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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Knowing Your Ganesha

Ganesha is the elephant-headed God that is beloved by nearly all Hindus. Regardless of sect, branch, region, or family, it would be rare to find a Hindu who didn’t have a Ganesh murti or some type of Ganesh symbol.

Why Worship Ganesha?

Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles (Vighneshwara). He is the one to pray to before starting any new endeavor. Often he is also honored first before starting any other form of worship. He also protects homes and cars. It’s not unusual for people to place a Ganesh statue or medallion on the front dash of their cars. Ganesha is also associated with learning and study. It is he who transcribes the Mahabharata while the poet Vyasa recites it.

About Ganesha's Birth

There are a few different stories of Ganesha’s birth, but the most well known one is that Shiva’s wife Parvati wanted to take a bath while Shiva was away but there was no one to guard the door. So she formed a little boy from clay and breathed life into him. She instructed him not to let anyone in while she bathed.
A little while later Shiva returned and was furious that the boy at the door would not let him in to see his wife. In his rage, he cut off the boy’s head. Parvati came rushing out and was horrified by what Shiva had done. She told him that this was their son.
Full of remorse, Shiva hurried to find a replacement head and a young elephant was the first creature he came across. So he took the elephant’s head to restore Ganesha and brought him back to life.

Why is Ganesha worshiped first?

Some people say that this is the reason that Ganesha is worshiped first in any undertaking. Some were curious to know which of Shiva and Parvati’s two sons was the wiser and so a contest was set up. (Other possible reasons: to get a fruit, to establish who was elder). The two boys were asked to circle the world as quickly as possible and the fastest would be the winner.
Kartikeya was much more athletic than Ganesha, with the large belly and elephant head. Kartikeya (also called Murugan) took off swiftly, but Ganesha did not follow. Instead, he circled his two parents. Asked why, he said that his parents were the world to him and for such a clever answer, he won the contest.

Variations in the Idol of Shri Ganesha

Knowledge of the spiritual science-based information pertaining to a Deity helps increase the faith in that Deity. Faith helps induce bhav (Spiritual emotion) in the ritualistic worship, and worship done with bhav is always more fruitful. This article explains the sculpture of Shri Ganesh, the variations found in the Idols of Shri Ganesh and the implied meaning of various parts of the Idol.

Followwing are some variations in idols of Shri Ganesh -


Sometimes one comes across Ganapati Idols in padmasan (A lotus posture) or at times even in nrutyamudra (A dance posture).

Mundkata (Beheaded) Ganesh

There is a Mundakata Ganesh Idol in the Himalayas. The Name itself suggests that this Idol is without the head. It is said that this is the Idol of the son who was created by Devi Paravati from the grime of Her body and who was later beheaded by DeityShankar.

Other complexions

Haridraganapati and the Urdhvaganapati have a yellow complexion. The Pingalaganapati is tawny, while Shri Lakshmiganapati is white in complexion.

Feminine form

In the Shakta sect, Shri Ganapati is worshipped in the feminine form. Some such examples are given ahead.


An extremely attractive sculpted Idol of Ganeshwari is found in the Suchindram temple in Tamil Nadu.

Ardha Ganeshwari

It has a highly meaningful form in the Tantra path of spiritual practice.


This female Deity is found in an extremely rare form of tantrik-mantrik worship.

Types of Ganapati Idols

There are several types of Ganapati Idols such as - the Soumyaganapati, Balaganapati, Herambaganapati, Lakshmiganapati, Haridraganapati, Uchhishṭaganapati, Suryaganapati, Varadaganapati, Dwibhujaganapati, Dashbhujaganapati, Nartanaganapati, Uttishṭhitaganapati, Ganapati with the trunk curved towards the right etc.

Implied meaning of various parts of the Idol

Entire Idol

Omkar, nirgun (Non-materialised)

Trunk curved towards the right

An Idol of Ganapati with the trunk curved towards the right is called Dakshinamurti or Dakshinabhimukhi murti. Dakshina refers to the southern direction or the right side. The southern direction leads to the region ofYama, the Deity of death, while the right side belongs to the Suryanadi (Sun channel). He who can face the direction of the region ofYama is powerful. So also, he with an activated Suryanadi is also radiant. Thus, in both senses, the Ganapati Idol with the trunk curved towards the right is said to be ‘jagrut (Awakened)’. Scrutiny of our demerits and merits is carried out in the region of Yama, that is, in south direction and hence, that direction is repulsed. The scrutiny akin to that done in the south region after death begins when alive, if one sits facing the south (or sleeps with the legs directed towards the south). The Dakshinabhimukhi Idol is not worshipped ritualistically in the usual manner because tiryak (or Raja) waves are emitting from the south. The ritualistic worship of such an Idol is performed by strict abidance of all the norms of ritualistic worship scrupulously. Consequently, the sattvikta (Purity) is augmented and the distress by the Raja-Tama waves coming from the south is prevented.

Trunk curved towards the left

An Idol with the trunk curved towards the left is called Vamamukhi Ganapati. Vam means the northern direction or the left side. The Chandranaḍi (Moon channel) is situated to the left. It bestows tranquillity. Besides, the northern direction, conducive for Spirituality, is Anand (Bliss)-bestowing; hence, mostly the Vamamukhi Ganapati is worshipped. It is worshipped ritualistically in the usual manner.

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