The paintings of the many-hued Ganapathis symbolised various little vedantic truths. I found it soul satisfying to do more research and compiled a little commentary for each one of them. The following explanations can be understood better if viewed alongside each image.
This “childlike” God, represented here in a red hue, reminds us of two important concepts. First, this sacred form of our beloved elephant God is shown here as holding four different fruits in each of his four hands. These are: a banana, mango, sugarcane and jackfruit, all of which symbolise the bountiful nature of Mother Earth. We have to respect all aspects of this universe as manifestation of the supreme Lord, especially the earth that both sustains and nourishes us! Ganesha represents unity, harmony and man’s eternal striving towards integration with nature.
Secondly, Baala Ganapathi can be worshipped only through pure love - isn’t that what a child expects and what a mother gives unquestioningly? This image directs our attention to qualities of tolerance, compassion and love towards children!
This image in a brilliant red colour reflects the blossoming of youth! Lord Ganapathi is seen in this picture with eight hands holding: a noose, goad, modaka, wood apple, rose apple, a broken tusk, sprig of paddy and a sugar cane stalk. While the fruits he holds remind us of the need to respect the bountiful aspect of mother earth, the noose and goad represent the need for disciplined living, development of both mind and sense control, and the importance of developing virtues like compassion, tolerance, fortitude and bhakthi. The modaka stands for the happiness that enlightened souls attain when they have discovered that beneath the outer layers of this gross body lies the Atman, or pure conciousness. This is the ultimate truth that provides true liberation for the mature spiritual seeker!
Shining with the pearly- white lustre of a full moon, Bhakthi Ganapathi is very dear to his devotees. He protects and rewards everyone who worships him with great faith and devotion. Indeed, along with fruits like a mango, banana and a coconut that he holds in his hands, this God is seen to hold out a bowl of sweet payasam - the ultimate reward of “wisdom” or “liberation” to those who ask for it! The main significance of this image is to highlight the fact that God can be worshipped for producing both material benefits such as wealth, prosperity, etc, as well as non-material or spiritual (Nishkaama) benefits. In the latter mode of worship, the devotee seeks to discover the “truth” of Atman- i.e. that the supreme Lord resides as the life giving energy source within his intellect!
This “valiant warrior” God is like a fiery ball of fire as he strides forth to destroy his enemies! His sixteen hands bristle with various weapons, all symbols of various mental inadequacies and bad qualities or “vasanas” that afflict mankind. The general message
portrayed by this image is to conquer all these negative qualities and strive to follow a spiritual life that will eventually lead to wisdom.
This “powerful” God of a golden- red hue is four- armed and seated with one of his “shakthis” on his knee. It should be pointed out here that Lord Ganapathi’s consort merely symbolises the “energy” or “power” within the Lord, as well as within all of us! The essential significance of this image is that when the mind is cleansed of all its impurities it is firmly set on the path of bhakthi. Firm faith in Lord Ganapathi results in fulfilment of both material desires as well as the wisdom to understand the finite nature of wordly pleasures .The true seeker will then develop the intelligence and discrimination required in his quest for peace of mind and liberation.
The four- headed Dvija ganapathi is moon-like in colour. He holds in his hands the sacred scriptures and japa beads, along with a goad and staff. The significance of this image is primarily to highlight the importance of faith in the Vedas and holy teachings. It also reminds us of the necessity of following a life that incorporates the ideals and values stressed by our ancient rishis, and which involves spending some portion of our time in prayer, meditation and self- awareness!
Glowing like the sun, Siddhi Ganapathi is the “accomplished” one. He represents the epitome of self mastery and the achievement of the Ashta Siddhis. According to ancient yogic scriptures, these siddhis or “powers” that a yogi can possesss are: Anima, the power to make the physical body very small ; Mahima, the ability to make the body very big; Laghima, the capacity to make oneself very light; Garima, the power to make oneself very heavy; Prapti, the ability to acquire any material items; Prakaamya, the ability to satisfy any whim or wish of the mind; Ishitva, the power to dominate or rule over anyone, and Vashitva , the capacity to control the mind of another.In addition to these siddhis, yoga shastra mentions several other powers, including the control over one’s hunger and thirst, ageing, and so on. However, the greatest siddhi is, of course, self-realisation and the awareness that these intermediate siddhis are in fact a hindrance to that essential “knowledge” of the Atman!
This is a very rare and unique form of the Lord with the figure of Shakthi in his lap. Ucchista Ganapathi is the “Lord of Blessed Offerings” and guardian of music, art and culture. Of blue complexion, he sits with his consort, holding in his six hands a veena, a pomegranate, blue lotus flower, japa mala, and a sprig of paddy. Worship of the Lord in this form is believed, in tantric scriptures, to enhance friendship and love and to remove misunderstandings among people!
Of a brilliant golden-yellow hue, Vighna Ganapathi- protects his devotees and removes the obstacles they might encounter in life whether it is in the pursuit of material ends or spiritual progress. This image is represented here with 8 hands holding a noose, goad,
conch, discus, sugarcane, an axe, tusk, and a bunch of flowers.While the noose and goad remind us of the importance of discipline and control of senses, the conch and discus represent the protective gesture of this great Lord towards those who follow the path of Dharma.
The axe is of course symbolic of cutting through the bonds of Samsara, while the broken tusk is a sign of the disappearance of ego, and the flowers and sugarcane can be taken to represent both the beauty and bounty of nature!
This red-hued representation of Ganapathi is symbolic of the “Quick action” of the Lord, as a giver of boons. Indeed, in one of his hands this deity holds a sprig of the Kalpavriksha or wish-fulfilling tree! In his uplifted trunk there nestles a pot of precious jewels, a symbol of “wisdom or enlightenment”. In his other hands he holds a noose- to protect his devotees and hold them close , as well as the goad to prod them onwards on the path of righteous conduct!
Five-faced, white in colour and riding on a lion, Heramba Ganapathi is the “Protector of the Weak”. He extends the gestures of protection and blessing with two of his hands. The other eight hold a variety of objects: a noose, symbol of sense control; an axe and hammer, both representing the cutting away of bonds of samsara and reminding us of the importance of discipline; japa beads, indicating the necessity of spiritual practice and meditation as an important pre- requisite for acquiring purity of mind; a garland, fruit and modaka, all representing fulfilment of wishes both material as well as spiritual!
The significance of this image is to teach us that peace of mind and liberation can be acquired only with the complete destruction of the various mental inadequacies that afflict us!
Lakshmi Ganapathi, pure white giver of success and prosperity, sits flanked by his two consorts - Wisdom and Achievement. Gesturing a Varada mudra with one of his hands, this Lord holds in his other hands a green parrot, a pomegranate, a sword, goad, noose, sprig of Kalpavriksha and a water vessel.
In this image, again, we see the importance of leading a disciplined life in order to acquire the pre requisite Sadhana Chathustaya Sampathi, or mind and sense control, which in turn sets a seeker very firmly on the path of self- knowledge and attainment of wisdom.
Bhakthi is given importance here, as it is only through unwavering faith in first, a saguna deity, that a seeker is set on the path towards realising nirgunam Brahman!
The “Great” Mahaa Ganapathi is red–hued and three-eyed. Accompanied by one of his Shakthis he holds in his ten hands a tusk, a pomegranate, blue lily, a sugarcane bow, a discus, noose, lotus, sprig of paddy, a mace and a pot of gems.
Worship of the deity in this form promises all kinds of glorious things to the devotee, both material objects as well as spiritual progress.
However, it is only the discerning individual, having developed adequate purity of mind, vairagyam and spiritual strength, who can attain the true treasure of Moksha or liberation, and have peace of mind while sailing through the sea of Samsara or Life.
As his name suggests, this particular form of the Elepahant- God stands for victory or success in battles. Now, these “battles” refer to various turmoils and outcomes that are the result of actions stemming from a non discriminating mind. In other words, when the mind is assailed by countless thoughts and drifts without control, like a boat tossed on stormy waters, the resulting chaos is mirrored in the upheavals in our lives. So, the need for mind control is highlighted here.
In this picture, Ganapathi is red-hued and is riding on his mount, the resourceful Mooshika. The Mooshika has enormous symbolism!
Just as a rat has a keen sense of smell, similarly, the strongly ingrained tendencies or vasanas in all of us make us a slave to the senses! Therefore the necessity for sense- control is indicated here.
The various insignia here are: the broken tusk- a reminder to reduce ego- the elephant goad, (to prod us on the correct path), a noose- to hold his devotees close and protect them, and his favourite fruit, the mango- that represents the sweetness of self- discovery!
The “ happy dancer”, symbolises excellence in all forms of art. This golden- hued Ganapathi dances happily under the shade of the wish- yielding Kalpavriksha tree, exuding great happiness and joy. In his four arms this mighty Lord holds a tusk, a goad, noose and modaka sweet.The main significance of this image is that true happiness and peace of mind can come only when the mind is totally devoid of thoughts. In the total silence, devoid of all thought, the presence of pure conciousness is revealed!
Urdhva ganapathi is “ the Elevated” Lord of the golden hue!. He is seated with one of his Shakthis on his left knee. In his six hands this deity holds a sprig of paddy, a lotus, the sugar cane bow and arrow, his ivory tusk and a blue water lily. The significance of this image is the importance of developing a spiritual outlook in life and to rise above the mundane problems that beset us !
He is the Lord who symbolises attainment of Knowledge. “Ekakshara”- of single syllable (Gam), this form of the deity is red in colour, three- eyed , and wears the crescent moon in his crown. Seated in a lotus pose upon his vehicle, Mooshika, he offers the boon- giving gesture with one of his hands, while holding in the others- a noose, goad, and a pomegranate. The importance of sense- control ( signified by the mooshika), and the necessity for following a life of values and adherence to the scriptures are the essential significance of this image.
Varada Ganapathi is the boon giver who fulfils the desires of his sincere devotees. Holding the noose and goad in his arms and enclosing a pot of jewels in his trunk, this red- hued Lord, with one of his shakthis seated on his lap, holds out a dish of honey to his
devotees! With the crescent moon adorning his crown and the predominant third eye of wisdom, this Ganapthi teaches us to lead a life of dharma, performing our duties sincerely, while keeping our minds filled with pure thoughts.
Lord Ganapathi is an iconographical example of the fundamental Vedantic dictum “ TAT TVAM ASI”—In other words, it tells us that “you” the apparently limited individual are no different from the Supreme “reality” or Brahman. The huge elephant head of Ganapathy stands for the macrocosm and the individual is represented by the human body, thereby combining in one image the simple truth of Vedanta.
Lord Ganapathi represents the pranava or AUM- which is the symbol of the supreme self- Hence in this image , He is “ the Lord of the three letters”- A- U- M.
Shining with the lustre of gold, this Lord carries in his four hands, his broken tusk, goad, noose and mango, while clutching a sweet modaka in his trunk.
KSHIPRA PRASAADA GANAPATHI.
Kshipra Prasaada Ganapathi, “ the Quick Rewarder”, is seated on a throne of Kusha grass. Red in colour, with a big belly representing this entire universe, he holds in his six hands- a noose, a goad, tusk, lotus, pomegranate and a twig of the wish- fulfilling tree.
The kusha grass throne is of special significance here as it symbolises the importance of intelligent discrimination of mind- just as razor sharp as the edges of the tall and straight kusha grass that is used in vedic rites and generally regarded as a purifier!
Golden- yellow in colour , this Lord is generally prayed for the accomplishment of all auspicious endeavours. Along with his tusk and a modaka, this deity wields a noose to hold his devotees close to his heart as they flounder in the ocean of samsara. However, he also uses a sharp goad to spur his true bhakthas onward on the path of spiritual progress!
Ekadanta, of “ Single Tusk”, is distinguished by his blue colour and sizeable belly. This giant pot belly, signifies both the bounty of nature as well as reminding us that as our saviour, the Lord swallows all sorrows and protects the universe.The attributes for this murthi are- an axe, to cut the bonds of ignorance, prayer beads for japa, a laddu to indicate the sweetness of the realised inner- self and finally, the broken tusk- to symbolise that no sacrifice is big enough in the pursuit of knowledge!
The principal symbolism of this image is for the spiritual seeker to overcome material desires, and subdue ego, in the pursuit of attaining purity of mind.
The “Lord of Creation and Manifestation” is red- hued and has four hands. He is riding on his small vehicle- the mooshika, holding in his hands- a noose, goad, a perfect mango, and his tusk representing selfless sacrifice.
This image reminds us of the importance of using intelligent discrimination to control desires and move upward on the spiritual path guided and protected at all times by the Lord who resides within all of us!
Just as the incongruity of the huge elephant sitting on the small mouse indicates the Truth that Atman is the same in all irrespective of size, birth or race, so too, does the little mouse that scampers around, stealing food at night, reminds us of the fact that our ego exists, unnoticed in our minds and wreaks havoc on our lives. Only when ego is controlled by wisdom can we make progress!
Uddanda Ganapathi is the “ Enforcer of Dharma”- the fundamental laws that govern mankind. Bright- red in colour, this Lord has ten hands, holding- a pot of gems, a blue liliy, sugarcane, a mace, lotus flower, sprig of paddy, a pomegranate, noose, garland and his broken tusk. One of his Shakthis is seated on his lap.
The importance of this image is to inform us about the Cosmic intelligence principle that is guiding and providing direction in all our lives. It is generally known that life forms progress gradually from lower to higher forms. Therefore, from the tiniest single- cell amoeba right up to man, there is some, unique force that motivates and gives direction to the unfoldment of life. It is this cosmic intelligence that is Ganesha! He represents the unity and harmony that exists in this wonderful creation, and we offer our thankful prayers to Him for upholding these eternal laws that control the Universe!
This crystal- like image of Ganapathi is humanity’s liberator from the “three debts”. This can be interpreted as freedom from the bondage of samsara, from guilt and from ignorance. Alternatively, it could also mean that faith and devotion to God would eventually enable us to pay off the three debts mentioned in our scriptures. These are: First, the debt owed to God for the creation and protection of this wonderful
universe. This debt can only be repaid by dedicating our life to the service of God and mankind and following the path of truth and righteousness. Secondly, there is the debt we owe to the great Sages and Rishis . This can only be repaid by revering their great works
and by helping to promote the transmission of scriptural teachings and keeping our heritage alive. Finally, the third debt is owed to our ancestors. This can be repaid by raising one’s family in accordance with moral andethical principles of Dharma.
Red- hued Dhundhi Ganapathi- “The Sought After”, holds in his hands a strand of rudraksha beads, his broken tusk, an axe, and a small pot of precious gems- the treasury of awakenings he saves for all his ardent devotees. The significance of this image is the
destruction of internal enemies- or bad qualities that hamper a spiritual seeker in his quest for self- knowledge. This Lord veritably resides in the mind of the Disciplined, guiding them on their spiritual quest!
With His two Divergent faces, this Lord, also called Janus by the Romans, sees in all directions! His dark hue- green form is dressed in red silk. He holds in his four hands a noose, a goad, his tusk and a pot of gems. This image signifies the accomplishment of happiness and attainment of the treasure symbolised by the pot of gems. It is with the help of his noose as reins that the Lord guides us in the right path, helping us to cut through the knot of binding desires and attachments. The goad is used to gently prod the true seeker along the path of spiritual progress and also used as a weapon to repel and strike out at obstacles.
With His Three faces, this Lord of Red- hue, sits in a contemplative pose on a golden lotus, doing his japa with the rudraksha beads.
While one hand grants wishes and the other is raised in the protective gesture, this Ganapathi of six hands, also holds a noose, a goad and a vessel of nectar. The significance of this image is the importance of the blessings of Dattatreya, the Supreme teacher or Guru!
Although a spiritual seeker might have accomplished mind and sense control and developed tremendous spiritual strength, true liberation can only be achieved with the wisdom gained from the teachings of an Enlightened Guru!
Symbolising Strength and Fearlessness, Simha Ganapathi is astride his vehicle- the lion. He reminds us of the need to destroy the evil tendencies and mental inadequacies that cause us so much unhappiness in our lives, and by gesturing protection as well as blessings with his right and left hand, respectively, this deity highlights the fact that He is indeed available for his ardent devotees and will guide them to achieve spiritual maturity! In his other hands, he holds a kalpavriksha sprig ( from the wish- yielding tree),the veena, to indicate excellence in music and arts, a lotus blossom, a flower bouquet- to signify the beauty of nature and the harmony in the universe, and finally a pot of jewels, to inform us that the real treasure we seek lies deep within all of us!
Accomplishment of Dhyaana Yoga is the significance of this form of Ganapathi. His knees are strapped in a meditative pose, and his hands hold a yoga staff, sugar cane stalk, a noose and prayer beads. His colour is golden, like the morning sun! According to the Vedas, the real nature of a form of God is the specific set of syllables (mantra), generated by contemplating on that form. In other words, Gods are of the form of mantras. For example, when we see a “horse”, the word “horse” comes to mind. The image of horse gets imprinted on
the mind and the mind experiences a subtle vibration. According to the famous work of Paneeni called Shabdopatti ( mechanism of sound production), this initial, specific vibration kindles the Shareeagni ( fire inside the body)- this in turn causes the internal Vayu(air) to expand and get activated. This in turn activates Prana, which is normally lying dormant in the Mooladhara chakra. Consequently, these physiological electrical impulses get transformed to potential acoustic impulses, and this rises up to the throat region ( Visuddha chakra). A fusion of sorts take place here and, by impinging on certain sound producing spots, result in the creation of specific mantras!
Therefore, when a person thinks of an abstract concept like God-depending on the attribute of the object of thought, a certain set of acoustic impulses originate in the Mooladhara, manifest later in the Visuddha, and come out from the mouth as Mantras! However, it is only a very pure heart that has been steadied by yoga that can perceive such mantra forms of Gods. Sages and Seers ( Mantra Dhrashtas), have recorded that the very first syllable heard was indeed the OMKARA- the first mantra with which Ganesha is worshipped!
Durgaa Ganapathi is the “ Invincible One”, and he is seen here waving the flag of victory over darkness. This splendid murthi of a deep golden hue affords protection to his devotees while undertaking any long journey! In his eight hands he holds, a bow and arrow, a noose and goad, prayer beads a broken tusk and a wood apple. The weapons indicate the protective nature of the Lord- the noose and goad, the importance of sense control , purity of mind and the prayer beads- the significance of prayer , meditation , the broken tusk- an eternal reminder that no sacrifice is too great for attaining wisdom, and the fruit- the recognition of the vedantic truth that is indeed deep within us!
He is the “ Dispeller of all Sorrow” – this Lord of a red- hue, seated with a Shakthi on his lap, on a lotus flower! He holds a bowl of sweet pudding, a goad and a noose, while gesturing the boon- giving varadha mudra. The significance of worshipping the murthi in this particular form is the eradication of all obstacles and hardships that assail a house holder! Indeed, the essential principle of loving Ganesha is that one looks within oneself to find the divine energy! Ganesha is often described as the presiding deity of the Mooladhara Chakra, represented by a lotus flower and an elephant--- Symbols such as these should not detract from the very simple truth that God, as an Abstract notion is immanent and manifest in every single sentient and non sentient being or object in the universe. Adopting a life of values , having a pure mind and being of service to humanity in general , will help remove the layers of accumulated vasanas and mental inadequacies and place a true seeker on the path of spiritual progress under the guidance of a Guru!