed in an eight-sided, chariot-shaped structure at the Shri Shankara Mandapam of Rameshvaram, South India, established by the late Shri la Shri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, 68th preceptor of the Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham.

The Quiet Within

Our Loving Ganesha's a powerful God
Yet, He is so quiet you might think it odd
That such a meticulous, intricate soul
Would care to guide all of our karma so old.

Indeed it is fortunate that He is so near
For if He were not we would hardly be here,
For He holds the base chakra so firmly in place
That we may thus live in this one time in space.

Pray to Him dearly, and truth you'll be seeing
That the quiet inside is the cave of your Being,
To attain through your striving, to be quiet within,
That the heritage of all happy births you will win.


ganesh01g_epsBala Ganapati

Bala Ganapati is "the Childlike" God of golden hue. In His hands He holds a banana, mango, sugar cane and jackfruit, all representing the earth's abundance and fertility. His trunk garners His favorite sweet, the modaka.


ganesh02g_epsTaruna Ganapati

Eight-armed, Taruna Ganapati, "the Youthful," holds a noose and goad, modaka, wood apple, rose apple, His broken tusk, a sprig of paddy and a sugar cane stalk. His brilliant red color reflects the blossoming of youth.


ganesh03g_epsBhakti Ganapati

Shining like the full moon during harvest season and garlanded with flowers, Bhakti Ganapati, dear to devotees, is indeed pleasant to look upon. He holds a banana, a mango, coconut and a bowl of sweet payasa pudding.


ganesh04g_epsVira Ganapati

The "Valiant Warrior," Vira Ganapati, assumes a commanding pose. His 16 arms bristle with weapons, symbols of mind powers: a goad, discus, bow, arrow, sword, shield, spear, mace, a battleaxe, a trident and more.


ganesh05g_epsShakti Ganapati

Four-armed and seated with one of His shaktis on His knee, Shakti Ganapati, "the Powerful," of orange-red hue, guards the householder. He holds a garland, noose and goad, and bestows blessings with the abhaya mudra.


ganesh06g_epsDvija Ganapati

Four-headed Dvija Ganapati, "the Twice-born," is moon-like in color. Holding a noose, a goad, an ola leaf scripture, a staff, water vessel and a his japa beads, He reminds one and all of the urgency for disciplined striving.


ganesh07g_epsSiddhi Ganapati

Golden-yellow Siddhi Ganapati, "the Accomplished," is the epitome of achievement and self-mastery. He sits comfortably holding a bouquet of flowers, an axe, mango, sugar cane and, in His trunk, a tasty sesame sweet.


ganesh08g_epsUcchhishta Ganapati

Ucchhishta Ganapati is "Lord of Blessed Offerings" and guardian of culture. Of blue complexion and six-armed, He sits with His Shakti, holding a vina, pomegranate, blue lotus flower, japa mala and a sprig of fresh paddy.


ganesh09g_epsVighna Ganapati

Vighna Ganapati, "Lord of Obstacles," is of brilliant gold hue and bedecked in jewels. His eight arms hold a noose and goad, tusk and modaka, conch and discus, a bouquet of flowers, sugar cane, flower arrow and an axe.


ganesh10g_epsKshipra Ganapati

Handsome, red-hued Kshipra Ganapati, "Quick-acting" giver of boons, displays His broken tusk, a noose, goad and a sprig of the kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling) tree. In His uplifted trunk He holds a tiny pot of precious jewels.


ganesh11g_epsHeramba Ganapati

Five-faced, white in color, Heramba Ganapati, "Protector of the Weak," rides a big lion. He extends the gestures of protection and blessing while holding a noose, japa beads, axe, hammer, tusk, garland, fruit and modaka.


ganesh12g_epsLakshmi Ganapati

Lakshmi Ganapati, pure white giver of success, sits flanked by Wisdom and Achievement. Gesturing varada mudra, He holds a green parrot, a pomegranate, sword, goad, noose, sprig of kalpavriksha and a water vessel.


ganesh13g_epsMaha Ganapati

Accompanied by one of His shaktis, "the Great," Maha Ganapati, is red-complexioned and three-eyed. He holds His tusk, a pomegranate, blue lily, sugar-cane bow, discus, noose, lotus, paddy sprig, mace and a pot of gems.


ganesh14g_epsVijaya Ganapati

Four-armed, of red hue and riding His resourceful mushika, Vijaya Ganapati is "the Victorious" bestower of success. His insignia are the broken tusk, elephant goad, a noose and a lucious golden mango, His favorite fruit.


ganesh15g_epsNritya Ganapati

The happy "Dancer," Nritya Ganapati, is four-armed and golden, with rings on His fingers, holding a tusk, goad, noose and modaka sweet. He prances under the kalpavriksha tree, epitomizing exuberant activity and joy.


ganesh16g_epsUrdhva Ganapati

Seated with one of His shaktis on His left knee, Urdhva Ganapati is "the Elevated" Lord of golden hue. In His six hands He holds a sprig of paddy, a lotus, the sugar cane bow, an arrow, His ivory tusk and a blue water lily.


ganesh17g_epsEkakshara Ganapati

Ekakshara, of "Single-Syllable" (gam), is three-eyed, of red complexion and attire. Crescent moon on His crown, He sits in lotus pose upon Mushika, offers the boon-giving gesture and holds a pomegranate, noose and goad.


ganesh18g_epsVarada Ganapati

Varada Ganapati, "the Boon-Giver with prominent third eye of wisdom, holds a dish of honey, the noose and goad and encloses a pot of jewels in His trunk. His shakti is at His side, and the crescent moon adorns His crown.


ganesh19g_epsTryakshara Ganapati

Tryakshara Ganapati, "the Lord of Three Letters" (A-U-M), is gold in color and has fly whisks in His big floppy ears. He carries the broken tusk, goad, noose and mango and is often seen grasping a sweet modaka in His trunk.


ganesh20g_epsKshipra Prasada Ganapati

Kshipra Prasada Ganapati, "the Quick Rewarder," presides from a kusha-grass throne. His big belly symbolizes the manifest universe. He holds a noose, goad, tusk, lotus, pomegranate and a twig of the wish-fulfilling tree.


ganesh21g_epsHaridra Ganapati

Haridra Ganapati, the golden one dressed in bright yellow vestments, sits calmly on a posh, regal throne. Along with His tusk and a modaka, He wields a noose to hold devotees close and a sharp goad to spur them onward.


ganesh22g_epsEkadanta Ganapati

Ekadanta, of "Single Tusk," is distinguished by His blue color and sizeable belly. The attributes of this murti are an axe for cutting the bonds of ignorance, prayer beads for japa, a laddu sweet and the broken right tusk.


ganesh23g_epsSrishti Ganapati

Riding on His docile and friendly mouse, Srishti Ganapati is the lord of happy "Manifestation." This active God, of red complexion, holds His noose a goad, a perfect mango, and His tusk, representing selfless sacrifice.


ganesh24g_epsUddanda Ganapati

Uddanda Ganapati is the bold "Enforcer of Dharma," the laws of being. His ten hands hold a pot of gems, a blue lily, sugar cane, a mace, lotus flower, sprig of paddy, a pomegranate, noose, garland and His broken tusk.


ganesh25g_epsRinamochana Ganapati

Rinamochana Ganapati is humanity's liberator from guilt and bondage. His figure of alabaster skin is apparelled in red silks. He bears a noose and a goad, His milk-white tusk and a favorite fruit, the rose apple.


ganesh26g_epsDhundhi Ganapati

Red-hued Dhundhi Ganapati, "the Sought After," holds a strand of rudraksha beads, His broken tusk, an axe and a small pot of precious gems thought to represent the treasury of awakenings He saves for all ardent devotees.


ganesh27g_epsDvimukha Ganapati

Dvimukha Ganapati, called Janus by the Romans, with two divergent faces, sees in all directions. His blue-green form is dressed in red silk. He wears a bejeweled crown and holds a noose, goad, His tusk and a pot of gems.


ganesh28g_epsTrimukha Ganapati

Trimukha Ganapati, the contemplative "three-faced" Lord of red hue, sits on a golden lotus, telling His beads, holding a noose, goad and vessel of nectar. He gestures protection with a right hand and blessings with a left.


ganesh29g_epsSinha Ganapati

Sinha Ganapati, white in color, rides a lion and displays another lion in one hand, symbolizing strength and fearlessness. He also holds a kalpavriksha sprig, the vina, a lotus blossom, flower bouquet and a pot of jewels.


ganesh30g_epsYoga Ganapati

Yoga Ganapati is absorbed in mantra japa, His knees strapped in meditative pose, hands holding a yoga staff, sugar cane stalk, a noose and prayer beads. His color is like the morning sun. Blue garments adorn His form.


ganesh31g_epsDurga Ganapati

Durga Ganapati, the "Invincible," waves the flag of victory over darkness. This splendid murti is of deep gold hue, dressed in red, holding a bow and arrow, noose and goad, prayer beads, broken tusk and a rose apple.


Sankatahara Ganapati

Sankatahara Ganapati, "the Dispeller of Sorrow," is of sunlike hue, dressed in blue, and seated on a red lotus flower. He holds a bowl of pudding, a goad and a noose while gesturing the boon-granting varada mudra.

Ganesha Iconography

By Dr. L.S. Madhava Rao,
From "Ganesha as Primus Inter Pares,"
Published in the Organiser, September 18, 1994

In every Hindu function, invocation to Lord Ganesha for His blessings takes precedence over all other Gods to ward off any mishap. This has been the practice from the Vedic times. Every part of Ganesha's body, such as ear, nose, eyes, trunk, has some significance. One has only to know it, believe in it and follow it. He is intellect par excellence. A critical examination of the various names of the Deities will enable us to know and trace the features of religious development and understand the religious tendencies of the people. Here an attempt is made to highlight how Lord Ganesha in His different bhangimas (postures and attitudes) is worshiped in Agamic temples.

1. Icons without headdress in the sitting pose and with two arms: To this class belong two variations. The first is the prevalent utkutakasana ["sitting on the hams" with one or both knees raised] see illustration, page 93). Second is Ganesha seated in padmasana, lotus pose, with legs crossed, which is quite rare.

2. Ganesha icons with two arms and headdress: These images are mostly carved out of stone and normally belong to a period between the 9th and 12th centuries. These are represented in the usual utkutaka pose, and the proboscis is shown taking a left turn and eating from a bowl of pudding held in the left hand.

3. Four-armed figures without alankara [ornamentation] and prabhavali [encircling arch]: These are discernable specimens of early Ganapati sculpture with four arms, devoid of any kind of ornamentation and with little proportion.

4. Ganapati icons with four arms, ribbon-like prabhavali, jatamukuta [crown of matted hair] and udarabandha [waist band]: These figures are usually ascribed to the period between the 9th and 12th centuries. They are mostly carved out of hard granite, and they present a pleasant and elegant form.

5. Ganapati icons with four arms and with bowl-like kinita or with conical or karanda mukuta [basket-shaped crown]: This type of Ganapati image is datable to the 10th, 11th or 12th centuries. They may not have the mount or profusion of alankara. The prabhavali resembles a semicircular tape or is flame-like.

6. Ganapati icons representing the Hoysala type: These figures are known for their profusion in ornamentation, delicacy of taste and elegance.

7. Ganapati icons with the usual nagabandha, vahana, karanda mukuta and conventionalized form of details: These figures are assigned to the period between the 14th and 18th centuries. They represent the various forms of Ganapati according to the textual prescription.

8. Dncin_Ganesha_4_G__Book Ganapati icons in tribhanga: Hitherto, four bronzes have been discovered in the tribhanga pose. Three are ascribed to the 10th century. [At left is an example of tribhanga in nritya (dancing) pose, from a sthapati's sketch on a workshop wall in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.]

9. Nritya Ganesha, the dancing form: Only two [ancient] icons of this type have come to light so far. One is a small (20cm high) stone icon at Hariharakshetra, Subrahmanya. The other is a bronze in the Raghavendra Matha in Udipi. This bronze is of considerable iconographic interest. In features, although it presents conventional forms, its theological background is rather unique.

Ganesha's Seating and Standing Poses

Illustrations of Poses
In Ganesha Representation


Seven variations of Ganesha's usual sitting pose, with one or both knees raised.

lalithasana_legsLalitasana:  Relaxes (playful) poses, at ease.

nritya__legsNritya: Three dancing poses, the last in tribhanga.

other__legsOther Seated



Six Rare Poses

Four variations of padmasana, the lotus pose.

rare_legsTwo other poses rarely seen in ancient iconography of Ganesha.

Ganesha's Trunk Poses

Below are numerous trunk poses. The first group are examples of valampuri (turning to the right). Group two are edampuri (turning left). In most icons of Loving Ganesha the trunk is turned toward the left (from the perspective of the Deity). Only in rare cases is it turned to the right.Trunks_checked

Valampuri Pose

Trunk turning to the Deity's right. This form is very rare.


Edampuri Pose

Trunk turning to the Deity's left. This is the common form.

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