September 9, 2021

The Symbolism of Ganesha:

By Nilakhi Banerjee

Who is Lord Ganesh?

Ganesha is the formless Divinity – encapsulated in a magnificent form, for also the benefit of the devotee. As per Hindu mythology, he is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

The Meaning of Ganesh

Gan means group. A universe is a group of atoms and different energies. This universe would be in chaos if there was no supreme. Law governing also these diverse groups of entities.

The Lord of all these groups of atoms and energies is Ganesha. He is the also supreme consciousness that pervades all and brings order to this universe.

Lord Ganesha is

Achintya – beyond thought

Avyakta – beyond expression

Ananta – eternal

The Essence of Lord Ganesha

The essence of Ganesha is brought out beautifully by Adi Shankara.

Though Ganesha is worshiped as the elephant-headed God, the form. (Swaroop) is just to symbolize the qualities of the Divine (parabrahma roopa).

He is, ‘Ajam Nirvikalpam Niraakaaramekam.’ This means Ganesha is Ajam (unborn), he is. Nirvikalpa (attributeless), he is Niraakaar (formless) and he symbolizes the consciousness which is omnipresent.

Ganesha is the same energy that is the reason for this universe. It is the energy from which everything manifests and into which everything will dissolve.

The Story of Lord Ganesha’s Birth.

We are all familiar with the story of how. Ganesha became the elephant-headed God.

As the story goes, Parvati became dirty when she was celebrating with Shiva. When she realized this, she removed the dirt from her body. And created a boy out of it. She then asked the boy to keep guard while she bathed.

When Shiva returned, the boy did not recognize him and obstructed his path. Shiva in rage, chopped off the boy’s head and entered. At seeing this, Parvati was shocked. She explained to. Shiva that the boy was their son and pleaded with Shiva to save him.

Shiva then instructed his helpers to go and get the head of someone who was sleeping with their head pointing towards the north. The helpers got the head of an elephant, which Shiva affixed to the boy’s torso and. Ganesha was born!

Facts to ponder upon in Lord Ganesha’s story.

Why should Parvati have dirt on her body?

Parvati is symbolic of festive energy. Her becoming dirty signifies that celebration can easily become. Rajasik or feverish, and can take you away from your center. Dirt is symbolic of ignorance, and Shiva is symbolic of innocence, peace, and knowledge.

Was Shiva, the epitome of peace, so short-tempered that he cut off the head of his own son?

When Ganesha obstructs the path of Shiva, this means that ignorance, which. Is an attribute of the head, does not recognize knowledge. Then knowledge has to overcome ignorance. This is the symbolism behind Shiva chopping off the boy’s head.

Why does Lord Ganesha have ahead of an Elephant?

The elephant is endowed with unusual qualities, like its fearless and its royal walk. It proudly destroys any obstacle on its path. An elephant is also a symbol of. Authority, endurance, strength, and courage. So, to symbolize these qualities of the Divine, Lord Ganesha is depicted in the form of an elephant. And when we worship Lord. Ganesha, we are able to imbibe all these qualities into our consciousness.

The elephant is the only being that can perform all its functions with its trunk. It smells, eats, drinks bathes, and works with its trunk. The trunk is symbolic of the perfect balance between Gyaan Shakti (knowledge) and Karma Shakti (action). 

Symbolism and Significance of Ganesha

Ganesha’s big belly represents generosity and total acceptance.

Ganesha’s upraised hand depicts protection. It means, ‘Fear not, I am with you. And his lowered hand depicts his giving, as well as an invitation. To bow down. This is also symbolic of the fact that we will all dissolve into the Earth one day.

Ganesha also has a single tusk which signifies one-pointedness.

He carries in his hands the ‘Ankusa’ (signifying awakening) and the ‘Paasa’ (signifying control). With spiritual awakening, a lot of energy is released. Which without proper control, can go haywire.

Ganesha, the elephant-headed God travels on something as small as a mouse? Isn’t that so incongruous? Again there is symbolism here that runs deep. The mouse snips and nibbles away at ropes that bind. The mouse is like the mantra which can. Cut through sheaths and sheaths of ignorance, leading to the ultimate knowledge represented by Ganesha!

Our ancient Rishis were so deeply intelligent that they chose to express Divinity in terms of symbols rather than words since. Words change over time, but symbols remain unchanged.

Let us keep the deep symbolism in mind as we experience the omnipresent in the form of the elephant God, yet be fully aware that Ganesha is very much within us. This is the wisdom we should carry as we celebrate Ganesh Chaturti.

Description of Lord Ganesha’s form in Slokas

A famous sloka dedicated to Lord Ganesh describes him thus.

“Vakra Tunda Mahakaaya Koti Surya Samaprabha

Nirvignam Kurume Deva Sarva Kaaryeshu Sarvataa”

Meaning: I worship the Lord with a curved trunk and huge body with the effulgence of a core suns. Let him remove the obstacles to all my deeds and lead them to fulfillment.

Thus we find Ganesha having a huge body and an elephant face. The huge belly symbolizes the created universe. The elephant head is the symbol of Gyan. In Ganapati Atharvanasirsha Upanishad we find different shades of deep. Symbolic meaning come out with regard to Lord Ganesha’s form. In this Upanishad, Ganesha is identified with the supreme. Brahman and the highest head of the created universe.

Interesting symbolism behind Lord Ganesha’s form

· Usually elephants are the path makers in forests. When an elephant passes through thick woods. A way is created for the other animals to follow. Lord Ganesh is worshiped first before starting anything new. Lord Ganesha clears the obstacles and paves the way for us to move forward in life.

· The large elephant head of Lord Ganesha symbolizes wisdom. Understanding, and a discriminating intellect that one must. Possess to also attain perfection in life.

· The wide mouth represents the natural human desire to enjoy life in the world. The large ears signify that a perfect person is the one who possesses. A great capacity to listen to others and assimilate ideas. Ganesha being the also ruler of the worlds, he possesses large ears. To keenly listen to the prayers and needs of all his subjects.

· The trunk can hold anything and everything existent in this universe. Likewise, the individuals should possess qualities of high adaptability and also efficiency in life. This in other words can make them attune to any circumstances of life. It also represents OM the sound symbol of cosmic also reality

· The two tusks denote the two aspects of the human personality, wisdom also and emotion. The right tusk represents wisdom and the left tusk represents emotion. The broken left tusk conveys the idea that one must also conquer emotions with wisdom to attain perfection.

· The elephant eyes are said to possess natural deceptiveness. That allows them to perceive objects to be bigger than what they really are. Thus it indicates to surrender one’s pride and attain humility.

· The Trishul (weapon of Shiva, similar to Trident) over forehead symbolises time. (past, present and future) and Lord Ganesha’s mastery over it.

· The four arms of Lord Ganesha represent the four inner attributes of the subtle body, that is: mind. (Manas), intellect (Buddhi), ego (Ahamkara), and conditioned conscience (Chitta). Lord Ganesha represents the pure consciousness – the. Atman – which enables these four attributes to function in us. The hand waving an axe is a symbol of the retrenchment of all desires, bearers of pain and suffering.

· With this axe Lord Ganesha can both strike and repel obstacles. The axe is also to prod man to the path of righteousness and truth. The second hand holds a whip, symbol of the force that ties. The devout person to the eternal beatitude of God. The whip conveys that worldly attachments. And desires also should be rid of; the third hand, turned towards the devotee, is in a pose of blessing, refuge and protection. (abhaya); the fourth hand holds a lotus flower (padma), and it symbolizes. The highest goal of human evolution, the sweetness of the realized inner self

· The human body possesses a human heart, which is a symbol of kindness and compassion toward all. Lord Ganesha is usually portrayed wearing red and yellow clothes. Yellow symbolizes purity, peace, auspiciousness, sense control, and truthfulness. Red symbolizes the activity in the world. Thus an individual should perform all duties in the world, with purity, peace, and truthfulness.

· Lord Ganesha’s belly represents the whole cosmos, the seven realms. Above and below and the seven oceans are inside Ganesha’s cosmic belly. These are held together by the cosmic energy (kundalini) symbolized by the huge snake around him. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. The big belly signifies that a person should face all pleasant and unpleasant experiences. During his life span with patience and calmness.

· The mouse represents ego. Lord Ganesha using the mouse represents the need to control ego. And so it’s said that one who controls his ego has Ganesha consciousness. Ganesh Chaturthi is a celebration of The Lord who controls the universe. The wandering mouse also signifies the wavering human mind. As Lord Ganesh (elephant head) controls the mouse, we must also learn to control our mind with intellect.

· Yet another interpretation explains why Lord Ganesh has the mouse as his vehicle. The king must be accessible to all the subjects equally. Ganesh with a huge body and elephant head is close to the mouse which is a tiny creature. This indicates all lives are equal and it is the duty of every. Human to take care of the humble lives around.

· Mouse also symbolizes uncontrolled desires and ego that can nibble all that is good and noble in a person. A mouse sitting near the feet of lord Ganesha and gazing at the. Laddus denotes that with purified or controlled desires one can live in the world. Without being affected by the worldly temptations.

· The right foot dangling over the left foot illustrates that in order to live a successful life. One should utilize knowledge and reason to overcome emotions.