Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India
Ganesh, is one of the most popular and loved Gods in Hindu culture. Etymologically, ‘Ga’ symbolizes intellect (Buddhi),while ‘Na’ symbolizes wisdom (Vijanana), in addition to the fact that, in some parts of India, his consorts were Buddhi, Riddi (prosperity), and Siddhi (attainment), showed that he was the Master of Wisdom and Intellect. The Hindu title of respect Shri (Sanskrit: श्री; śrī; also spelled Sri or Shree) is often added before his name.
The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words Ganna (gaṇa), meaning a group, multitude, or categorical system and isha (īśa), meaning lord or master. The word gaṇa when associated with Ganesha is often taken to refer to the gaṇas, a troop of semi-divine beings that form part of the retinue of Shiva, Ganesha’s father.
Ganesh is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity, fortune and success. He is the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles of both material and spiritual kinds. Interestingly, he also places obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked.
Born as the son of Shiva the Destroyer and his consort Parvati, there are numerous stories in the Puranas (3rdth Century AD), which tell different stories of Ganesh’s birth.He is said to be created by both Shiva and Parvati, but there are stories where he may have been created by only Shiva, or by Parvati, or may have just been discovered by Shiva and Parvati.
Ganesha also has another brother called Skanda or Kartikeya, who is worshipped in South India as the older brother as the manifestation of courage, poise, and determination to do right. His lack of popularity in North India puts him down, literally, as the younger brother of Ganesha.
Ganesha’s marital status, the subject of considerable scholarly review, varies widely in mythological stories but the popularly held belief is that he was married just like the other prominent Gods of Hinduism. One lesser-known and unpopular pattern of myths identifies Ganesha as an unmarried Brahamchari. This view is common in southern India and parts of northern India.] Another pattern associates him with his consorts named Buddhi (intellect), Siddhi (spiritual power), and Riddhi (prosperity); essentially, qualities personified as goddesses, and are Ganesha’s wives. He also may be shown with a single consort or a nameless servant (Sanskrit: daşi).
Another pattern connects Ganesha with the goddess of culture and the arts, Saraswati (corsort of Brahma) or Śarda (particularly in Maharashtra). He is also associated with the goddess of luck and prosperity, Lakshmi. Another pattern, mainly prevalent in the BBengalregion, links Ganesha with the banana tree, Kala Bo.
The Shiva puran says that Ganesha had begotten two sons: Kşema (prosperity) and Lābha (profit). In northern Indian variants of this story, the sons are often said to be Śubha(auspiciouness) and Lābha.] Ganesha married to Riddhi and Siddhi and having a daughter named Santoshi Ma the goddess of satisfaction
There exist a large number of legends, myths and stories relating to Ganesh and his appearance. It is said that the goddess Parvati, wishing to bathe, created a boy and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When her husband Shiva returned from one his interminable battles, he was denied access by Ganesh and killed the boy in a fit of petulant rage, striking his head off with his sword. Parvati was understandably upset and so to soothe her Shiva sent out his warriors to fetch the head of the first dead creature they found, which happened to be that of an elephant. The head was attached to the body of the boy and he was brought back to life And because of his role as his mother’s doorkeeper, he is often placed facing doorways to keep out the unworthy.
One popular story about his broken tusk is that he broke it off himself in order to write down the Aahabharat one of the world’s longest epic , as it was dictated to him by the sage Vyasa. In the process of writing, Ganesh’s pen failed and so he snapped off his tusk as a replacement in order that the transcription not be interrupted. Another version of the broken-tusk story is that his father Shiva decided to take a nap and asked Ganesh to guard him. A proud Brahmin warrior named Parashuram came to visit Shiva but was stopped from waking him by Ganesh. Parashuram was furious and fought with him, finally throwing his ax at his head. Ganesh stopped the ax with his tusk which broke, giving him the nickname Eka-danta, or “One Toothed.”
Another common icon associated with Ganesh is that of the snake. Ganesha simply wrapped the serpent king Vasuki around his neck. Ganesh may also be portrayed using the snake as a sacred thread, aloft in both hands, coiled at his ankles or as a throne. However, the best known story of all concerns Ganesh wrapping the snake around his stomach as a belt. Ganesh went from house to house accepting offerings of sweet puddings. Out on the road his mount the mouse stumbles, having seen a snake and become frightened, with the result that Ganesh tumbles off. His stomach bursts open and all the sweet puddings fall out. Unwilling to leave them on the ground for all to see , Ganesh stuffs them back into his stomach and, catching hold of the snake, ties it around his belly. The moon in the sky, on seeing this, has a hearty laugh at his expense. Annoyed, Ganesh pulls off one of his tusks and hurls it at the moon. Once again, the symbology behind the mouse, snake, Ganesh’s belly and its relationship to the moon on his birthday is highly significant, his belly representing as it does the entire cosmos which is held together by the cosmic energy of the snake kundalini.
Upon Ganesha’s forehead may be a third eye or the sectarian mark ( TILAKA), which consists of three horizontal lines.The Ganesha Purana prescribes a tilaka mark as well as a crescent moon on the forehead. A distinct form of Ganesha called Bhalachandra (bhālacandra; “Moon on the Forehead”) includes that iconographic element.
Ganesha uses a mouse (shrew) in five of them, a lion in his incarnation as Vakratunda, a peacock in his incarnation as Vikata, and Shesha, the divine serpent, in his incarnation as Vighnaraja. Mohotkata uses a lion, Mayūreśvara uses a peacock, Dhumraketu uses a horse, and Gajananauses a mouse, in the four incarnations of Ganesha listed in the Ganesha Purana. Jain depictions of Ganesha show his vahana variously as a mouse, elephant, tortoise, ram, or peacock.[
Ganesha is often shown riding on or attended by a mouse, shrew or rat. The rat began to appear as the principal vehicle in sculptures of Ganesha in central and western India during the 7th century; the rat was always placed close to his feet.
The mouse is interpreted in several ways. "Many interpret Gaṇapati's mouse, negatively; it symbolizes tamogunaas well as desire". it symbolizes those who wish to overcome desires and be less selfish. The rat is destructive and a menace to crops. The Sanskrit word mūṣaka (mouse) is derived from the root mūṣ(stealing, robbing). It was essential to subdue the rat as a destructive pest, a type of vighna (impediment) that needed to be overcome. According to this theory, showing Ganesha as master of the rat demonstrates his function as Vigneshvara (Lord of Obstacles) and gives evidence of his possible role as a folk grāma-devatā (village deity) who later rose to greater prominence. Rat is a symbol suggesting that Ganesha, like the rat, penetrates even the most secret places
In South India and some parts of North India, Ganesha is known to be Brahmacharin, however, he still has his three consorts – Buddhi, Siddhi, and Riddhi in some myths.
The panchatyatana puja are known to represent the five aspects of God – the five elementsof Earth, Air, water, Fire and Ether. Ganesha is supposed to represent water, which is why is he associated with creation, according to Ganapatya belief and Hindu cosmology.
Since he is the ‘Lord of Beginnings’, every Hindu prayer and Tantric worship starts with a dedication to Ganesha, to please him into blessing and providing an easy path to glory. Ganeshais the Lord of all Creatures, the Lord of Success, and the Lord of Education, Knowledge and Wisdom. He has a rat as his vehicle, which, as legend goes, was actually a demon that Ganesha defeated by stomping upon him and transforming into a rat. Additionally, Ganesha is also the God of Intellect and Wisdom, the Destroyer of Selfishness and Pride. It is said that he is the personification of the elemental universe in all of its different forms and figures.
A patron of Letters and the Arts, he is often depicted as a dancing figure, surrounded by musicians to please and entertain his parents. He is also associated with the first chakra, the Muladhara Chakra, representing preservation, survival and health.
Ganesha was a non-Vedic, Dravidian God. Although a few references were made in the Rigveda (1500BC – 1000BC), to Ganesha’s character, to describe the power of Indra (and his being addressed to as Ganapati), healing nature of Indra’s friend Brahmanaspati and the fierce destructive nature of the Maruts, Ganesha himself wasn’t specifically named until the Puranas (3rd - 16th century AD), which is what allows us to tracback the extent of his popularity to early times. The confusion between the different references to Brahmanspati and Ganesa is what led to the wisdom trait of Brahmanaspati to transfer onto the Ganesha we know now.
Those who go by this train of thought also firmly believe that Ganesha was originally amalevolent deity who later became benevolent as he became more prominent and his cult grew. Scholars also believe that Ganesha was a Non-Aryan God, who was originally a demon – he was even known as Vinayaka which means evil spirit – because of his constant associations with demons and other evil spirits like Sala,Katamkata, and Devayajana and other spirits mentioned in theYajnavalkya Smrti and Manava Grhyasutra
Ganesha additionally has four evil types of spiritual representations of himself also known as Vinayakas, who are said to possess peopleand and bring bad luck, as mentioned in the Manava Grhyasutr Originally,Ganesha’s traits were portrayed as primitive and non-Aryan, but as time progressed, he was granted a few aspects of Krishna in the Brahmavaivartta Purana (10th CenturyAD) to bring him up to the level of the other Gods.
Ganesha’s varied names prove him to be the head of Vinayakas (evil spirits) and Ganas. His references in the Puranas also show that Ganesha was originallya malevolent demon himself. His appointed role of the placer and remover of obstacles means that he puts problems in front of enemies of the gods, and remove them on behalf of the gods, to prevent over crowding in the heavens. Appointed byParvati, he is believed to create desires for wealth in people to divert them from the path of pilgrimage to heavens.
Known for his elephant head, Ganesha’s many names all correspond to what he is known for. While the name is used in North India, South India prefers to call him Ganapati, which means ‘Lord of the Hosts’ as he is the appointed head of Shiva’s regime of Ganas.
His other names Ekadanta or Pillaiyar are derivedfrom his appearance of having only one tusk (both Danta and Pella mean tooth and tusk), having removed one of his tusks to write the epic Mahabharata (400 BCE - 400AD).
His other name Vignaharta is in reference to his Puranic title as the ‘Remover of Obstacles,’ although, originally, he was a malevolent deity known as Vignakarta asthe ‘Lord of the Obstacles’ as he was appointed by the Gods in the heavens to create hurdles for the people so that the heavens wouldn’t be over crowded. Ganesha, in this case, was originally a negative character around the 4th Century BCE, who soon turned good in the Puranic times (1st Century AD - 18th Century). Ganesha’s dual role of being the ‘Lord’ and ‘Remover’ of Obstacles shows the transformative nature of the deities’ different portrayal in different texts.
While there are myths saying that Shiva’s spirit gave birth to Ganesh, in the Vamana Purana(450–900 AD) and Matsya Purana (250–500 AD), Ganesh is Parvati’s creation. Whereas, a completely different school of belief is the popular Vaishnavite belief is that Ganesha is said to be Krishna’s incarnation.
As the times progressed, different medieval icons of Ganesha were developed. In the Ganapati Upanishad , Ganesha is called the ‘Supreme Self’, and 32different icons arose, to which different people pray to different icons according to what aspect they consider to have the most significance. The 32 forms of Ganesha are
- ,Dhvija Ganapati,
- Bala Ganapati,
- Bhakti Ganapati,
- Dhundi Ganapati,
- Durga Ganapati
- Ekadanta Ganapati,
- Ekakshara Ganapati,
- Haridra Ganapati,
- 10.Heramba Ganapati,
- Kshipara Prasada Ganapati,
- Lakshmi Ganapati,
- Maha Ganapati,
- Nritya Ganapati,
- Rinamochana Ganapati,
- Sankatahara Ganapati.
- Shakti Ganapati
- Siddhi Ganapati,
- Sinha Ganapati,
- Taruna Ganapati,
- .Trimukha Ganapati,
- .Ucchista Ganapati,
- Uddandta Ganapati,
- Urdhva Ganapati,
- Varada Ganapati,
- Vighna Ganapati,
- Vijaya Ganapati,
- .Vira Ganapati,
- Yoga Ganapati,
Out of these 32 forms, certain specific icons gained more popularity than the rest, based on what they depicted, provided and represented. Theyrose to such great extents that the 6 most popular icons of Ganesha lead to thedevelopment of six different sects in the Ganesha cult who each worshipped the 6different aspects of Maha, Haridra, Ucchista, Laxmi, Shakti and Heramba.
An interesting thing to note would be that a female form of Ganesha exists which is known as Vinayaki or Ganeshvari, an elephant headed Hindu goddess.Despite her mythology and iconography being undefined, she is a definite Matrika goddess, as a Brahmanical consort of Ganesha because of her elephant headed appearance.
Iconographically, Ganesha’s representations have changed drastically over the collective time. As mentioned before, the depictions of Ganesha have developed from a simple elephant in early depictions, to elephant headed figures in the Puranictimes, to the current Ganesha with his potbellied figure, four arms, and characteristic elephant head.
Shown in ornamental Brahmanical attire, Ganesha’s hair in put up in Kirit Mukuta, in a gold crown to show his divinity.
In most sculptures and paintings, he is portrayed as standing in Samapada posture or seated, although there are depictions of him dancing to show him in the act of entertaining his parents. Generally,he is depicted with four arms, each holding his characteristic attributes – his broken tusk in his lower right hand, a noose in the upper left hand, a bowl of modaks (a Maharashtrian sweet) in his lower left hand, and an axe or goad in the upper righthand.
In some modern depictions, the lower right hand doesn’t hold the tusk, but is in Abhay Mudra, providing protection to the devotee.
Each item has its own symbolic significance, however Ganesha’s attributes could change to include a water lily, rosary,or a spear.
Furthermore, each attribute of Ganesha has its own significant symbolism,which provides explanations to why and what Ganesha is known for. The noose indicates bondage of passions (which is also symbolized by his belt of a snake over his belly), and how he captures all the obstacles to remove them, while the axe represent destruction and war.
If a goad replaces the axe, it represents control over one’s own emotions, and specifically to Ganesha – creates obstacles.
The broken tusk is a symbol of sacrifice and proves his patronage of arts and letters, because he had to purposely break off his own tusk to write the epic Mahabharata because it was dedicated to him by the sage Vyasa.
The bowl of modaks, or sometimes laddoos,shows how he has the ability to bestow prosperity upon his devotees.
His trunk is usually turned to his left, towards the bowl of sweets, showing his childish greed toadd a relatable and human touch to his name.
A popular belief of the Ganesh cult is that the four arms collectively show how Lord Ganesha is omnipresent in all directions, and the right side symbolizes reason while the left side symbolizes emotion, showing how he has control over mind and heart, together.
Another belief states that the four arms represent the mind, ego, intellect and conscience – attributes originalassociated with Brahma, whose title of the Creator is passed onto Ganesha for the Ganesha cult followers.
In the Ganapati Upanishad (Mid-17th Century), Ganesha’s head symbolizes the soul (Atman), which is the most supreme of all of man’s reality, while his human body (Maya) symbolizes the earthly materialistic living of humans. "The elephant head also symbolizes wisdom and understanding, traits commonly associated with elephants, while the human body shows that he feels human kindnessand compassion for others. According to the folktales, Ganesha’s big ears are supposedto advise people to listen more, small mouth is to talk less, and small eyes are to focus on small details. His fat belly, which gives rise to his name
Lambodara, signifies how man should be able to digest all the good and bad things in life.
Even the colour of the red/yellow attire worn by Ganesha holds meaning – Red symbolizing worldly activity and chaos, while yellow symbolizes peace, happiness and truth. In addition to representing control over passions, the snake around his belly also represents hisrestraint over all forms of energy.
The extent of his popularity has boosted him to be included in the Hindu pantheon, the Panchayatana Puja, consisted of the five main cults:
The Vishnu cult,
The Shiva cult,
The Shakti cult,
The Surya cult and
The Ganesha cult which started spreading in 6th Century AD and reached its peak prominence in the 9th Century AD.
The first and most popular sect of the Ganesha cult worshipped ‘the Great’Maha Ganesha, a red skinned, three eyed, ten armed figure carrying his broken tusk, a pomegranate, a club, Kama’s sugarcane bow, noose, blue lotus, a jewel box, a paddysprig, discus and a mace, which can all be seen in the picture above
, depicting this specific aspect. Accompanied by a white ‘Shakti’ on his left, he is the representation ofGanesha as the Supreme Being, and stands for happiness, prosperity and brilliance.
The Maha Ganapatyas believe that he existed before the Universe, created it, and willcontinue to live even after it has been destroyed. "?
The second sect of the Ganapatyas are the Haridra Ganapatyas whoworship Haridra Ganapati (also known as Ratri Ganapati), whose picture can be seenabove
. Golden in color, dressed in yellow clothing, and sitting on an ornamentalgolden throne, the four armed and three eyed Haridra Ganapati, holds his tusk, amodak, a noose to bring his devotees forward and a goad to push them on.
The third sect is the Ucchista Ganapatyas who follow the deity of ‘Blessed Offerings’ and the ‘Tantric Guardian of Culture’, as pictured above.
Six armed and blue complexioned, he holds a vina, pomegranate, a paddy sprig, a blue lotus and arosary.
Accompanied by his consort, Ganesha has his trunk on her lap, and is oftenseen as an erotic form because of her often nude appearance. This particular aspect isworshipped when the devotee is in the sacrilegious state (Ucchista) state to get what isdesired.
The fourth sect is the Lakshmi Ganapatya sect which worships the Lakshmi Ganapati for his Intelligence and Accomplishment, as pictured above.
Commonly seen in pure white, in varada mudra – symbolizing boon giving, he holds agreen parrot – sign of intelligence, a sword, pomegranatae, noose, vase, goad, a creeper
and a jewel box in his eight arms. On his two sides, he is seen embracing his twoconsorts Buddhi and Siddi (Intelligence and Achievement).The fifth sect is the Heramba Ganapatya which worships the Herambaaspect for protecting the weak. This sect is particularly popular in Nepal, where theTantric worship of Ganesha is most popular. As seen above, he is depicted with fivefaces – four facing the four directions and one raised to the top, looking upwards - inwhite, riding a big lion to protect the weak.
His hands are in varada and abhay mudrato show protection and boon giving, while holding a rosary, noose, his tusk, a modak, a battle-axe and mallet. He is worshipped with Devi or Shakti as his consort, which arereincarnations of his mother Parvati.
Lastly, the sixth most popular sect of the Ganesha cult is the ShaktiGanapatyas which worship the aspect which combines the Maha, Urdhava, Ucchista,Lakshmi and Pingala aspects into one Tantric form
Eight armed and white, the Shakti Ganapati holds a parrot, a pomegranate, a lotus, a water vessel, a goldset with rubies, goad, noose. He embraces his consort Sakti on his left knee, and isknown for guarding the household. His right hand is in abhay mudra representing protection and hence, the Ganapatyas worship this aspect to bring peace and safety totheir households.
In terms of power, Ganesha was speculated to be the sole leader of the animal cult, because of his rat vahana’s possible nature of being an emblem of different Dravidian tribes, and because scholars see elephants as ‘determinants’ below anthropomorphic symbols of godly potential.
In some cases, he is also seen as the combined embodiment of Shiva and Vishnu, to symbolize the camaraderie between the two sects. In the Kusana age (140BC – 1BC), Vaishnavites and Shaivites believed thatthe two Gods were in Ganesha, as hypothesized by Shiva holding Vishnu’s emblem ona Kusanic coin. In the Mahabharata, Shiva is referred to as Ganesa, while Vishnu is called Ganesvara, which could suggest Shiva and Vishnu being alike, acting as inspirations for Ganesha’s creation.
The earliest representation of Ganesha was the sculpture elephant headedyakshas in ancient Mathura art, which are suspected to be prototypes of later Ganeshaiconographical representations in later periods.
Trying to trace the historical origins of this god, scholars believe that have traced the inception of the Ganesha cult to harvest season. The different attributes of Ganesha were critically analysed to search for meaning and connection to farming – the fast multiplying nature of his rat vahana symbolizes the fertility and fecundity of the lands, the name ‘Ekadanta’ representing ploughshare, the yellow colour of Ganesha which is characteristic to a corncob whichsignifies good harvest,
Ganesha being the ‘Mother of the Lands’ Ambika’s son in theTalavakara Upanishads (1200 – 500 BCE), and Ganesha being in control of his ‘rat’vehicle, which is considered a pest in farming, all portray Ganesha as the Lord of the Harvest, which is logical as he was originally worshipped by the lower castes whoworked in such areas
In the Manusmriti (5th century BCE), the collective Ganesha cult was initially a Shudra cult because of the popularity among the lower castes and relevanceof the deity to their livelihood. The Ganapatyas, who mostly developed in the state ofMaharashtra. The main festival celebrated all around India to honour Ganesha isknown as Ganesh Chaturti, which is mainly celebrated in Andra Pradesh, Gujarat Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. As the times changed and India got more and moreurbanized, the ‘Shudra’ majority of the Ganesha cult began to decrease, and more andmore people of higher power began to follow Ganesha, which is precisely the reasonwhy there are more temples dedicated to Ganesha than any other deity in India.
Essentially, the sculpture, now seen in the Mathura Museum, is divided into three horizontal sections: the first section has a fenced design, while the second section has five worshippers under six arches over their heads, while the five headed yakshas are below the worshippers in the most damaged third section. Varanasi, however, is a religious place filled with different Ganesha sculptural representations. The most popular sculptural representation is the Panch-Ganesha sculpture depicting 4Vinayakas and 1 elephant right in the middle. The 4 Vinayakas are replicas of each other, all seated in Lalitasana and carrying the typical Ganesha attributes of modaks, a battle-axe, etc., while the central elephant figure is standing.
This particular sculpture of Panca Ganesa is seen in many places – in carvings of the red sandstone shine replicain Laksmi Kunda, dated to around 900 AD, and in a Shiva temple at Jamaroli, Jaipur,dated to around 11th Century, and the Somesvara temple at Kirandu, around the sametime. Varanasi itself has at least four sculptures of the same variety, with two similarsculptures in Khadwaha in Madhya Pradesh. The four Vinayaks are said to representthe four directions (Diskshas), whereas collectively, the middle figure could also beseen as the ‘Lord of the Vinayakas’ because of its central and standing position. "Outside India, the most famous Ganesha sculpture was in a Buddhist stupain Sri Lanka, dated to the 1st Century BC. Scholars theorize that it’s possibly due to thecontact between the Sri Lankan Buddhists and the Amaravati Buddhists in AndraPradesh. Ganesh became the Indian commercial traders’ primary deity, as he was theGod of New Beginnings. Hence, the more they travelled and more Indians migratedaway, the word of Ganesha spread to other parts of the world. In Afghanistan, theGanesh cult was easily embraced, as elephants were already considered sacred. We know from sculptures dated back to 531 AD, in Tibet and China, Ganesha was to beworshipped by Buddhists, who later brought it to the Japanese, where it was embraced by the Japanese Shingon School of Buddhism which developed a popular cult around two elephant headed figures in embrace.
Even though there is no specific area in which the Ganesha cult is most concentrated, since the deity’s popularity is said to have originated from Maharashtra, one of the most important places of Ganesha worship are the eight religious sites around Pune called the Ashtavinayaks (ashta (eight) and vinayaks (Vinayaka)). The eight temples are:
- Ø BallaleshwarTemple,
- Ø Chintamani Temple,
- Ø Girijatmaj Temple,
- Ø Mahaganapati Temple.
- Ø Moreshwar Temple,
- Ø Siddhivinayak Temple,
- Ø Varadavinayak Temple,
- Ø VighnaharTemple
In all eight temples, there are sculptures of Ganesha made out of a single rock, and are hence, said to be self manifested.
The most famous temple is the Moreshwar temple, closely followed by the Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai.
These eight Ganesha temples, arranged together to form a circle around Pune, making Pune the direct center of the circle, which meant that in the 10th Century BC, when the Ganesha cult rose to prominence, Pune was the centre for Shastra and Sanskrit education because the eight temples guarded Pune’s spiritual and material power. Hence, Ganesha became the town’s deity –Gramadaivata itself.
In addition to places of worship, the festivals of worship are important as well. The most important festival of the Ganesha cult is the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi
, which is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, celebrating the birth ofGanesha. It’s observed between mid August to mid September, in the month of‘Bhadra’ and is celebrated for 10 days straight with lights, elaborate decorations,dancing, and then the final immersion of a giant statue of Ganesha on AnantaChaturdashi to symbolize the departing of the deity to go to his home of heavens.
Hymns from the Rig Veda (1500 BCE), and Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad (mid 17th Century) are chanted, while final offerings of coconuts and flowers are made to the deity for his blessings.
An interesting tradition to note about Ganesh Chaturthi is the superstition to not look at the moon. As the myth goes, one day, at night, Lord Ganesha was on his way back from a feast and was quite full. Suddenly, his rat vehicle stumbled over a snake, so Ganesha fell down and his stomach burst open and all the food spilled out. Ganesh dusted himself off, collected everything, put it back into himself, and used the snake as a belt to keep his stomach together, hoping no one saw. Unfortunately, the Moon, Chandra had seen everything from the sky and was laughing at the God.Ganesha got angry put a curse on her that she would no longer shine. A few days later, upset at the disrupted balance of light, the other Gods went to negotiate the terms ofGanesha’s curse on Chandra so that she may go back to normal, so Ganesha modifiedhis curse and allowed her to wax and wane. Therefore, all because of Chandra’s laughter at Ganesha, people think it is inauspicious to look at the moon on Ganesh’s birthday, so that he remains on their side and brings them luck and good fortune.
In contrast to the Brahma cult which has now declined completely, the Ganesha cult is still going strong. One of the main reasons why the cult is still prominent is because its rise coincided with the escalation of tantric worship in other parts of India, in the post Gupta period, which further influenced each other in the worship.
The Ganapatyas worship Ganesha as the ultimate God, following the Ganapati Upanishad (mid 17th Century) where Ganesha is praised as the creator, preserver, and destroyer of the worlds. They believe that Ganesha is the Lord of the Five Elements, and that chanting ‘Om’ will please and placate him to provide them with blessings.
As mentioned earlier, the earliest representation of Ganesha was seen inancient Mathura art where a 5 headed elephant sculpture was discovered, dating backto around 4th Century AD. The damaged quality of the sculpture prevents us from knowing if it was a sculpture of the forms of Vinayakas or Gajasirsa Yakshas ,however, the elephant shaped heads are clearly in reference to Ganesha worship.
The symbol of ‘Om’, associated with Ganesha, is said to have been the inspiration for the creation of Ganesha as Parvati pictured two elephants mating when she saw the symbol, from which Ganesha was created. Since every mantra begins with ‘Om’ which is considered to be the seed of the universe, Ganesha is the rebirth of the entire cosmic universe.
However. apart from Vinayaki, Ganapatyas individually worship all other forms of Ganesha, focussing on some specific forms like the Ucchista Ganesha or the Urdhava Ganesha or the Lakshmi Ganesha, depending on what sort of blessing they hope to get. By following the tantric way of living, the Ganapatyas worship Ganesha asthe Supreme Lord, to ask for his help to purify things, rectify mistakes, sacrificethemselves or get his blessings before starting something new.
The canonical literature of Jainism does not mention the worship of Ganesha. However, Ganesha is worshipped by most Jains, for whom he appears to have taken over certain functions of the god of wealth, Kubera Jain ties with the trading community support the idea that Jainism took up Ganesha worship as a result of commercial connections. The earliest known Jain Ganesha statue dates to about the 9th century.[ A 15th-century Jain text lists procedures for the installation of Ganapati images. Images of Ganesha appear in the Jain temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
The development of Ganesha is said to have originated from the worship of the elephant in the Kabul Valley in 4th Century BC ,while there is evidence that the elephant was even worshipped by the Vedic Aryans .The Ganesha cult developed comparatively late, some time in the post Gupta age (500-750 AD).
The Japanese form of Ganesha – Kangiten, late 18th-early 19th-century painting by Shorokuan Ekicho
Hindus migrated to Maritime Southeast Asia and took their culture, including Ganesha, with them. Statues of Ganesha are found throughout the region, often beside Shiva sanctuaries. The forms of Ganesha found in the Hindu art of Java, Bali, and Borneo show specific regional influences.] The spread of Hindu culture throughout Southeast Asia established Ganesha worship in modified forms in Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand. In Indochina, Hinduism and Buddhism were practiced side by side, and mutual influences can be seen in the iconography of Ganesha in the region. In Thailand, Cambodia, and among the Hindu classes of the Chams in Vietnam, Ganesha was mainly thought of as a remover of obstacles. Today in Buddhist Thailand, Ganesha is regarded as a remover of obstacles, the god of success.
Before the arrival of Islam, Afghanistan had close cultural ties with India, and the adoration of both Hindu and Buddhist deities was practiced. Examples of sculptures from the 5th to the 7th centuries have survived, suggesting that the worship of Ganesha.
Ganesha appears in Mahayana Buddhism, not only in the form of the Buddhist god Vināyaka, but also as a Hindu demon form with the same name. His image appears in Buddhist sculptures during the late Gupta period. As the Buddhist god Vināyaka, he is often shown dancing. This form, called Nṛtta Ganapati, was popular in northern India, later adopted in Nepal, and then in Tibet In Nepal, the Hindu form of Ganesha, known as Heramba, is popular; he has five heads and rides a lion. Tibetan representations of Ganesha show ambivalent views of him A Tibetan rendering of Ganapati is tshogs bdag. In one Tibetan form, he is shown being trodden under foot by Mahakal,(Shiva) a popular Tibetan deity. Other depictions show him as the Destroyer of Obstacles, and sometimes dancing. Ganesha appears in China and Japan in forms that show distinct regional character. In northern China, the earliest known stone statue of Ganesha carries an inscription dated to 531. In Japan, where Ganesha is known as Kangiten, the Ganesha cult was first mentioned in 806.
In Indonesia, Ganesha was portrayed as almost demonic because it was heavily influenced by the Javanese Tantricism.
There is also evidence of an elephant headed god in Mexico, and sculptures dating back to early Aryan period, in Oxonian excavations in the United Kingdom.
In Cambodia and Vietnam, Ganesha is usually independently worshipped in his classical ‘Ganesha’ form, but if seen with Shiva, is referred to as Vinayaka.Central Asian Buddhists preferred to worship Ganesha by his Vinayaka form, while South East Asians followed the Hindu form. Essentially, Ganesha is the only Go far that has spread so far and has so many versions of itself related to other religionslike Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.
Within India itself, it is said that the Ganesha cult evolved from Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, the growth and development of the Ganesha cult hadthree booms of popularity which lead to the current widespread nature of the cult. Thefirst boom was the appropriation of Ganesha by the ruling classes. Hence, when the Peshwa clan overthrew the Marathi kings, they appropriated Ganesha to be their family emblem to promote themselves. By using Ganesha as their kuldaivata, they built numerous temples and built several traditions for Ganesha’s worship to bring significance to their name and to gain political power. Even currently, the traditions are still upheld in the Ashtavinayak sites in the name of Ganesha, as the Peshwas had almost made Ganesha the national deity of Maharashtra.
Originally, a non-brahmanical God, he was worshipped as a rural deity in Maharashtra, by the lower castes since he was an idol of the masses, representing what was exclusive to the lower castes He is also said to be one of the main reasons how and why animal worship popularized in India because of his therianthropomorphic appearance.
The second boom was when freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak was released from prison and began using Ganesha to round up support. In 1893, helaunched the first ever Ganesh festival. There, in order to find some sortof support against the British, Tilak discovered relentless support in promotingGanesha to a higher stance. Not only did he achieve his goal of elevating Ganesha’s importance to the public, but the festival also constructed the present day taste in Marathi theatre. Other individuals also contributed in increasing the popularity of Ganesha. Famous poet Ramadasa dedicated many of his poems and songs to Ganesha,which helped spread the word about Ganesha, in the 1600s.
The third and final boom was in 1990, when Pune’s political party leade rdecided to appropriate the festival of Ganesha Utsava to ‘Ganesha festival’ in anattempt to shape his career. While the locals had strong opinions about the change taking away the traditions and portraying the age old festival as something unnecessarily new and exotic, the globalizing effect of the modern world soon raised the popularity of Ganesh through word of mouth.
From here, the glory of Ganesha soon grew to other parts of India and then later spread to other Asian countries. Indian shrines dedicated to Ganesha exist everywhere – from Kanchipuram to Trichy, from Nagapattinam to Varanasi, from Mayurapuram to Tiruvanthapuram. Scholars have speculated that such shrines only exist in places where there could be a danger to life. Places with steep slopes, dense forests and deep rivers often have hundreds of pilgrims travelling to show their determination to worship the deity and prove their worth. Even in temples dedicated to other deities, a sculpture of Ganesha is placed outside as the protector of the entrance. The three most important pilgrimage sites in India are the Ganesh temple below the Hariparbat Hill near Srinagar, the Ganeshghati temple on a cliff along the Kishenganga river and the temple over the Lidar Lake in Ganeshbal.
GANESH IN VEDAS AND EPICS
As far as the reference of Ganesh in Vedic and epic literature,the title “Leader of the group” (Sanskrit: gaṇapati) occurs twice in the Rig Veda. Equally clearly, the second passage refers to Indra, who is given the epithet ‘gaṇapati‘, translated “Lord of the companies (of the Maruts).” Ganapatya literature often quotes the Rigvedic verses to give Vedic respectability to Ganesha.
Two verses in texts belonging to , Maitrāyaṇīya Saṃhitā (2.9.1) and Taittirīya Āraṇyaka (10.1), appeal to a deity as “the tusked one” (Dantiḥ), “elephant-faced” (Hastimukha), and “with a curved trunk” (Vakratuṇḍa). These names are suggestive of Ganesha, and the 14th century commentator Savna explicitly establishes this identification. The description of Dantin, possessing a twisted trunk (vakratuṇḍa) and holding a corn-sheaf, a sugar cane, and a club, is so characteristic of the Puranic Ganapati that Heras says “we cannot resist to accept his full identification with this Vedic Dantin”.
Ganesha does not appear in the literature that is dated to the Vedic period. A late interpolation to the epic Mahabharata says that the sage Vyāsa asked Ganesha to serve as his scribe to transcribe the poem as he dictated it to him.Story of Ganesha acting as the scribe occurs in 37 of the 59 manuscripts consulted during preparation of the critical edition. Ganesha’s association with mental agility and learning is one reason he is shown as scribe for Vyāsa‘s dictation of the Mahabharata in this interpolation. The term vināyaka is found in some recensions of the Śāntiparva and Anuśāsanaparva that are regarded as interpolations.A reference to Vighnakartṛīṇām (“Creator of Obstacles”) in Vanaparva is also believed to be an interpolation and does not appear in the critical edition.
In Puranic period Stories about Ganesha often occur in the Puranic corpus references to Ganesha in the earlier Puranas, such as the Vayu and Brahmanda Puranas, are later interpolations made during the 7th to 10th centuries.
Ganesha’s rise to prominence was codified in the 9th century when he was formally included as one of the five primary deities of Smartism. The 9th-century philosopher AdiShankar popularized the “worship of the five forms” system among orthodox Brahmins of the Smarta tradition.] This worship practice invokes the five deities Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, and Surya.Adi Shankara instituted the tradition primarily to unite the principal deities of these five major sects on an equal status. This formalized the role of Ganesha as a complementary deity.
In Scriptures Ganesha was accepted as one of the five principal deities of Brahmanism, some Brahmins chose Ganesha as their principal deity. They developed the Ganapatya tradition, as seen in the Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana.
The date of composition for the Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana—and their dating relative to one another—has sparked academic debate. Both works were developed over time and contain age-layered strata. Anita Thapan reviews comment about dating and provide her own judgment. “It seems likely that the core of the Ganesha Purana appeared around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries”, she says, “but was later interpolated.”] Lawrence W. Preston considers the most reasonable date for the Ganesha Purana to be between 1100 and 1400, which coincides with the apparent age of the sacred sites mentioned by the text.
Ganesh Sahastranamais part of the Puranic literature, and is a litany of a thousand names and attributes of Ganesha. Each name in the sahasranama conveys a different meaning and symbolises a different aspect of Ganesha. Versions of the Ganesha Sahasranama are found in the Ganesh purana.
One of the most important Sanskrit texts, that enjoys authority in Ganapatya tradition states John Grimes, is the Ganapati Atharvashirsa
In conclusion, as humble were the beginnings of this half human – half animal deity, it was the same humble beginnings that lead to the rise of such a massive following in current times, as without appealing to the lower parts of society, there would have been no way the Ganesha cult would have gotten to where it is today as one fifth of the Panchayatana Puja, affecting so many people all across the world
Collection of Ganesh Mantra
Vakratunda Ganesh Mantra
One of the most important and also one of the most common Ganpati Mantras, this is the Ganesh mantra for wealth, and is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Goddess Riddhi (Hindu Goddess of Prosperity) and Goddess Siddhi (Hindu Goddess of spiritual enlightenment).
“Vakratunda Maha-Kaaya Surya-Kotti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryeshu Sarvadaa ||”
Vakra – means one that is not straight.
Vakratunda – means curved trunk.
Mahakaya – means large body, if we see that in a more divine sense it means most powerful.
Suryakoti – means ‘Surya’ or sun and koti means crore.
Samprabha – means ‘prabha – aura, grandeur’ , ‘sama- like’.
Suryakoti samprabha – means whose aura is like light of crores of sun put together.
Nirvgnam – obstacle free.
Kurume – give me.
Deva – means God.
Sarva – means all.
Full meaning : “Oh god with curved trunk, large body whose aura is like light of crores of sun, Please make my entire work obstacle free, forever.”
Ganesh Gayatri Mantra
In a fight with Guru Parashuram, he threw an axe at Lord Gajanan which was a gift to him by his father. So to honor this gift, Ganesha chose to bear the axe’s blow instead of destroying it. Ganesha thus lost one his tusk, but gained humility and modesty.
“Aum Ekadantaya Viddhamahe, Vakratundaya Dhimahi,
Tanno Danti Prachodayat॥”
Ekadantaya – The one with the single tusked elephant tooth.
Viddhamahe – who is omnipresent.
Vakratundaya – Curved trunk.
Dhimahi – We meditate upon and pray for greater intellect.
Tanno Danti – We bow before the one with the single tusked elephant tooth.
Prachodayat – Illuminate our minds with wisdom.
Full meaning : “We pray to the one with the single-tusked elephant tooth who is omnipresent. We meditate upon and pray for greater intellect to the Lord with the curved, elephant-shaped trunk. We bow before the one with the single-tusked elephant tooth to illuminate our minds with wisdom.”
Ekadanta referring to one tusk in the elephant face means that God broke the duality and made us to have a complete one-pointed mind.
Ganesh Mool Mantra
The Ganesha Mool Mantra is also known as the Ganesha Beeja mantra or the Bija mantra. In Hindi, ‘Beej’ means seed – the source of everything in the universe. This powerful mantra combines several of the Ganpathi beeja mantras, especially the beeja or the seed sonic vibration associated with Lord Ganpati –Gam’.
“Om Shreem Hreem Kleem Glaum Gam Ganapataye Vara Varad Sarvajan janmay Vashamanaye Swaha Tatpurushaye Vidmahe Vakratundaye Dhimahi Tanno Danti Prachodyat Om Shantih Shantih Shantihi”
Meaning : The Ganesh Mool mantra is the most succinct and powerful Lord Ganesha mantra of all. This mantra celebrates the unique and divine form of God Ganpati (Ganesha) and his powers. The Ganesha Mool (root) Mantra, beginning with the incantation of ‘Om’ evokes positivity, purity, energy and the presence of Lord Ganpati in one’s life.
Basic Ganpati Mantra
“Om Gam Ganpataye Namah”
Meaning : It means bowing down to the Almighty Ganpati with all our existence and accepting all his great qualities in our self being.
Lord Ganesha is known by his many names. All his names signify the meaning or qualities associated with him.
i. “Om Ganadhyakhsaya Namah”
Meaning : Ganadhyaksay – Gana means ‘a group’ and ‘Adhyaksh’ means ‘one who is leader of the group’.
ii. “Om Gajananaya Namah”
Meaning : Gajanan here means One who carries the elephant head. In Sanskrit, gaj means elephant. This Mantra says that if God can carry the elephant’s head to survive and fulfill his duties, even we should put aside our ego and live our lives dutifully.
iii. ”Om Vignanaashnay Namah”
Meaning : Ganpati is also worshiped to remove obstacles from one’s life. Here vigna means obstacles and nashnay means One who removes obstacles.
iv. “Om Lambodaraya Namah”
Meaning : Ganesha is known to love his food, and has a big, round belly. ‘Lambodar’ thus refers to him as a God who has a big belly.
v. “Om Sumukhaya Namah”
Meaning : Sumukh means ‘One with a pleasing face’. Lord Ganesha lost his head, and replaced it with that of an elephant’s. However, his good spirit and pure soul shone through even on his elephant face, and this made him look beautiful and calm.
vi. “Om Gajkarnikaya Namah”
Meaning : Gaj means Elephant and Karnikay means ears. With the elephant’s head and elephant ears, Ganesh was unable to listen to everything from all sources.
vii. “Om Vikataya Namah”
Meaning : Here ‘Vikat’ means ‘difficult’.
viii. ”Om Vinayakaya Namah”
Meaning : ‘Vinayaka’ is the name of Ganesha in the golden age. Vinayaka means ‘something under control’ and also means ‘the Lord of resolving problems’.
More Ganpati Stotra
The Rinn Harta Mantra
“Om Ganesh Rinnam Chhindhi Varenyam Hoong Namaah Phutt”
Meaning : ‘Rinn Harta’ is another name for Lord Ganesha and the English meaning of which is ‘The giver of wealth’. In Hindi, the meaning of Rinn harta or Rhinaharta is derived from the words ‘Rinn’ or ‘Rinnam’ meaning ‘debt’ and ‘harta’ meaning ‘remover’.
Siddhi Vinayak Mantra
The Siddhi Vinayak mantra is also one of the most important Ganesh mantras.
“Om Namo Siddhi Vinayakaya Sarva kaarya kartrey Sarva vighna prashamnay Sarvarjaya Vashyakarnaya Sarvajan Sarvastree Purush Aakarshanaya Shreeng Om Swaha.”
Meaning : The word ‘Siddhi Vinayak’ in Hindi means ‘the God of Achievement and Enlightenment’. The Mantra in English, therefore, means – “O Lord of Wisdom and Happiness, only you make every endeavor and everything possible; You are the remover of all obstacles and you have enchanted every being in the Universe, you are the Lord of all women and all men, amen.”
The Shaktivinayak Mantra
“Om Hreeng Greeng Hreeng”
Meaning : In Hindi, Shakti means power and Vinayak means ‘the Supreme master’.