SHAKTI: Goddess Vinayaki is elephant-headed Goddess just as Ganesha is the elephant headed God of Obstacles. Her elephant head shares a female body. With such attributes, Vinayaki is assumed to be the Shakti of Vinayaka or the female form of Ganesha. The Agni Purana is the one of the first Purana that lists Ganesha’s shaktis. Linga Purana also list Vinayaki as a Shakti.
MATRIKA: In the Devi Purana and some Upapuranas, Gananayika or Vinayaki is identified as Ganesha’s Shakti. Here she is elephant headed and has the ability to remove obstacles. This places her as the ninth Matrika. Traditionally seven matrikas are mentioned. But the list seems to be extended to accomodate Mahalaskmi or Yogeshwari and Vinayaki as the eighth and ninth Matrika.
Vinayaka is mentioned in the Matya Purana to mean ‘belonging to Vinayaka or Ganesha’. There, she is one of the Matrikas considered as a Shakti of Shiva more than Ganesha. Here Vinayaki is associated to Ganesha by name only and she is created to by Lord Shiva to fight the demon Andhaka.
PURANAS: Mahapuranas and Upapuranas carry legends pertaining to Lord Ganesha’s marriage. Some religious scriptures put Ganesha on par with Hanuman to be a Brahmachari practicing celibacy. However, by Puranic accounts, he was married to Riddhi, Siddhi and Buddhi. Ridhi represents prosperity, Siddhi represents spiritual power and Buddhi represents wisdon. These consorts appear in human form and appear on either side. Vinayaka, seems to extend this list.
There are legends to state that Goddess Saraswathi, Goddess of knowledge and Goddess Lakshmi also married Lord Ganesha. Lakshmi and Ganesha are worshipped together, one removing obstacles in the path of wealth and the other gracing wealth. Lakshmi apparently turns up as Riddhi – material welfare and Siddhi – spiritual prosperity.
In Skanda Purna, Lakshmi is cursed to have an elephant head, which she gets rid of doing penance to Lord Brahma. In Skanda Purana there is no reference to Vinayaki. But the cursed elephant headed goddess seems to be remotely linked to Malini, Ganesha as mother or consort Lakshmi.
Both Ganesha and Saraswathi control Buddhi. Now, Vinayaki is also considered to be the wife of Lord Ganesha. Man makes God in his own image and it appears that they have given the elephant headed God an elephant headed consort.
The Vayu Purana, Skanda Purana and Harivamsa describe elephant faced Matrikas. Female ganas take names like Gajanana or elephant faced. There is mention of Gajamukhi, elephant faced matrikas. Jyeshtha, the Goddess of Misfortune is also described as elephant faced. Ganeshani and Vinayaki are one of the sixty four Yogini Shaktis or matrika goddesses. But there does not seem to be any rituals or pujas attributed to Vinayaki.
DEPICTION: The description in Gorakshasamhita is an elephant faced Vinayaki, pot-bellied, having three eyes and four arms. She holds a parashu and a plate of modakas. In Shilparatna, the 16th century iconographical treatise, there is a description of an elephant headed goddess residing in the Vindyas. This image has two trunks and body of a woman. She is vermillion complexioned with ten arms. She is pot-bellied with a full breast and beautiful hips. These are post Shaktism images depicting Shaktis of gods.
A Vinayaki sculpture is found in Chitrapur Math in Shirali. Here, Vinayaki is full-breasted, but slender, unlike pot-bellied Ganesha. Her two front hands are held in abhaya, fear not and vrada, boon giving mudras. She carries a sword and a noose. Her trunk is turned to the left. This image is said to be a Shakta Goddess.
There is a non-potbellied Vinayaki from Giryek in Bihar. She is a four-armed goddess carries a gada, ghata and parashu. An image from the Pratihara dynasty shows a pot-bellied Vinayaki, with four arms holding a gada-parashu combination, a lotus, an unidentifiable object and a plate of modaka held by the trunks.
BUDDHISM: In the Buddhist tradition, there is a female Ganesha called Ganapatihridaya – Heart of Ganesha. Aryamanjusrimulakalpa, a buddhist text describes Vinayaki as siddhi of Vinayaka. She shares various attributes of Ganesha, she removed obstacles and is also elephant headed. Here Vinayaki is described as the daughter of Ishana. That is a reference to God Shiva.
Hara Hara Mahadeva
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi