Lord Ganesha Iconography

Lord Ganesha Symbolism

32 Forms of Lord Ganesha

1.Bala Ganpati: Bala Ganpati is the “Childlike” God of golden hue. He holds a banana, mango, sugarcane and jackfruit in his hands, all representing the earth’s abundance and fertility. He garners his favourite sweet modaka in his trunk.
2.Taruna Ganpati: Taruna Ganpati is eight armed and holds a noose and goad, modaka, wood apple, rose apple, his broken tusk, a sprig of paddy and a sugar cane stalk. His blossoming youth is represented from his brilliant red colour.
3.Bhakti Ganpati: Bhakti Ganpati is always pleasant to look upon and dear to its devotees because it shines like the full moon during the harvest season and is garlanded with flowers. He holds a banana, a mango, coconut and a bowl of sweet payasa pudding.
4.Vira Ganpati: Vira Ganpati is a “Valliant Warrior” and assumes a commanding pose. His sixteen arms bristle with weapons, symbols of mind powers: a goad, discus, bow, arrow, sword, shield, spear, mace, a battleaxe, a trident and more.
5.Shakti Ganpati: Four-armed and seated with one of his shaktis on his knee, Shakti Ganapati guards the household. He holds a garland, noose and goad and bestows blessings with the abhaya mudra.
6.Dvija Ganapathi: Four-headed Dvija Ganapati is moon like in colour. Holding a noose, a goad, an ola leaf structure, a staff, water vessel and his japa beads. He reminds everybody of urgency for a disciplined striving.
7.Siddhi Ganapati: Golden-yellow Siddhi Ganpati is the personification of achievement and self-mastery. He comfortably sits holding a bouquet of flowers, an axe, mango, sugarcane and in his trunk a tasty sesame sweet.
8.Ucchhishta Ganapati: “Lord of blessed offerings” Ucchhishta Ganapati is the guardian of culture. He is of blue complexion and is six armed. He sits with his shakti, holding a vina, pomegranate, blue lotus flower, japa mala and a sprig of fresh paddy.
9.Vighna Ganapati: “Lord of obstacles” Vighna Ganapati, is of brilliant gold hue and bedecked in jewels. His eight arms hold a noose and goad, tusk and modaka, conch and discus, a bouquet of flowers, sugarcane, flower arrow and an axe.
10.Kshipra Ganapati: Kshipra Ganapati is handsome and red-hued and displays his broken tusk, a noose, a goad and a sprig of wish fulfilling tree. He also holds a tiny pot of precious jewels in his uplifted trunk.
11.Heramba Ganapati: Heramba Ganapati is five-faced, white in colour, protector of the weak and rides a big lion. He gives gestures of protection and blessing while holding a noose, japa beads, axe, hammer, tusk, garland, fruit and modaka.
12.Lakshmi Ganpati: Lakshmi Ganapati is the pure white giver of success. He holds a green parrot, a pomegranate, sword, goad and a water vessel.
13.Maha Ganpati: Maha Ganapati is red-complexioned and three-eyed. He holds his tusk, a pomegranate, blue lily, sugar cane bow, discus, noose, lotus, paddy sprig, mace and a pot of gems.
14.Vijaya Ganpati: Four-armed, red-hued and riding his resourceful mushika, Vijaya Ganpati is the bestower of success. His symbols are the broken tusk, elephant goad, a noose and a golden mango, his favourite food.
15.Nritya Ganpati: Nritya Ganpati the happy dancer is four armed and golden in colour, with rings on his figures, holding a tusk, goad, noose and modaka. He symbolizes exuberant activity and joy.
16.Urdhva Ganpati: Urdhva Ganapati is the lord of golden hue and is seated with one of his shaktis on his left knee. In his six hands he holds a sprig of paddy, a lotus, the sugarcane bow, an arrow, his ivory tusk and blue water lily.
17.Ekakshara Ganpati: Ekakshara Ganapati is three-eyed and is of red complexion and attire. He sits in a lotus pose upon Mushika, offers boon-giving gestures and holds a pomegranate, noose and goad.
18.Varada Ganpati: Varada Ganapati holds a dish of honey, the noose and goad and encloses a pot of jewels in his trunk. His shakti is on his side and the crescent moon adorns his crown.
19.Tryakshara Ganpati: “The lord of three words” (A-U-M) Tryakshara Ganapati is gold in colour and has fly whisks in his big floppy ears. He carries the broken tusk, goad, noose and mango and is seen grasping sweet modaka in his trunk.
20.Kshipra Prasada Ganpati: Kshipra Prasada Ganapati is also known as “the quick rewarder”. His big belly symbolizes the manifest universe. He holds a noose, goad, tusk, lotus, pomegranate and a twig of wish fulfilling tree.
21.Haridra Ganpati: Haridra Ganapati dressed in bright yellow vestments sits calmly on a regal throne. Along with his tusk and a modaka, he wields a noose to hold the devotees close and a sharp goat to spur them onward.
22.Ekadanta Ganpati: Ekdanta is distinguished by his blue colour and sizeable belly. Some attributes of this Ganapati are an axe for cutting the bonds of ignorance, prayer beads for japa, a laddu sweet and a broken right tusk.
23.Srishti Ganpati: Srishti Ganapati is the lord of happy “Manifestation”. This active God of red complexion holds a goad, a mango and his tusk representing selfless sacrifice.
24.Uddanda Ganpati: Uddanda Ganapati is the “Enforcer of Dharma” the laws of being. His ten hands hold a pot of gems, a blue lily, sugar cane, a mace, lotus flower, sprig of paddy, a pomegranate, noose, garland and his broken tusk.
25.Rinamochana Ganpati: Rinamochana Ganapati is the human liberator from guilt and bondage. He possesses a noose and a goad, his milk-white tusk and a favourite fruit, the rose apple.
26.Dhundhi Ganapati: Red-hued Dhundhi Ganapati holds a strand of rudraksha beads, his broken tusk, an axe and a small pot of precious gems. He saves for all ardent devotees.
27.Dvimukha Ganapati: Dvimukh Ganapati sees in all the directions. His blue-green form is dressed in red silk. He wears an ornamented crown and holds a noose, goad, his tusk and pot of gems.
28.Trimukha Ganapati: Trimukha Ganapati is a “three-faced” God and sits on a golden lotus, holding a noose, goad and vessel of nectar. He shows a gesture of protection with his right hand and blessings with the left.
29.Sinha Ganapati: Sinha Ganapati is white in colour, rides a lion and displays another lion in one hand, symbolizing strength and fearlessness. He also holds a sprig of the wish fulfilling tree, the vina, a lotus blossom, flower bouquet and a pot of jewels.
30.Yoga Ganapati: This Yoga Ganapati is absorbed in mantra japa. His knees are strapped in meditative pose, hands holding a yoga staff, sugar cane stalk, a noose and prayer beads. The colour of his skin is like the morning sun and blue garments adorn his form.
31.Durga Ganapati: Durga Ganapati waves the flag of victory over darkness. This Ganapati is of deep gold hue, dressed in red, holding a bow and arrow, noose and goad, prayer beads, broken tusk and a rose apple.
32.Sankatahara Ganpati: Sankatahara Ganapati, is of sun like hue, is dressed in blue and seated on a red lotus flower. He holds a bowl of pudding, a goad and a noose while gesturing the boon granting varada mudra.

The 8 Incarnations of Lord Ganesha

The Hindu classics claim that Lord Ganesha has enjoyed eight physical incarnations, according to the mudgalpurana (20/5-12), the incarnations are: Vakratunda, Ekdunta, Mahodara, Gajanana, Lambodara, Vikata, Vighnaraja, and Dhoomravarna. Yes, he does have an elephant trunk in every single one of these incarnations! Most of his lives seem to involve slaying demons! But each lifetime was different in some way, and his mode of carriage (the animal he rode) changed in certain lifetimes -- in one life he rode a peacock and in another he traded his ever reliable mouse, for a noble lion! There is an easy to notice symbolic function in these eight incarnations. In each lifetime, Lord Ganesha fought against and subdued a different demon. Each demon relates to a flaw in human nature, something which needs to be overcome before one can become a higher man. The eight weaknesses which Lord Ganesha spent eight lifetimes overcoming are: Jealousy, Drunkenness, Illusion, Greed, Anger, Desire, Egotism, and Self-Infatuation (Arrogance).

Incarnation 1 - Vakratunda

In his first incarnation, Lord Ganesha was known as vakratunda (the curved trunk one).

If you see Lord Ganesha pictured with a curved trunk, you can assume this is a celebration of Lord Ganesha’s first lifetime. Basically, Vakratunda was the Lord Ganesha who slayed the demon Matsarasura and his vehicle is the lion on which he is seated. Matsarasura (or Matsara) was (and still is) a symbol of jealousy. Thus symbolically, Lord Ganesha/Vakratunda is the god who destroys and overcomes the destructive power of jealousy.


Incarnation 2 - Ekdunta

In his second incarnation, Lord Ganesha played the role of "Ekdunta", with the mouse as his mode of conveyance. He fought the demon Madasur and managed to subdue him. Ekdunta (or Ekadanta) means "the lord who has only one tusk". Madasur (or mada) was the demon of drunkenness.

One question for the scholars: why does Lord Ganesha have only one tusk? The reason for this, according to Padma Purana, is that one day when lord Shiva was sleeping; sage Parashurama came to visit him. However, Lord Ganesha would not allow Parashurama in, for his father's sleep would be disturbed. When Parashurama insisted he be permitted entry, a fight broke out. In the course of their struggle, Parashurama threw his axe at Lord Ganesha. This axe had been given to Parashurama by lord Shiva. Recognizing the axe and out of reverence for his father, Lord Ganesha refused to intercept the weapon. He bowed and took its impact on one of his tusks, which broke. This broken tusk was used by him to write the epic, Mahabharata. Lord Ganesha, the embodiment of wisdom, is also depicted as a scribe to whom sage Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata. He is accepted as the god of learning and the patron of letters.

Incarnation 3 - Mahodara

In his third incarnation, Lord Ganesha assumed the form of "Mahodara", once again using the mouse as his vehicle.

Mahodara contested the demon Mohasur, and won. In fact Lord Ganesha/Mahodara was so successful that Mohasur became a staunch supporter, effectively won over to the good side of the force. Lord Ganesha/Mahodara also slew two other demons, Durbuddhi and his son Jnanaari. This quote comes from Mahodara - Astha Vinayaka, concerning the fell dictatorship of the demon Mohasur: "Mohasur (sic) worshipped the sun god and attained the name of Daityaraja meaning king of the demons. He also conquered all the three worlds... "all the gods, sages hid in caves and jungles in fear of him. There was anarchy all over. At this time Surya, sun god advised all the gods to worship Mahodara. "all the gods and the sages started worshipping Mahodara (he is really Lord Ganesha) At last Lord Ganesha/Mahodara was pleased with their devotion and blessed them, by saying that he would slay Mohasur himself. "When Shukracharya heard this, he told Mohasur to surrender in front of Mahodara. Lord Vishnu also explained to Mohasur that if he surrendered he will not be killed or destroyed. That's why he should accept the friendship of Mahodara. By saying this he started praising and singing the glories of lord Lambodara. "Listening to this Mohasur became frightened and he requested Lord Vishnu to bring Mahodara giving him due honour and respect.”When lord Mahodara arrived, Mohasur greeted and welcomed him with pomp and gaiety. He sang his praises and asked for forgiveness for his evil sins. Mohasur promised the gods that he would return them their swargalok and assured that he would be always on the path of righteousness. He also assured them that henceforth, he would not a dare to harass the gods and sages.” listening to this lord Mahodara was pleased and commanded him to go back to Pataal Lok and never return again. All the gods and the sages were elated; they all started singing the praise of lord Mahodara. This tale is situated in Taluka Kholapur, district Raigad."

Incarnation 4 - Gajanana

In his fourth incarnation, Lord Ganesha assumed the form of "Gajanana", with the mouse as his vehicle. Gajanana made the demon Lobhasur or Lobha (son of Kuber) submit and surrender before him, before putting him to death. Gajanana means "the lord with an elephant face", and Lobha was the demon of greed.

Incarnation 5 Lambodara

The lord with the protuberant belly; who mastered Krodha, the demon of anger. Lord Ganesha's ever-present obesity is emphasized in this particular manifestation. For the Ganapatiya devotees, who consider Lord Ganesha as the supreme god and the master of the universe, the sweet given as offerings are seen like seeds of innumerable worlds inhabited by innumerable living creatures, and the god's belly is large enough to contain within all these worlds and creatures.

Incarnation 6 - Vikata

Vikata ("the misshapen"), who subdued Kama (Kamasur), the demon of desire. Interestingly, Lord Ganesha traded in his mouse vehicle to ride a peacock in this manifestation.

Incarnation 7 - Vighnaraja

Vighnaraja, the 7th incarnation of Lord Ganesha, had an even more unusual mode of conveyance, a Sheshnaag or Shasha. In this lifetime Lord Ganesha managed to subdue the demon Mamasur (also known as Mamtasur or Mama), the demon of the ego. The hindustan times has this story to tell of Vighnaraja: "this is his (Lord Ganesha's) most popular incarnation, known as the remover of obstacles. Riding his vehicle called Sheshnag, a serpent; he strode into battle with Mamtasur, and overcame him."

Incarnation 8 - Dhoomravarna

In his final incarnation, Lord Ganesha returned to having a mouse as his vehicle. His life mission this time around was to defeat the demon Ahamkarasur, the demon of self-infatuation. The word "Aham" means the human ego. Aham is the demonic forces which grips the human mind like a vice, with cruelty and deception, and never let’s go until the very bitter end. Like a parasitic worm Aham is so entrenched in the psyche, the human host eventually thinks that this is all that s/he can identify with. This demon has also been called Ahamkarasur, or Abhimanasur, both words again pointing to the inextricable control of the ego on the human. Lord Ganesha can smash the bonds of your ego.

Sources from various internet site and listings.

www.templenet.com, www.littleindia.com, www.hindunet.org, www.aryabhatt.com