Lord Ganesha is the most interesting in the Hindu pantheon because of his iconographical peculiarities. He is often depicted with an elephant head; a bulging belly and shown in a variety of poses. He appears to be a late addition to the hierarchy of Hindu gods but in a short time is elevated to an exalted position. Ganesha worship is said to have commenced around the 6th century AD but bagged rapid prominence by the 10th century to found Ganapatyam. He is also on loan by other religions such Buddhism and Jainism. His worship also spread throughout Asia. In some sense, Ganesha has also gone international.
Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana, are two core scriptures for Ganesha devotees and Ganapatyam meaning eight manifestations of Ganesha. In this sense, they are exclusively dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
Ganesha Purana emphasises key beliefs and methods of worship. The story form states the philosophical positions of the Ganapathya sect. The spiritual message is usually extracted in the question and answers contained therein. In Book 1.10.20-30 of this Purana, the sage Vyasa Bhagavan questions Brahma as to ‘who is Ganesha; what is his svarupa, real appearance; how can it be known; how is he disposed; how many are his incarnations; what deeds did he perform and who worshipped him?” The answer is found in Chapter 132 of the Kridakhanda of the Ganesha Purana which explains Ganesha’s four incarnations according to the four Yugas.
He is said to be born Kashyapa and Aditi in the Krita Yuga. Kashyap is a one of the Saptarishi, the son of Marichi and one of the ten Maanasa-putras of Brahma. Aditi is the Sky Goddess and as Devamatri, she is the mother of the gods. Thus Vinayaka is also called Kasyapa, meaning descendent of Kasyap. Mahotkata Vinayaka is said to be of red complexion. His vahana is either a lion or an elephant, depending on the puranic story. Lord Ganesha is said to have taken this manifestation to kill the demonic brothers Narankata and Devankata. These demons are the sons of rishi Rudraketu. They are given boons by Lord Shiva after severe penances. In time they show their evil color to gain superiority in Svarga-lokha. In the process the demons Dhumraksha is also killed by Ganesha. In the Ramayana, Narantaka-Devantaka are portrayed as Ravana’s sons. There Devantaka is killed by Angada who gets Hanuman’s help.
Mayil’ means peacock symbolizing ‘son of Ishvara-Shiva’ mounting on the peacock. He is depicted to have six arms and a white complexion. Mayuresvara is born to Lord Shiva and Mother Parvathi in the Treta Yuga. His mount is a peacock. Ganesha manifests as Mayuresvara to kill the demon Sindhu. It is said that after the war he brings his incarnation to an end and gives his peacock mount to his younger brother, Skanda. It then becomes Skanda’s mount. (see below for the mythology)
This manifestation comes with the famous Mukshika, mouse vahana of Ganesha. He is depicted with four arms and red complexion. He has a mouse as his mount. The demon, Sindura causes havoc in all the three lokhas. Ganesha manifests as Gajanana as Lord Shiva and Mother Parvathi’s son. The demon is Sindura is killed. The name is due to his reddish-pink complexion, in the likes of sindoor. It is said that it was in Gajanana incarnation that Lord Ganesha gave the Ganesha Gita discourse to King Varenya. (see below) Gajanana, according to the Ganesha Purana is said to be the last and prevailing manifestation of Lord Ganesha. The next manifestation of the Kali Yuga is yet to surface.
This manifestation of Lord Gangesha is said to come towards the end the decline of the Kali Yuga. He would be having either two or four arms. He would be of ash or dhumra, ash color. His mount would be blue horse. The end of Kali Yuga would witness the advent of evil and numerous demons. This account is similar to the tenth Vishnu avatara to come. The Ganesha Gita runs parallel to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu where the Lord rides a white horse. The Ganesha gita portrays Lord Ganesha to be the Creator of the Trinity and also Bahman.
Ganesha Purana is divided into Upasanakhanda, 92 chapters and Kridakhanda 155 chapters. Kridakhanda is also called Uttarakanda and contains the famous Ganesha Sahasranama, the thousand names of Ganesha. Ganesha Gita is found in Chapters 138-48 of Krishkhanda. In his Gajanana manifestation, Lord Ganesha is said to have given this discourse to King Varenya. It is often written that the Ganapathya Sect modelled the Ganesha Gita in the form and style of the Bhagavad Gita.
Indeed, it is noticed that other than minor modifications, even the stanzas are similar, except that the divine role of Lord Krishna is taken over by Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha instructs Varenya, the karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti paths. Ganesha of the Ganesha Gita also appears when there is unrighteousness. There are two major similarity between the two Gitas. Both Ganesha Gita II.138.22 and Bhagavad Gita, claim Ganesha or Krishna to have created the world, maintain it and destroy it again; He is also Mahavishnu, Shiva ,Brahma and Brahman, the Cosmic Spirit. Krishna’s central message in the Bhagavad Gita is repeated in Ganesha Gita, that Lord Ganesha is aja-unborn, bhutatma - the life principle in all beings, anadi- beginningless , and Isvara, the Supreme Lord.
This is a upapurana dedicated to Lord Ganesha. It contains hymns, stories and ritualistic elements relating to Ganesha worship and considered to be a major Ganapathya text. However the Mudgala Purana goes on to consider eight incarnations of Lord Ganesha. These are outside the four incarnations instroduced by the Ganesha Purana. In Mudgala Purana, it would appear that Ganesha incarnated in different cosmic ages. This Purana makes use of different incarnations to express progressive creations of the world. Each incarnation represent one stage of the Absolute as it unfold into creation. These are provided for in Mudgala Purana 1.17.24-28:
1.VAKRATUNDA meaning ‘twisting trunk’ is the forerunner. He represents the absolute as the aggregate of all bodies. He is an embodiment of Brahman. Vakratunda manifests to overcome terror caused by the demon Matsaryasura. This demon represents envy and jealousy. His vahana is the lion.
2.EKADANTA meaning ‘single tusk’. Is said to represent the aggregate of all individual souls. He is an embodiment of the essential nature of Brahman. Ekadanta incarnated to arrest the damage caused by the demon Madasura representing arrogance and conceit. His vahana is mouse.
3.MAHODARA means ‘big belly’. He is a synthesis of both the essential qualities of Vakratunda and Ekadanta. He is the absolute when He enters into the creative process. He is an embodiment of the wisdom of Brahman. Mahodara incarnated to overcome the demon Mohasura representing delusions and confusion. His vahana is a mouse.
4.GAJAVAKTRA OR GAJANANA means ‘elephant face’. He is a counterpart to Mahodara. He incarnates to arrest the evil of the demon Lobhasura representing greed. His vahana is a mouse.
5.LAMBODARA means ‘pendulous belly. He is the first of four incarnations corresponding to Puranic gods. Lambodara also corresponds Shakti, the pure power of Brahman. He incarnated to overcome the demon Krodhasura representing anger. His vahana is the mouse.
6.VIKATA meaning ‘unusual form corresponding to Surya. He is an embodiment of the illuminating nature of Brahman. He incarnated to fight the demon Kamasura representing lust. His vahana is the peacock.
7.VIGHNARAJA meaning ‘king of obstacles’. He corresponds Vishnu. Vighnaraja is an embodiment of the preserving nature of Brahman. He manifested to overcome the demon Mamasura representing possessiveness. His mount is the celestial serpent Sesha.
8.DHUMRAVARNA meaning ‘grey color’ corresponding to Siva. He is an embodiment of the destructive nature of Brahman. He incarnated to overcome the demon Abhimanasura representing pride and attachment. His vahana is a horse.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi