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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, "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
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
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.
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,
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
Illustrations of Poses
In Ganesha Representation
Seven variations of Ganesha's usual sitting pose, with
one or both knees raised.
Relaxes (playful) poses, at ease.
Three dancing poses, the last in tribhanga.
Six Rare Poses
Four variations of padmasana, the
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.
Trunk turning to the Deity's right. This
form is very rare.
Trunk turning to the Deity's left. This
is the common form.