lord ganesha is one of the most loved deity all over india. he is the first deity to be worshiped as he can remove all obstacles. he is the patron of arts, crafts and sculptures. he is also considered as lord of astrology, action and god of harvest (particularly for sugarcane growers).
although ganesha has 108 names but popular names are ganapati (lord of shiva ganas), vinayaka, vighneshvara (removal of obstacles) and ganesha.
there are lot of symbolism involved with ganesha idols. there are total 32 forms of ganesha. importance is given to to the posture in ganesha idols (sitting, standing, dancing or relaxing) and also to the direction of ganesha trunk.
normally ganesha is shown with 4 arms but in some statues ganesha is shown with 2, 6,8, 10 or 16 arms. on rare occasion, he is shown with 5 heads. in his hands, he is shown with different articles depending upon the role he is playing. during ganesha chaturthi festival, ganesha statues are made with different themes which are creative as well as carry message for devotees. most people consider ganesha to be celibate but some people says ganesha is married. so there are lot of folklore and tales associated with ganesha.
as far as symbolism of ganesha is concerned, different people have interpreted it differently. although more or less they say the same thing but there is no consistency of thought. here, we have tried our best to interpret symbolism associated with ganesha after referring many books and sources. we pray to ganesha that he will guide us further in this direction to know the correct meaning.
symbolism of lord ganesha:
1. trunk – symbolic of discrimination power (viveka). ability to discriminate between right and wrong. flexibility in trunk indicates that one should not be rigid and should be ready to adapt himself with time.
2. big ears – listen more and talk less. while listening digest only those things which are wise and discard all unnecessary things. it also indicates that he listens carefully to the prayers to his devotees.
3. small mouth – talk less and only what is essential.
4. big head – wisdom and think big.
5. big belly – the whole world is contained in him. he accepts everything good or bad with the same equanimity. it represents the capacity to absorb all pleasant and unpleasant experiences of the world with grace.
6. single tusk – one truth or non-duality. broken tusk indicates at the imperfections of the ever changing material world.
7. small eyes – power of concentration. elephant eyes can even see small things even from a distance. because his eyes makes them look big. so don’t judge or see things from a narrow prospective. don’t judge the book from its book cover. look at the bigger picture and at all the angles while giving justice. it also indicates to have a foresight for future.
8. third eye – to see the world with spiritual wisdom.
9. modak – symbolic of gyana (enlightenment) which gives bliss.
10. tray of ladoos at ganesha feets – the luxuries of whole world are at your feet. if you want then you can achieve them with determination. the mind (indicated by mouse or your desires) will be obviously attracted towards them. but you should follow the path of dharma. be a lotus in this world.
11. four hands – lord ganesha is often shown with four hands.
a) first hand is always giving blessings to his devotees and assuring them fearlessness. it also indicates that he can fulfill the desires of his devotees.
b) second hand contains rice ball which indicates the sweet fruit of spiritual sadhana.
c) noose bearing hand – it represents many things. first of all, all worldly desires are a noose.
secondly, with noose ganesha catches the delusion and free his devotees from its effects.
thirdly he uses noose to pull his devotees close to the truth and bind them to the god.
d) ankusha (elephant goad) bearing hand – represents his power and ability to direct his devotees on the right path.
12. one leg resting on the ground and other leg folded up – the leg on the ground indicates that we need to perform our worldly duties (duties of a householder). the leg pointing upwards indicates that in midst of doing these worldly duties we should not forget the divinity within us (god). do your duties but side by side remember god also. don’t lose track of real purpose of life in this materialistic world.
13. mouse – symbolic of worldly desires and passions which needs to be overcome.
14 lotus – symbol of purity. stay in the world yet don’t get attach to the materialistic world.
15. crescent moon – auspicious time to do things. it also represent that this third day crescent moon without blemishes will lead to spiritual growth and attainment of moksha.
16. veena – symbolic of nada-brahman, the ever pervading music of the universe.
17. snake – kundalini shakti which we all need to awaken in this life time.
18. hammer – he is the patron of arts, crafts and sculptors.
19. sugarcane -elephant favorite food is sugarcane. similarly the soul hankers for liberation. its not easy to break the shell of ego (like sugarcane) but once broken then the result is very sweet.
20. axe – used for cutting worldly attachments and desires of devotees thus freeing them from sorrow and pain.
21. Om – the cosmic sound which represents brahman (supreme knowledge or supreme soul). ganesha has realized the brahman and is the deity who controls the muladhara chakra where kundalini shakti resides. ganesha has the power to unlock the kundalini shakti.
22. swastika – mark of auspiciousness, good luck and fortune.
1. loving ganesha book by the editors of hinduism today
2. ganesha: the auspicious…the beginning, book by shakunthala jagannathan and nanditha krishna
3. hindu gods and goddesses book by stephen knapp