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Hindu God: Ganesha

Painting Of Ganesha At Fort Jailsalmer

Background and History

  • Hinduism is an ancient religion from India. Hinduism believes in a variety of gods, many of which are often in contention with one another for power over regions of the universe. Each 'God' has different physical features and different powers and tasks to perform which are explained in the mythologies of India. Many of the Hindu gods date back several thousand years while others, which are said to be manifestations of other gods or newly created gods entirely, are more modern. Ganesha is one of these Hindu 'Gods'.
  • Although he is known primarily as the remover of obstacles, Lord Ganesha’s name actually means “Lord of the Group.” He has this name because, as the elephant-headed son of Shiva and his consort Parvati, he is the leader of Shiva’s group of attendants. Ganesha occupies a very special role for Hindus since he has the ability to remove obstacles (or create them in certain circumstances). As such, the image of Ganesha sits at the entrance of temples and other important buildings. His immense popularity amongst all Hindus dates back at least several hundred years but his history within the Hindu pantheon and references to him in ancient religious literature are vague and obscure. Nevertheless, historians can place him to at least the 1st century CE based on his image observed on coins.
  • Ganesha’s myth in religious literature typically focuses around his birth, beheading, and eventual restoration of his head. The legend tells that Ganesha was born as a handsome young god and that one time while Shiva had left to meditate in a cave, Ganesha was instructed by his mother, Parvati, to guard her room. As such, Shiva meditated for so long that when he returned he did not recognize Ganesha and while attempting to enter Parvati’s private room he beheaded his own son. Shiva then sought out to restore Ganesha’s head and came across an elephant first. Having resurrected Ganesha and then replaced his head with the elephant’s, Shiva charged Ganesha with commandership over the group of attendants, hence his name, “Ganesha,” meaning ‘Lord of the Group.’

Ganesha Image In Bronze

Role in Hindu Society

  • Ganesha’s imagery is interesting for many reasons. Because he has the head of an elephant he also possesses all of the qualities of elephants, meaning that he is smart and powerful. Since he has the body of an attendant, who come from the demon-classes in Hindu society, he is also exceedingly sturdy and powerful. Ganesha’s body makes him uniquely qualified to guard the entrances to temples and houses since he can not only remove obstacles but also uphold the base the temple on his back if he needs. Elephants and the demonic attendants, of which he is the leader, are frequently depicted on temples and other spaces as holding up beams, buildings, and important, symbolic pieces of religious architecture. For these reasons, Ganesha is an attractive god that can be worshiped by any Hindu regardless of sect. In fact, Ganesha is so popular that he has become one symbol for Hinduism worldwide as most people realize that the elephant- headed god is a Hindu god.


  • Ganesha’s image manifests in every place one can imagine, ranging from temples devoted to him alone to small bobble-head plastic miniatures that are glued to car dashboards. Ganesha is considered lucky and one would be hard-pressed to locate a Hindu devotee anywhere in the world that would not have an image or miniature of Ganesha somewhere in their home or vehicle.

Understanding the symbols in the Lord Ganesha Statues
  • Ganesh images come in many forms, unlike those of Buddha. He has four arms and a broken tusk. Usually in each of his four arms he holds, a goad, a pot of rice or sweets and a '' pasam ''.
  • A '' Pasam '' is a triple twined weapon and in Hindu mythology each of the three twines represent the illusory nature of the real world, arrogance and conceit and ignorance. In Hindu ideology these weapons are viewed as symbols to destroy ego.
  • The '' goads '' are elephant prods used by mahouts to direct elephants, but again in Hindu ideology they are a symbol to steer the human soul away from self arrogance and illusions about earthly matters.
  • Lord Ganesh is also accompanied in the images with a cobra and a rat. The cobra is a snake associated with Shiva and the symbolism is that Ganesh is the son of Shiva. The rat symbolises that which is small and weaker, but the two together symbolise co-existence of the great and the small.
  • The position of Lord Ganesh's trunk has symbolism also. When the trunk turns to the left this reflects the direction for success. To the right represents denouncing aspects of the world. For believers in Lord Ganesh as a spiritual force for them, when purchasing an image which is proper for their future path in life it is necessary for them to choose one with the correct trunk position.

Being a Hindu consumed about Ganesha today
  • We can look at Hinduism and Ganescha in a historical and mythological context, an objective look from an outsider's point of view. But how do Hindus consumed in Hinduism and Ganesch beliefs perceive Ganesch as a God and what are their beliefs and consumption of what is taught. This is best understood by reading their statements. Here are some examples as printed in the Facebook page, ''The Shiva Tribe''. The key issues are, the powers of Ganesch and his role and the symbols of Ganesch, 
  • 1. '' Ganesha, also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka, is one of the best known and most worshipped deities. His image is found throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains and Buddhists. Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rituals and  ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. India's rich spirituality begins with Ganesha. Even the most austere yogi starts his inward journey by invoking the God who softens karma and guides dharma. He reigns over our beginnings, our changes, earthly decisions and problems, always there when needed, never aloof. Ganesha has been ascribed many other titles and epithets, including Ganapati and Vighneshvara. The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words gana , meaning a group, multitude, and isha , meaning lord or master. The word gaņa when associated with Ganesha is often taken to refer to the gaņas, a troop of semi-divine beings that form part of the retinue of Lord Shiva. Some interpret the name "Lord of the Gaņas" to mean "Lord of Hosts". Ganapati a synonym for Ganesha, is a compound composed of gaṇa, meaning "group", and pati, meaning "ruler" or "lord". Though the earliest mention of the word Ganapati is found in Hymn of the 2nd-millennium BCE Rigveda. Ganesha is foremost of Shiva’s Ganas. While the rest of the Ganas, creatures known as Yakshas and Pramathas and Bhutas , are fearsome and forbidding with their unusual misshapen forms, loved, included and understood only by Shiva, their ascetic master, Ganesha has been able to delight inspiring artists to create and recreate him in various shapes, each one joyful in mood and awe-inspiring in expanse! ''