Symbolic Description of Lord Ganesha
Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati is popularly
worshipped under different names like Sumukha, Ekadanta, Kapila, Gajakarna,
Lambodara, Vikath, Vidhnanashaka, Vinayaka, Dhumraketu, Ganadhayaksha, Bhalchandra
Ganesha’s form is highly charming and mesmerizing. The cute
little chubby boy like body with an elephant head has been inspiring devotion
and love in the hearts of millions down the history. While the form of Lord
Ganesh evokes our imaginations and pleases us beyond compare, there is also
deep spiritual symbolism behind the form of Lord Ganesh. Here we discuss some
interesting aspects regarding Lord Ganesh symbolism.
Ganesha’s form in Slokas
A famous sloka dedicated to Lord Ganesh describes him thus.
Tunda Mahakaaya Koti Surya Samaprabha
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.
behind 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 Ganesh 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 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 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 efficiency in life. This in other words can make them
attune to any circumstances of life. It also represents OM the sound symbol of
The two tusks denote the two aspects of the
human personality, wisdom and emotion. The right tusk represents wisdom and the
left tusk represents emotion. The broken left tusk conveys the idea that one
must 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 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.