Ganesha Symbolism (Scientific view) GANESHA SYMBOLISM ---- What the Ganesha Pictures Mean. WE ALL KNOW GANESHA IS FAT AND HAS AN ELEPHANT'S HEAD -- but what does this all mean on a symbolic level? It turns out that the way in which Ganesha (and the many other Hindu god) is depicted in carvings and illustrations has a symbolic tale to tell. Look at the image below to see what Ganesha's body and gestures mean, in a nutshell: Ganesha - The Lord of Beginnings Lord Ganesha, popularly known and easily recognized as the Elephant-God, is one of the most important deities of the Hindu patheon. Before every undertaking, be it laying of the foundation of a house, or opening of a store or beginning any other work, Lord Ganesha is first worshipped so at to invoke his blessings. Ganesha has many names. The main ones are Ganapati (lord of the ganas, or attendants), Vighneshwara (controller of all obstacles), Vinayaka (the prominent leader), Gajaanana (elephant-faced), Lambodara (pendant-bellied), and Ekdanta (having one tusk). Lord Ganesha, also called Ganapati or Vinayaka, is presented in the form of a human body with the head of an elephant. This blend of human and animal parts is a symbolic representation of a perfect human being, as conceived by Hindu sages. His head symbolizes wisdom, understanding, and a discriminating intellect that one must possess to attain perfection in life. By worshipping Ganesha, a Hindu seeks God's blessings for achieving success in one's endeavors in the physical world and for attaining perfection thereafter. Hence, Hindus worship Ganesha to seek God's blessings before beginning such activities. Lord Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati (a form of Goddess Durga). The other son of Lord Shiva is Karttikeya also known as Muruga, Skanda, Subramanya, Shanmukha. Ganesha has got two wives, one named Siddhi (Success) and the other named Riddhi (Prosperity). One who pleases the Lord, automatically comes in the good books of his two wives. Ganesha, the embodiment of wisdom, is also depicted as the scribe to whom sage Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata. He is accepted as the god of learning and the patron of letters. The ancient sages, in their infinite wisdom, have designed Hindu deities with specific Vedantic attributes in mind. That the Supreme can be worshipped in any form is a concept unique to Hinduism." “What greater freedom than to experience God with such a great variety of creative expression?” - Vighneshwara (Remover or controller of all obstacles), Who is Ganapati/Ganesa? Ganapati is the Self. In a sentence, Ganesa simply means "Self-realization is but the removal of obstacles to the recognition of the eternal, immanent, inner self, here and now." Significance of the Ganesha Form Ganesha's head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. In his upper right hand Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha's left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties. The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse. Ganesha is usually depicted either as a pictograph or as an idol with the body of a man and the head of an elephant, having only one tusk, the other tusk appearing broken. His unique feature, besides the elephant head, is the large belly practically falling over his lower garment. On his chest, across his left shoulder, is his sacred thread, often in the form of a snake. The vehicle of Ganesha is the mouse, often seen paying obeisance to his lord. According to the strict rules of Hindu iconography, Ganesha figures with only two hands are taboo. Hence, Ganesha figures are most commonly seen with four hands which signify their divinity. Some figures may be seen with six, some with eight, some with ten, some with twelve and some with fourteen hands, each hand carrying a symbol which differs from the symbols in other hands. There are about 57 symbols in all, according to the findings of research scholars. The physical attributes of Ganesha are themselves rich in symbolism. He is normally shown with one hand in the abhaya pose of protection and refuge and the second holding a sweet (modaka), symbolic of the sweetness of the realized inner self. In the two hands behind him he often holds an ankusha (elephant goad) and a pasha (noose). The noose is to convey that worldly attachments and desires are a noose. The goad is to prod man to the path of righteousness and truth. With this goad Ganesha can both strike and repel obstacles. His pot belly signifies the bounty of nature and also that Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the Universe and protects the world.