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Symbolism of Ganesh

Ganesh is not just the most loved god among Hindus. He is also the first god they run to, in dire times. Learn about the various Ganesh symbols.

Vakratund mahaakaay suryakoti samprabha
Nirvign kuru me dev sarvakaareyeshu sarvada

Traditionally, any shubh karya (auspicious work or activity) in Hinduism is begun with an invocation to Lord Ganesh. This ritualistic practice is an indicator of the fact that Ganesh is probably the most popular of the numerous gods in the Hindu pantheon. It is not just thanks to His lovable image, as the elephant-god, that Ganesh is so appealing. His devotees find his entire being a vast treasure trove of symbols and feel blessed when they meditates on them.

What He symbolises

It is believed that the Hindu sages conceptualised the rup or murti (forms) of the different gods in keeping with the attributes they wanted to portray through them. When we look at the number of meanings in the rup of Ganesh, this does seem very true. Here are some of the most important symbols associated with Ganesh.

  • His broad crown is an invitation to think big.

  • The tiny eyes speak of the importance of concentration and attention to detail for success in any foray.

  • One chief form of concentration is to listen to others more, and talk less. This is symbolised by the huge elephantine ears and small mouth He sports.

  • Ganesh has only one tusk, with the other broken off. This symbolises the importance of holding on only to the good and discarding the bad.

  • The trunk of Ganesh symbolises the importance of being efficient and adaptable in order to be successful in one's ventures. The curvature is also said to represent the rising of the kundalini (spiritual energy that is believed to be coiled serpent-like at the base of the spine) powers.

  • His large tummy points to the necessity of digesting all that life has to offer—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • The abhaya mudra (gesture of fearlessness) of His lower right hand symbolises Ganesh's blessings and protection on a person's journey through life, especially the spiritual one.

  • In His upper right hand, Ganesh usually holds an axe, with which He is said to cut of all attachments.

  • He pulls the devotee nearer to the spiritual path by the rope that He carries in His upper left hand.

  • He offers rewards for penances (sadhana) done with the modak (type of confection, usually made from rice flour and a stuffing of jaggery, coconut, etc.) He holds in His lower left hand.

  • The bowls and baskets of offerings at Ganesh's feet are there to symbolise that the entire world, and all its choicest pleasures, are out there for the taking.

  • Ganesh's tiny pet and vehicle, his mouse, bowing down close by, is there to indicate that though a little desire is good, it is essential for one to master it. You have to ride your desires and not vice versa.

Other related meanings

The numerous stories of Ganesh, and His love for His parents, Shiv and Parvati, are meant to teach that experience deserves respect, especially in the form of ones parents and guardians.

Ganesha is supposed to have two wives, Siddhi (success) and Riddhi (prosperity). The symbolism means that if one walks on the path set by Ganesh, success and prosperity are bound to be always by ones side.

It is difficult to miss the fact that Ganesh is one very unusual god. For one, devotees seem to find him the most approachable. Is it because of His elephant head? Is it because He is fat, not fit? The devotion bestowed on Him despite His seeming imperfections may serve us a lesson—that of accepting others just as they are.

Do you celebrate the Ganesh festival? What is the one thing about Ganesh that you love the most? Is there any special ritual that your family follows while worshipping Ganesh? To share you tips, views, and experiences, click here.

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