His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains, Buddhists, and beyond India.
Although he is known by many other attributes, Ganesha's elephant head makes him particularly easy to identify.
Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles (Vighnesha (Sanskrit: विघ्नेश; ), Vighneshvara (Sanskrit: विघ्नेश्वर; ),patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom.
He is honoured at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies and invoked as Patron of Letters during writing sessions.
The most famous Ganesha temple in India is the Uchi Pillaiyar Koyil at Trichy. Uchi means "at the top." This large temple (also known as the Rock Fort Temple) is built on a hilltop and commands a breathtaking view of the city and of the river Kaveri.
Another large Ganesha temple is the Pillaiyarpatti Temple near Karaikudi in Ramanathapuram District, also in Tamil Nadu.
Ganesha is seen with two hands and a trunk in only two temples. One is Pillayarpatti and the other temple is in Afghanistan. This is an information written in the temple at Pillayarpatti.
During puja at the Madhaya Kailasa Temple in Chennai, devotees saw and continue to see Ganesha, the elephant God, and Hanuman, the monkey God, merging into one, as the alpha and omega of existence. To honor this unusual form, in 1993 a five-metal image, half Ganesha and half Hanuman, was created and enshrined. It is believed that it is Ganesha who has to be prayed to before starting anything so that no hurdles are faced and Lord Hanuman has to be prayed to ensure that the job is completed without any hassles. So it is Ganesha who is the AADHI ( Beginning ) and Anjeneya who is the ANTHAM ( End) and hence the moorhty is called as AADHYANTHA PRABHU.
In New Delhi there is the Siddhi Buddhi Vinayagar temple situated in Vinayanagar.
The Mukkuruni Pillaiyar inside the huge Meenakshi Temple complex in Madurai, India, is also quite famous. This murti is ten to twelve feet tall. Mukkuruni refers to a large measure of rice (about forty pounds). Here the priests cook a huge modaka ball for Ganesha using this measure. Hence the name Mukkuruni Pillaiyar.
Also in Madurai, Lord Ganesha is worshiped as Vyaghrapada Ganeshani, in female form with tiger feet.
The Ganeshani murti in sukhasana pose resides at Suchindram.
There are two other temples in India with the female Ganesha form. One is at a tenth-century temple dedicated to sixty-four yoginis in Bheraghat, a village near Jabalpur. The other is the Tanumalaya Swami Temple in Suchindrum, Kerala.
In Tibet She is worshiped as Gajanani.
Of the eight incarnations of Ganesha described in the Mudgala Purana, Ganesha has a mouse (shrew) in five of them, uses a lion in his incarnation as Vakratunda, a peacock in his incarnation of Vikata, and Shesha, the divine serpent, in his incarnation as Vighnaraja. Of the four incarnations of Ganesha listed in the Ganesha Purana, Mohotkata has a lion, Mayūreśvara has a peacock, Dhumraketu has a horse, and Gajanana has a mouse. Jain depictions of Ganesha show his vahana variously as a mouse, elephant, tortoise, ram, or peacock.
:: GANESHA AND THE WORLD ::
India and Hinduism had an impact on many countries of East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent as a result of commercial and cultural contacts. Ganesha is one of many Hindu deities who reached foreign lands as a result. The worship of Ganesha by Hindus outside of India shows regional variation. The acceptance of Hindu ideas in ancient times still continue today in world religions.
Ganesha was a deity particularly worshipped by traders and merchants, who went out of India for commercial ventures. The period from approximately the tenth century onwards was marked by the development of new networks of exchange, the formation of trade guilds, and a resurgence of money circulation, and it was during this time that Ganesha became the principal deity associated with traders. The earliest inscription where Ganesha is invoked before any other deity is by the merchant community.
:: Jainism ::
Ganeshagumpha (cave no-10) Udayagiri
Ganesha is worshipped by most Jainas, for whom he appears to have taken over certain functions of Kubera. Jaina connections with the trading community support the idea that Jainism took up the worship of Ganesha as a result of commercial connections.
The Jaina canonical literature does not mention the cult of Ganesha. The earliest literary reference to Ganesha in Jainism is in Abhidhānacitāmani of Hemachandra (c.a. third quarter of twelfth century). It refers to several appeallations of Ganesha such as Heramba, Ganavigneṣa and Vinayaka and visualizes him as elephant headed, pot-bellied, bearing an axe and riding a mouse.
According to the Swetambara Jaina work, Ācāradinakara of Vardhamānasūri (c. 1412 CE), Ganapati is propitiated even by the gods to get desirable things. It is further mentioned that He is worshipped at the beginning of every auspicious ceremony and new project. This practice is still very common in the Swetambara community. The text provides procedures for the installation of Ganapati images.
The popularity is however not met with in Digambara texts. Excepting two medieval figures carved at Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves, Orissa and an early figure at Mathura, his representations are not found in any Digambara sites.
The earliest known Jaina Ganesha statue at Mathura with Jaina Yakshi Ambika(the Jaina name for Gauri). dates to about the 9th Century CE. Images of Ganesha appear in the Jaina temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat. In the tenth century Mahavir at Ghanerav and eleventh century temple in Osian, Rajasthan; Ganesha images are found.
:: Buddhism ::
Ganesha also appears in Buddhism, not only in the form of the Buddhist god Vināyaka, but also portrayed as a Hindu deity form also called Vināyaka. His image may be found on Buddhist sculptures of the late Gupta period. As the Buddhist god Vināyaka, he is often shown dancing, a form called Nṛtta Ganapati that was popular in North India and adopted in Nepal and then into Tibet. A dancing Ganesha is evident in the Malay archipelago in the temple of Candi Sukuh.
:: Tibetan Buddhism ::
:: Ganapati, Maha Rakta ::
Tibetan representations of Ganesha show ambivalent views of him. In one Tibetan form he is shown being trodden under foot by Mahākala, a popular Tibetan deity. Other depictions show him as the Destroyer of Obstacles, sometimes dancing.
Ganapati, Maha Rakta (Tibetan: tsog gi dag po, mar chen. English: The Great Red Lord of Hosts or Ganas) is a Tantric Buddhist form of Ganapati (Ganesha) related to the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Tantras. This form of Ganapati is regarded as an emanation of Avalokiteshvara.
"...beside a lapis lazuli rock mountain is a red lotus with eight petals, in the middle a blue rat expelling various jewels, [above] Shri Ganapati with a body red in colour, having an elephant face with sharp white tusks and possessing three eyes, black hair tied in a topknot with a wishing-gem and a red silk ribbon [all] in a bundle on the crown of the head. With twelve hands, the six right hold an axe, arrow, hook, vajra, sword and spear. The six left [hold] a pestle, bow, khatvanga, skullcup filled with blood, skullcup filled with human flesh and a shield together with a spear and banner. The peaceful right and left hands are signified by the vajra and skullcup filled with blood held to the heart. The remaining hands are displayed in a threatening manner. Wearing various silks as a lower garment and adorned with a variety of jewel ornaments, the left foot is extended in a dancing manner, standing in the middle of the bright rays of red flickering light." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup, 1497–1557).
:: Vignantaka trampling Vinayaka ::
This form of Ganapati belongs to a set of three powerful deities known as the 'mar chen kor sum' or the Three Great Red Deities included in a larger set called 'The Thirteen Golden Dharmas' of Sakya. The other two deities are Kurukulle and Takkiraja.
In depictions of the six-armed protector Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Mahakala, Wylie: mGon po phyag drug pa), an elephant-headed figure usually addressed as Vinayaka is seen being trampled by the Dharma Protector, but he does not appear distressed. In Vajrayana and cognate Buddhist art, He is depicted as a subdued god trampled by Buddhist deities like Aparajita, Parnasabari and Vignataka.
The Tibetan Ganesha appears, besides bronzes, in the resplendent Thangka paintings alongside the Buddha.In "Ganesh, studies of an Asian God," edited by Robert L. BROWN, State University of New York Press, 1992, page 241-242, he wrote that in the Tibetan Ka'gyur tradition, it is said that the Buddha had taught the "Ganapati Hridaya Mantra" (or "Aryaganapatimantra") to disciple Ananda. The sutra in which the Buddha teaches this mantra can be found here.
:: Shinto and Shingon Buddhism ::
In Japan, Ganesha is considered a minor deity in the Buddhist pantheon, where he is known as Shōten (聖天), Daishokangi-ten (大聖歓喜天), Kangiten (歓喜天), Ganabachi (Ganapati), Binayaka-ten ("Vinayaka") (毘那夜迦天).
Ganesha worship was brought to Japan by early Buddhists through China. In Japan the Ganesha cult was first mentioned in 806 CE. Scholars commonly date the presence of Ganesha in Japan with the age of Kukai (774- 834), the founder of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. The centrality of the worship of Ganesha or Vinayaka or Kangiten, as he is popularly called in Japan, is a distinguishing feature of this cult. The doctrines, rituals and beliefs of the sect have a number of parallels with the cult of Ganapatya.
Also called the Deva of bliss, Ganapati is invoked both for enlightenment and for worldly gains - more for the latter than the former. Kangiten - Vinayaka is offered "bliss - buns" (made from curds, honey and parched flour), radishes, wine, and fresh fruits. The offerings are later partaken in the same spirit as Hindus take prasad.
It should also be noted that in Japan that the Hindu Ganesha is displayed more than Buddha in a famous temple in Futako Tamagawa, Tokyo. In the Hozan-ji temple on Mt. Ikoma in Nara, Sho-ten is worshipped mainly by the merchants. In Osaka we have the biggest temple of Sho-ten named Kaishozan Shoenji Temple, where, besides devotees, a permanent priest offers prayers daily. A special temple is consecrated to the esoteric Twin Ganesa at the Jingoji monastery of Takao where every year worship is held in his honor.
Dr. Lokesh Chandra,Director,International Academy Of Indian Culture explains: "German scholar Philipp Franz von Siebold has written that in 1832 there were 131 shrines dedicated to the goddess (Benzaiten) and 100 to Lord Ganesha in Tokyo itself. A 12th-century temple of Ganesha in Asakusa suburb of Tokyo has been declared a national treasure of Japan."
Ganesha is worshipped as god of love by many young boys and girls for achieving success in their courtship. The old worship him for success in business, Dr Chandra said.
:: Kangi figures ::
There are more than thirty distinguishable forms of Ganesha in the Japanese iconographic tradition.
There are several dual forms. The most typical dual form is the Embracing Kangi. In this form two tall figures with elephant heads and human bodies, male and female, stand in embrace. A new concept of Vinayaka couple both elephant-headed – a unique development in the religious history of Japan. The concept of this twin form of Ganesha (with Ganeshani) could not develop in India. There are at least three variant types of Embracing Kangi figures. Orthodox Shingon Buddhism interprets the details of all three types as sophisticated allegorical symbols. Sanford believes that these orthodox Shingon interpretations, of considerable eventual importance in Japanese worship of Ganesha, developed during the Heian period in an attempt to legitimize Ganesha as a figure in Japanese Buddhism.
:: Buddha as avatar of Ganesha ::
Buddha appears as a name of Ganesha in the second verse of the Ganesha Purana version of the Ganesha Sahasranama. The positioning of this name at the beginning of the Ganesha Sahasranama indicates that the name was of importance to the authors of that scripture, who were Ganapatya Hindus.
Bhaskararaya's commentary on the Ganesha Sahasranama says that this name for Ganesha means that the Buddha was an incarnation (Avatar) of Ganesha. This interpretation is not widely known even among Ganapatya, and the Buddha is not mentioned in the lists of Ganesha's incarnations given in the main sections of the Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana. Bhaskararaya also provides a more general interpretation of this name as simply meaning that Ganesha's very form is "eternal elightenment" (nityabuddaḥ), so he is named Buddha.
:: South-East Asia ::
Hindus spread out to the Malay Archipelago and took their culture with them, including Ganesha. Statues of Ganesa are found throughout the Malay Archipelago in great numbers, often beside Shiva sanctuaries. The forms of Ganesha found in Hindu art of Java, Bali, and Borneo show specific regional influences. The gradual emigration of Hindus to Indochina established Ganesha in modified forms in Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand. In Indochina Hinduism and Buddhism were practiced side-by-side, and mutual influences can be seen in Ganesha iconography of that region.
:: Myanmar ::
The King of Brahmas called Arsi, lost a wager to the King of Devas, Śakra (Thagya Min), who decapitated Arsi as agreed but put the head of an elephant on the Brahma's body who then became Ganesha.
:: Thailand ::
In Thailand, Ganesha is called Phra Phikanet (พระพิฆเนศ) or Phra Phikanesuan (พระพิฆเนศวร) and is worshipped as the deity of fortune and success, and the remover of obstacles. He is associated with arts, education and trade. Ganesha appears in the emblem of the Department of Fine Arts  in Thailand. Large television channels and production companies have shrines in his honour in front of their premises. Few movies or television shows begin shooting without a Brahmin ritual in which prayers and offerings are made to Ganesha. There are shrines to Ganesha across Thailand. One of the most revered shrines is the Royal Brahmin Temple in central Bangkok by the Giant Swing, where some of the oldest images can be found. Other old Ganesha images can be seen throughout Thailand, including a 10th-century bronze image found at Phang-Na with both Tamil and Thai inscriptions. The Hindu temple "Wat Phra Sri Umadevi" in Silom also houses a Ganesha image which was transported from India in the late 19th Century. Thai Buddhists frequently pay respect to Ganesha and other Brahmin deities as a result of the overlapping Buddhist/Brahmin cosmology. He is honoured with Motaka, sweets and fruit, when business is good, and he is made ridiculous by putting his picture or statue upside down, when business is down. As lord of business and diplomacy, he sits on a high pedestal outside Bangkok's CentralWorld (formerly World Trade Center), where people offer flowers, incense and a reverential sawasdee.
:: Indonesia ::
European scholars call him the 'Indonesian God of Wisdom'. Bandung boasts a Jalan Ganesha. A Ganesha statue from the 1st century AD was found on the summit of Mount Raksa in Panaitan Island, the Ujung Kulon National Park, West Java. While we do not find temples dedicated specifically to Gaṇeśa, He is found in every Śiva shrine throughout the islands. An 11th-century CE Ganesha statue(seen in the picture below) found in eastern Java, Kediri is placed in The Museum of Indian Art (Museum für Indische Kunst), Berlin-Dahlem. The 9th century statue of Ganesha resides in western cella (room) of Prambanan Hindu temple.
:: Sri Lanka ::
The garden island of Sri Lanka has fourteen well-known Ganesha temples. There is an unusual Vinayaka at the Siva temple in Central Java, which is presently an archeological tourist site being restored by the Indonesian government. Lord Ganesha here sits with the soles of His feet pressed together, much like a child would sit, or as a yogi would sit in deep samadhi.
:: Malaysia ::
Among the most renowned of Ganesha's temples in Malaysia are the Siddhi Vinayagar temple of Petaling Jaya and the Kotta Malai Pillaiyar Temple of Kuala Lumpur on the busy street of Paduraya. The latter is a small temple, but extremely powerful, said to be the most popular Ganesha temple in the land. Also notable are the Jalan Pudu (Pasar Road) Pillaiyar Temple and the Poyyata Vinayagar Temple of Melaka.
:: Europe and America ::
In Hawaii our Kadavul Hindu Temple for monastics and initiated members has a three-ton, six-foot-tall Ganesha. At the Saiva Dharmashala at Riviere du Rempart, Mauritius, we have dedicated a Spiritual Park and erected a grand mandapam around a five-ton, nine-foot tall, five-faced murti of Ganesha, Panchamukha Ganapati, in a mango grove. In Edmonton, Canada, New Zealand and Nandi, Fiji, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Bethesda, Denver, Scottsdale, Sebastian, Anchorage and Chicago there are exquisite stone murtis of the elephant-faced God, gifted by my aadheenam to the born Hindu communities, conferring blessings for new temples. In Great Britain Ganesha is enshrined at each of the nation's several new temples and is the presiding Deity at the Shree Ganapati Temple in Wimbledon and at temples in Switzerland, Germany and Denmark.ÊFrom my Kailasa Pitham in Hawaii it has been my calling through the years to gift Ganesha icons to begin the worship of Hindu community groups throughout the world.
The religion of the earliest known North American Indians bears many analogies to and apparently has sprung up from the same ultimate sources as our own venerable Sanatana Dharma, a fact that is evidenced by their rituals and religious beliefs and symbols. One of Lord Ganesha's oldest symbols, the swastika, was one of the central motifs used in the designs and patterns of many American Indian tribes and is still seen today in their beautiful blankets and pottery. So the great God Ganesha is not really new to the Western countries, but quite old.
The 32 forms of lord Ganesa are:-
1. Bala Ganapati – He is having four hands and seated on a lotus. His form is like the rising sun.
2. Taruna Ganapati – He is in a sitting pose with eight hands and shines like the midday sun.
3. Bhakta Ganapati – He is having four hands and shining likes the white hued moon.
4. Vira Ganapati – He is in a standing pose with 16 hands. His color is red.
5. Sakti Ganapati – He is having four hands. He is in sitting pose with a consort on his left thigh. His color is red like the setting sun and he allays all fears.
6. Dvija Ganapati – He is having four elephant heads and four hands, his color is like that of the white moon and he is adorned with ornaments in his hands.
7. Siddi Ganapati – Having five hands. He is seated on a lotus. His color is golden yellow and he is flanked by two consorts.
8. Ucchista Ganapati – His color is blue and he is having six hands. He is very much inclined towards Vedanta philosophy.
9. Vighna Ganapati – Having eight hands, he is adorned with ornaments.
10. Kshipra Ganapati – having four hands, he is in a standing pose and shines like the flower called “Pantookam”.
11. Heramba Ganapati – His color is yellow and seated on a lion. He is having five elephant heads with ten hands.
12. lakshmi Ganapati – Having eight hands, he is flanked by two consorts with the Nilotpala flowers in their hands. His color white and he grants all boons.
13. Maha Ganapati – He is like the rising sun, having three eyes and two hands. He is having his consort seated on his left thigh and the moon on his head.
14. Vijaya Ganapati – He is robust and red in color. He is having four hands and mounted on a bandicoot (Mushika).
15. Nitta Ganapati – He is having six hands and yellow in color. He is in a dancing pose under the ‘Karpaga tree’, with his right leg lifted up.
16. Urdhva Ganapati – He is having six hands and of golden hue. His consort is seated on his left thigh.
17. Ekakshara Ganapati – He is having four hands and three eyes. He is seated on a lotus. He is adorned with red dress, flowers and sandal paste and having serpents as ornaments.
18. Varada Ganapti – Having four hands and three eyes, he is of golden hue. He is flanked by a consort named ‘Pushti devi’ and holds a vessel containing all nidhis (wealth).
19. Tryankshara Ganapati – He is of golden hue and having four hands . He is the embodiment of the scared syllable OM.
20. Kshipraprasada Ganapati – He is having six hands and three eyes. He is of red color and adorned by ornaments and lotus flowers.
21. Haridra Ganapati – He is having four hands. He is of yellow color and protects his devotees.
23. Ekadanta Ganapati – He is of blue color and has got four hands.
24. Uddanda GAnapati – He has ten hands and of red hue. He is having his consort seated on the left thigh.
25. Rinamochana Ganapati – He has four hands. He is of crystal color and dressed in red.
26. Dvimukha ganapati – He has two heads and four hands. He is of blue color and adorned in red dress.
27. Thundi Ganapati – He is having four hands and in a standing pose. He is the remover of all obstacles.
28. Mummuksha Ganapati – He is having three heads and six hands. He is seated on a golden lotus and of red hue.
29. Simha Ganapati – He is having the face of a lion and seated on a lion. He has eight hands, he is of white hue and adorned by bright dress.
30. Yoga Ganapati – He is having four hands. He is of red hue and adorned with blue dress. He sits in yogic pose.
31. Durga Ganapati – Having eight hands, he is of golden hue and adorned with red dress. He is also holding weapons in some of his hands.
32. Sankatahara Ganapati – He is having four hands. He is adorned with bright ornaments and blue dress and a young consort is seated on his left thigh. The forms of this Ganapati are immeasurable. Devotees should adore him by twenty one names as this number is especially suited to him.
~Om Gam Ganapataye Namah~
- From the desk of Srinivasa Subramaian G
Veda Vijana Rishikulam