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Prateek Majumder
Aug 9, 202211 min read

What does Lord Ganesha Symbolise?

Lord Ganesha, a galactic demigod often known as the first God to awaken in our conscious mind and preside over our inner transformation, is the son of Lord Shiva (Adi Shankara) and Parvati (Nature), personifying life, duality and manifestation in diverse aspects.
He is also known as Vinayaka, Pillaiyar, with Ganapati, specifically being more popular over an Indian region named as Maharashtra, consisting of the prime Marathis along with various other natives. 

Lord Ganesha

His prime names, Ganesha or Ganapati / Ganapathi symbolises him as the Lord of the People and Shiv Ganas together, helping in stabilising the minds with peace and calmness.
If we break down the name, each syllable has a different meaning.

1. Ga means knowledge
2. Na means salvation
3. Isha means Lord

His other famous names are:

Kapila, Gajakarna, Vikath, Lambodara, Dhumraketu, Gajana, Bhalchandra and Ganadhayaksha.

Lord Ganesha is popularly known to be a friend who helps us achieve the 4 pillars of righteousness. They are:

Duty (dharma)
Wealth (artha)
Enjoyment (kama)
Liberation (moksha)

He is widely known to be:

Achintya
Ananta
Avyakta
Ajam
Nirvikalpa
Niraakar

Meaning someone who is beyond thought, expression, eternal, unborn, attributeless and formless

The form of Lord Ganesha is symbolised as a combination of all five elements of nature. In Upanishad, Ganesha is recognised and symbolised as the supreme brahman (param brahma - the ultimate recipient of all sacrificial offerings) and head of the created universe, scientifically the ultimate group of all atoms and energies.

Referring to the tantra tradition, Lord Ganesha is considered to be a resident of Muldhara Chakra, signifying the origin of speech in subtle sound (paravak). Similarly, in the vedic tradition the subtle human subtle voice of speech has been the prime method of preaching and communicating with gods to fulfil the needs.

2 famous Mantra of Lord Ganesha:

"Vakra Tunda Mahakaaya Surya koti samaprabha
Nirvighnam kurume deva
Sarvakaryashu sarvada"

Meaning:

It means the person chanting is praying to Lord Ganesha, having a huge body with curved elephant trunk, whose intelligence and brilliance is equivalent to crores of suns, to remove all the hurdles from my journey of life.

"Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha"

Meaning:

Salutation, appraisal and prayer to the remover of all hurdles and obstacles. Chanting this mantra helps and individual to achieve success in new ventures and journeys. 

What does Lord Ganesha Symbolise:

When an elephant walks through a forest, it carves a path for other animals and living beings to follow. Similarly before getting started and being engaged in a new journey, it is often auspicious to worship Lord Ganesha. Let us have a look at some of the detailed characteristics of Lord Ganesha. 

Elephant Head:

The elephant head symbolises understanding, majesty, power, wisdom, focus, intellectual ability and concentration. They are the prime skills an individual must possess to attain near perfection in life. 

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Facial characteristic symbolism:

1. The wide mouth symbolises the human desire to attain and be virtuously happy in life. 

2. The Large flappy ears symbolises the ability of an individual to to hear and at the same time listen with great attention and focus to the prayers and needs of all the devotees. 

3. The large elephant trunk symbolises the capacity to behold anything in the world, signifying the capability which must be attained by an individual to be adaptive and efficient in life.
a) Trunk bent towards the left symbolises success in the the world, associated with grihastha (householder)
b) Trunk bent towards the right symbolises moksha (liberation/salvation/enlightenment)

3. The two tusks symbolise the 2 (two) important aspects of human personality. They are wisdom and emotion The right tusk symbolise wisdom The left tusk symbolise emotion. There are forms of ganapati which is having a broken left tusk (ekadanta) which symbolise that one must conquer emotions along with wisdom to attain near perfection and also to retain the good and discard the bad. His famous broken tusk or ekadanta is considered to be the writing element of the later half of the epic Mahabharata recited by Ved Vyas. 

4. The beautiful elephant eyes symbolise the natural ability to perceive objects to be bigger than they appear to be, signifying the courage to surrender pride and attain humility. 

5. The trishul (or trident) on the forehead symbolises time and the mastery of the lord Ganesha over it. 

6. Goad or Anushka is used to direct elephants, symbolising how an individual should steer the soul away from ignorance from a treacherous path. 

7. Noose or pasam held in a hand symbolising the ability to capture difficulties and helping to ease the path of success.

Hands :

Although Lord Ganesha has various numbers of hands / arms in various forms, but specifically the 4 (four) hands or arms in certain forms of Lord Ganesha symbolise the 4 (four) characteristics and attributes of the human body. They are:

Mind
Intelligence
Ego
Conscience

The other things being held by Lord ganesha in differents hands are:

1. The axe being waved in one hand symbolise the retrenchment of all desires, ego suffering and pain along with the work of a craftsmanship to crave the path of Dharma (righteousness) and Satya (truth) With this axe, the lord can strike and nullify any hurdles. 

2. The whip in one hand symbolises the riddance of attachments and desires from one’s life. 

3. The other hand faces towards the devotee in abhaya mudra symbolises refuge, blessing, protection and that we all will dissolve into earth one day. 

4. The 4th hand beholds a lotus flower symbolising the uttermost and highest goal of a human life - sweetness.

5. Modak on one hand represents the enjoyment of spiritual pursuit.

6. Lotus symbolises purity, divine energy of life, the sweetness of self actualisation and realisation.

7. Food being held is often a bowl of rice, mango or modak symbolising the sweet filling. 

Attire:

Lord Ganesha is often portrayed in red and yellow attire, where red symbolises the various activities in the world and yellow symbolises peace, purity, auspiciousness and sense control. The conclusive meaning of it is every individual must perform all his duties with utmost peace and purity. 

Stomach / Belly:

1. The stomach or belly of Lord Ganesha symbolises generosity and total acceptance.

2. It also symbolises the containment of the entire Universe in it, along with the seven realms and the seven oceans being held by a cosmic energy (kundalini) by a snake around the waist symbolising energy in all forms.

3. The huge stomach symbolises that every individual must face all the pleasant and unpleasant experiences in his life with utmost patience and calmness. 

Mooshika vahana / Mouse :

1. Lord Ganesha rides his mooshika Vahana which symbolises the need to have a leash over one’s ego, anger. , hesitation, weakness, doubt, and nervousness.
2. It also symbolises the mouse as a mantra that helps in cutting down any rope or sheaths that binds us to release us towards ultimate knowledge.
3. It is often believed that the one who has a leash over one’s anger and ego, has a controlled leash over the universe and hence ganesh Chaturthi is an auspicious celebration of Lord Ganesha who controls the universe.
4. Mooshika Vahana symbolises the human mind as well, which wanders and romans around all the places. Therefore, just like Lord Ganesha sits over it and has a command over it, we must too understand, learn and utilise the benefit of control over our mind with our intellectual ability.
5. We often wonder how Lord Ganesha being so huge and giant sits over a tiny creature like a mouse. The symbolism of this is that every creature in this entire universe is equal and it is our duty to take care of the living being all around with love. 

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Forms of Lord Ganesha:

Ganapati or Lord Ganesha has about 32 forms according to hindu mythology. They are:

1. Bala Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - the Childlike version
b. golden in colour
c. Elephant faced with 4 fruits (Mango, Jackfruit, Banana, Sugarcane) in 4 hands
d. Believed to wash away and save devotees from all sort of sins

2. Taruna Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - the Youth version
b. Red in colour
c. Represents Vayu
d. Elephant faced with 8 hands
e. Holds broken tusk, goad, sugarcane, rose apple fruit, noose, modak, wood apple
and green paddy

3. Bhakti Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - the Devotee version
b. Has 4 hands
c. Holds Mango, coconut, Payash pudding, Banana

4. Vira Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - the Valiant version
b. Known to destroy all evil and ignorance
c. Has 16 hands
d. Holds goad, spear, sword, banner, bow and arrow, discus, shield, goblin,
hammer, spear, noose, axe, trident, mace, chakra.

5. Shakti Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - the Powerful tantric version
b. Reddish Orange in colour
c. Has 4 hands
d. Holds goad, noose, garland with the other hand in Abhaya mudra
e. Signifies the protector and guardian

6. Dvija Ganapati:
a. Dvija means born twice, signifying the reincarnation of Ganesha after being
beheaded
b. Moon like in colour
c. Implied equivalent to Lord Brahma
d. Has 4 heads and 4 hands
e. Hands hold palm leaf, staff, inscription, meditation beads, water pot, noose and
goad

7. Siddhi Ganapati:
a. Symbolises accomplishment, achievement and self mastery
b. Golden yellow in colour
c. Has 4 hands
d. Hands hold flowers, mango, sugarcane and axe

8. Ucchhishta Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - Lord of Blessed offerings
b. Symbolises Guardian of culture
c. Blue in colour
d. Has 6 hands
e. Holds Vina, Pomegranate, blue lotus flower, japa mala and paddy.

9. Vighna Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - the Lord of Obstacles, i.e. who removes all obstacles from life of the
devotees.
b. Golden hue in colour
c. Has 8 hands
d. Holds noose and goad, modak, sugarcane, flower tipped arrow, axe, conch and
discus, tusk.

10. Kshipra Ganapati:
a. Symbolises prosperity
b. Red hue in colour
c. Has one broken tusk
d. Has 4 hands
e. Holds noose and goad, kalpavriksha tree, and jewels

11. Kshipra Prasada Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the Universe
b. Sits on a grass throne
c. Has 6 hands
d. Holds broken tusk, kalpavriksha twig, noose, goad, white lotus and pomegranate

12. Heramba Ganapati:
a. Symbolism - the protector of the weak
b. White in colour
c. Rare form of ganesha having 5 heads and ten hands
d. Front left hand grants wishes and right hand in Abhaya mudra.
e. Other hands hold noose, rudraksha, axe, hammer, broken tusk, garland, modak
and fruit.

13. Lakshmi Ganapati:
a. Symbolises as the bestower of success
b. White in colour
c. Has 2 goddess on both thighs - Goddess Siddhi (achievement) and Goddess
Buddhi (wisdom)
d. Has 8 hands
e. Holds a green parrot, sword, noose, goad, pomegranate, kalpavriksha, water
vessel.

14. Maha Ganapati:
a. Symbolises happiness, and wealth
b. Reddish hue in colour referring dawn
c. Has 3 eyes and crescent moon on forehead
d. Has 10 hands
e. Holds tusk, sugarcane, pomegranate, chakra, noose, blue lily, paddy, lotus,
ratnakumbha and a mace.

15. Vijaya Ganapati:
a. Symbolises as the bestower of success
b. Rides mushika (mouse)
c. Reddish hue in colour
d. Has 4 hands
e. Holds tusk, goad, noose, mango

16. Nritya Ganapati:
a. Symbolises as the happy dancer and who brings success in fine arts
b. Symbolised as dancing under a kalpavriksha tree in happiness
c. Golden yellow in colour
d. Rings in fingers
e. Has 4 hands
f. Holds noose, goad, tusk and modak.

17. Tryakshara Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the lord of the sacred OM
b. Tryakshara is a combination of 2 words - Thry(means 3) and Akshara(letters)
c. Golden yellow in colour
d. Has a 3rd eye on forehead
e. Has 4 hands
f. Holds broken tusk, goad, noose, mango.
g. Big flappy ears modak

18. Varada Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the boon giver or vardaan giver
b. Red in colour
c. Has a 3rd eye of wisdom
d. Has 4 hands
e. Holds pot of jewels on trunk(ratnakumbha), dish made of honey, noose and goad

19. Ekakshara Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the sound of “OM”
b. Symbolised by a single syllable called the seed letter “gam” or beejakshara

20. Urdhva Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the elevated tantric
b. Has Shakti sitting on left thigh
c. Golden hue in colour
d. Has 6 hands
e. Holds paddy, sugarcane, bow and arrow, tusk and blue water lily

21. Sankatahara Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the Dispeller of sorrow
b. Yellowish hue like sun skin with blue attire
c. Seated on a red lotus flower
d. Has 4 hands
e. Holds bowl of pudding, noose, goad, gesturing varada mudra(vardaan giving
hand posture)
f. Shakti sitting on one thigh

22. Durga Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the Invincibility, power and strength
b. Signifies Victory over evilness
c. Known to be Goddess Durga in the form of Ganapati
d. Deep golden in colour in red attire
e. Has 8 hands
f. Holds bow and arrow, noose, goad, japamala, broken tusk, rose apple and a flag
of victory

23. Sinha Ganapati:
a. Symbolises strength and fearlessness
b. White in colour
c. Rides a lion
d. Has 8 hands
e. Holds lion, kalpavriksha twig, vina, lotus, pot of jewels and a flower bouquet

24. Trimukha Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the remover of all obstacles
b. Has 3 faces
c. Red hue in colour
d. Has 6 hands
e. Holds beads, golden lotus, noose, goad, vessel of nectar with right hand
signifying protection, showering blessings from the left hand

25. Dvimukha Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the Janus by Romans
b. Has 2 faces having oversight in all directions
c. Blue green skin in red silk
d. Crowned by a beautiful crown
e. Has 4 hands
f. Holds noose, goad, tusk and a pot of precious gems

26. Dhundhi Ganapati:
a. Symbolises the helper of devotees to attain moksha
b. Red hue in colour
c. Has 4 hands
d. Holds rudraksha, axe, broken tusk and pot of gems.

27. Rinamochana Ganapati:
a. Symbolises humans' liberator from bondage, guilt, and sins to attain mochana.
b. Smooth white skin in red silks
c. Has 4 hands
d. Holds noose, goad, broken tusk and rose apple.

28. Uddanda Ganapati:
a. Symbolises as the enforcer of Dharma
b. Red in colour
c. Has 10 hands
d. Holds blue lily, sugarcane, lotus, mace, paddy, noose, broken tusk, pomegranate,
pot of gems, garland.

29. Sristhi Ganapati:
a. Symbolises as the Lord of happy manifestation
b. Sitting posture on Mooshika vahana.
c. Red in colour
d. Has 4 hands
e. Holds broken tusk, mango, noose, goad

30. Ekadanta Ganapati:
a. Symbolises manifestation of universe
b. Known as the ultimate single tusk Ganapati
c. Blue in colour
d. Has the largest belly amongst all other forms
e. Has 4 hands
f. Holds broken tusk, ladoo, japamala, axe.

31. Haridra Ganapati:
a. Symbolises
b. Also known as Ratri ganapati
c. Yellow turmeric in colour
d. Has 3 eyes
e. Sits on a golden throne
f. Has 4 hands
g. Holds noose, goad, modak and broken tusk.

32. Yoga Ganapati:
a. Symbolises calmness
b. Yogic stance of bent knees tied in rope
c. Yellowish hue like sun on skin in blue silk attire
d. Has 4 hands
e. Holds yoga staff, sugarcane, noose and japamala

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