ELICITOUS EMBLEMS, INSIGNIA AND ICONS ARE attributed to
each of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses to symbolize the manifest
mental powers of that particular Third World Mahadeva. The
vitarka mudra, -- gesture of debate -- is associated
with Lord Ganeshaa, as are red and yellow flowers. Everywhere
the elephant symbolizes strength, intelligence and majestic
poise. So honored was the elephant among the creatures that
it was used in regal days to select a successor to the throne.
In ancient Bharat the superiority of a maharaja's army was
measured by the strength of his elephant brigade -- the
largest kraal on record being 5,000, owned by Rajaraja
Chola. In India, the white elephant is a symbol of purity
(elephants, despite their size, are pure vegetarians), and
its birth was said to usher in an era of prosperity and
plenitude for the entire nation. There are many stories
surrounding visions of a white elephant, including that
which the mother of Prince Siddhartha had before his birth.
In this chapter of Loving Ganesha we describe briefly some
of the traditional symbols and their meanings.
"His four arms stand for His immense power
in helping humanity. The noose and the goad borne in two
of His hands stand for His all-pervasiveness and grace.
The broken tusk in the right hand shows that He is the refuge
for all. His huge belly is indicative of His tolerance and
also signifies that all things, the entire Universe, are
contained in Him. His feet stand for the bestowal of siddhi
and buddhi, attainment of desires and knowledge.
The modaka (sweet goody) in His hand is symbolic
of jnana, conferring bliss. His mount, the shrew, represents
the worldly desires which are to be overcome" (M. Arunachalam,
Festivals of Tamil Nadu, 1980, p. 112).
listens to the puja conch's loud sound, reminding Him of elephants'
trumpeting happily in the jungle. He summons, "Come one and
all to Me and pray."
Ganesha's deliberate mind prods dullards on in their birth
karmas whenever they tarry. with His ankusha He goads
forward all souls that are moving too slowly.
Ganesha knows there are difficult times ahead for some of
His devotees. He protects them with His parashu in
gentle ways from evils they have attracted.
Ganesa's provident mind, like the noose, draws close those
He loves most dearly and reaches out to encircle and save
strayed ones in extraordinary ways.
Ganesha, like His brother Murugan, wields a sure weapon,
the lightning bolt: spirit over mind, mind over matter,
ruling both the higher and lower chakras.
Ganesha holds the discus, symbol of the sun and of the mind,
as the moon symbolizes the emotions. Employed as a weapon,
it is the intellect divinely empowered.
Bowl of Sweets
Ganesha is said to have a sweet tooth, or tusk. But the
modaka ball is a symbol of what He loves most, moksha,
liberation, the sweetest of all things sweet.
Ganesha is decisive and commanding, as symbolized by gada,
His mace. He casts karmas back on devotees for resolution,
never letting up until completion.
Ganesha sometimes holds the dagger, keenly sharp, likened
to the "razor's edge," the narrow and sometimes difficult
path the spiritual aspirant must walk.
Mala, Prayer Beads
Ganesha sits at Lord Siva's holy feet with japa mala,
His prayer beads, in hand, waiting for instruction from
the Supreme Lord of all the Gods, His father.
Ganesha shoots flower-covered arrows from His sugar cane
bow in guidance to devotees, so they will not wander too
far from dharma's path of true fulfillment.
Pot of Nectar
Ganesha receives a bath whenever a worshiper knocks his
temples with arms crossed. The amrita flows from
the sahasrara down to His seat at the muladhara's
wants devotees to learn confidence from the potential
of the lotus flower: coming from the depths of the mud
into the bud's opening high above the water.
Sugar Cane Bow
Ganesha shows His generous nature of giving all that is
good to devotees. His sugar cane bow shoots the kindest
arrows, which are projections of His thought.
Ganesha has power over thought, and each one hits its
mark. Bow drawn, arrow aimed, He teaches us to precisely
begin all undertakings with good intentions.
Ganesha is sound in all its beauty and meaning. Siva is
the ocean; Ganesha is its sound. Siva, the wind God; Ganesha
its sound. Listen to the vina within and hear.
Ganesha is not beyond frightening those who live in the
chakra of fear by sending His ganas to lift them
into a better life. Sometimes fear is a helpmate in need.
carries a short stick, a sign of authority, warning all
not to impede the noble ways of dharma and restraining those
who have as much as the thought to do so.
Ganesha sits, as He always does, whisking away the past
within the minds of devotees, young and old, rich and poor,
educated and practical -- because He is so wise.
Ganesha, dear to sannyasins, keeps their water vessel full.
Symbol of fullness, meeting all needs, kamandalu
eternally pours out, never needing to be filled.
Ganesha is discreet as He draws His bow and bends His thoughts
into forms most helpful to His dear devotees. They all cherish
all attentions with great ecstasy.
Ganesha has a snake as His pet. Many are afraid of such
creatures; but He tells us that it is the kundalini within
all, and each one can rise above all adversity.
Ganesha knows rice is the life-sustainer of villagers and
city folk alike. Holding a sprig of paddy, He assures rains
will come and all will be well at harvest time.
Ganesha wields a mallet, badge of His office as Patron of
Arts and Crafts, protector of all who build and shape, chisel
and sculpt for the benefit of society.
Ganesha studiously edits all the scriptures on this planet
and on others, too. His ever-ready, potent pen writes
and edits life's ordinances and comments on their meanings.
Ganesha holds a sprig of the wish-fulfilling tree to tell
us that all our wishes will be gratified. We have but
to tell Him our needs, that is all, just tell Him.
Ganesha knows sometimes strong measures must be taken
to fulfill a righteous goal, like crashing through a jungle.
He uses a battleaxe as a mind force.
Ganesha often brandishes a big axe. This powerful weapon
frightens off asuras and banishes malicious thoughts
of those who intend harm to His devotees.
Ganesha makes His way through the mind's vast complexities
with His abilities represented by trishula, His three-fold
power: Love, Wisdom and Action.
Ganesha holds the coconut, symbol of the ego, soft and sweet
inside, hard and rough outside. When we break a coconut
to Him, we break the ego's hold on us.
Ganesha is the spirit of mirth. On festival days, the
saffron Hindutva dhvaja flies proudly over His
temples, bringing crowds from near and far.
the story goes, Ganesha broke off His right tusk in a
sacrificial act to use it as a stylus while taking Vyasa's
dictation. Thus he teaches us that we must finish what
Ganesha is not naive by any means. He knows that trials
await devotees, and that He must, in order to respond
to prayers, pick, pick, pick away their mental dross.
Ganesha activates His fiery powers, capable of consuming
our dross, of destroying our residual karmas, if we but
consign our misdeeds to the purifying flames.
Ganesha has a sword bejeweled with precious gems. It gives
notice to those who respond only to fear of His enmity to
crime and His abhorrence of hurting.
Ganesha, dweller in the forest, enjoys all the Earth's many
life-sustaining fruits. He wants parents and children alike
to stay healthy by eating lots of energy-giving fruits.
Ganesha, by His partiality for the simple radish, makes
us grow food that is good for us. He knows devotees may
grow more than they need just to please Him.
Ganesha holds the shield of divine security, symbol of
His power to defend lands of the upright, to preserve
traditions and to protect all souls on the spiritual path.
Ganesha says of the mango: "It was given to Me from Lord
Siva's own hand after performing My first wisdom act.
It represents the highest spiritual fruition."
Ganesha, as do we all, has three eyes, not two, the third
being the eye of the mind, of spiritual sight. With this
eye He sees the reality behind the world's seeming.
Pot of Gems
Ganesha knows the magical power resident in gems. Diamonds,
rubies, emeralds are like human souls, each with a different
color, faceting, loveliness and value.
Ganesha knows there are many kinds of people and they need
variety in diet. He protects the cultivation of all kinds
of grains that make their bodies strong.
Ganesha is fond of sugar cane, in fact, of anything sweet.
Being the Lord all children adore, it is His joy to see
their happy eyes light up when offering sugar cane.
Pot of Honey
Ganesha wears a wide smile across His face when offered
a pot of sticky honey. It is, to Him, like moksha
itself, the sweetest of all things sweet, worth any effort.
Ganesha has in His hand the banana, ripe and ready to
eat. He looks at it longingly, yet would give it up in
a moment should a devotee smell its fragrance.
Ganesha rests His arm upon a short staff when talking to
devotees and when in deep samadhi. He finds it helps
Him meditate more effortlessly, more deeply.
Ganesha knows that there are many kinds of animals, little
and big. Each needs a special environment and foods, so
He protects the grasses, little flowers and seeds.
Gola, Sesame Ball
Ganesha teaches us that size may be immense but there is
nothing too small to overlook. In His trunk is a sweet made
of tiny sesame seeds, and He rides on a tiny mouse.
Ganesha delights when the parrot talks and shows
he is happy. Perched in Ganesha's hand, he greets all who
come and go, giving his opinion when they are alone.
Ganesha holds the pineapple and is ready to slice it to
share with those in His aura. Giving and sharing is our
lesson from the sweet pineapple that He gives us.
companion, a mouse, attests to the all-pervasiveness of
the elephant God. Mushika, the mount or vahana, carries
Him into the mind's every nook and cranny.
Ganesha has this world and all the billions of galaxies
in His abundant belly. All known and unknown universes are
contained within His prodigious girth.
Mark of Auspiciousness
Ganesha's good fortunes are represented by the swastika,
a sign of luck and auspiciousness. Its crooked arms show
how life is filled with change and indirection.
Ganesha is a practical God, and it is His wish that all
who know Him drink the juice from one of His favorite fruits.
He wants them to be healthy and enjoy life.
Ganesha is Aum. He is the A, the base sound of the universe;
He is the U, the sound of the galaxies; and He is the M,
the sound of the planets and the littlest stars.
Ganesha has a versatile trunk, and makes it known that it
is a symbol of His capacity to always love His devotees.
With it He reaches out to touch each of them.
Blue Water Lily
Ganesha often sits by a lily pond, pondering the current
state of the universe. His province is to see that all is
in order until the next Great Dissolution, mahapralaya.
Ganesha's favorite, jackfruit, is a potato-like vegetable,
a chewy nut and sweet yellow fruit all in one. Like the
jack's stem, our attachments, though small, are strong.
Ganesha sits within an arch depicting creation, preservation
and fiery dissolution. Above is the God of time, Mahakala,
who ultimately claims everything.
Ganesha knows we may be led astray by ways of worldly people
who eat meat. He offers us red dadimas, as if saying:
"Its many pink seeds are so much better than flesh."
Ganesha wears a snake around Him to tell us all that we
have to be like Him and control our instinctive, animal
mind. Yes, it is possible through the grace of this God.
Ganesha loves wood apples, kapittha, called the elephant
fruit. Sweet to eat, packaged in a tough shell, it is a
pharmacy of ayurveda's secret medicinal potencies.
Ganesha was never accused of turning down a laddu,
rich with milk, flour and sugar. Maybe it reminds Him of
being young. Every young one loves sweets.
Ganesha's sculpted form in temples and shrines worldwide is
encased on festival days in silver and gold facsimilies. He
likes splendor, pomp and adulation.
Ganesha, like His father, Siva, wears the crescent moon on
His great head. It is a symbol of time's passing, of auspicious
moments and of the powers of the mind.
Ganesha is invoked by devotees through this mystery mantra.
Upon hearing it, He immediately responds. Easy of access,
He never delays in solving our problems.
Ganesha wears across a massive shoulder the holy cord to
remind us that we, too, can be twice born through His grace,
that none is low and none is high.
Ganesha loves the rose apple among many other wonderful
fruits and vegetables. He shows us the path to good health,
harmlessness to creatures and love.
Loving Ganesha is seen from time
to time enjoying sweet tapioca pudding, likened to the love
and kindness that comes from caring for others as one's
very own self.Shakti, Consort
Ganesha is often seen with two female consorts, or shaktis.
They represent ida and pingala, the two
life currents, emotion and intellect, that hold us close
Chakra, Base Center
Ganesha, sitting on the four petalled muladhara,
rules memory and knowledge as the gatekeeper to the six
chakras above and the guard of the seven below.
Ganesha is the giver of gifts from healing trees, the
practitioner of ayurveda, the great doctor who helps us
gain the knowledge of health from medicinal plants.