Ganesha (also known as Ganesh, Ganapati, Vinakaya, and Pillaiyar) is one of the most well-known and worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. Although his depictions are found throughout India, devotion to him extends beyond to Jains and Buddhists. His is recognised most clearly through his elephant head – a sacred symbol of wisdom in Hindu culture. He is also typically portrayed holding four items in his four hands:
1. ANKUSHA (GOAD) - UPPER RIGHT HAND
The goad is a traditional tool used to direct elephants. It is symbolic of how one should steer their spirit away from ignorance and is also used by Ganesha to smite obstacles away.
2. PASHA (NOOSE) – UPPER LEFT HAND
The noose is used to draw his flock closer to him and to prevent them from straying too far from the righteous path.
3. MODAKAPATRA (BOWL OF SWEETS) – LOWER LEFT HAND
Although Ganesha is known to have a sweet tooth, the bowl of sweets (usually modakas and laddus) actually represents moksha, liberation from suffering, the sweetest of all things. It is also a reminder to his devotees about the sweetness of spiritual gifts of enlightenment.
4. ABHAYA MUDRA (GESTURE OF PROTECTION/FEARLESSNESS) – LOWER RIGHT HAND
Ganesha raises his free hand to offer his blessings on anyone willing to receive – conferring protection, care and guidance through challenging obstacles, and freely given without judgment – a hallmark of why Ganesha is the deity of the everyman.
Lord Ganesha Lithophane, a handy mood light that comes with a dimmable rechargeable LED Kit (right).
Ganesh Chaturthi is the birthday of Ganesha, which starts on the fourth day of the Bhadrapada (the Hindu luni-solar calendar), typically falling in the month of August or September of the Gregorian Calendar (19 September in 2023). Depending on texts, he was either created by Shiva, Parvati, both of them, or born from the elephant-headed goddess Malini after drinking Parvati’s bath water thrown into the river. He is also the adopted son of Lakshmi; click here to learn more about their duality and why they are worshipped together.
For this 10-day celebration, devotees place clay idols both in private and in public spaces on elaborate pandals (temporary stages) and for ten days devotees bring offerings of flowers and alms to the statue and perform religious fasting. At the end of the tenth day, a procession carries the clay statue to be immersed in the most convenient body of water where the clay statues melts, symbolising Ganesha’s return to his celestial abode.
THE RELATABLE DOMAINS OF GANESHA
Ganesha appeals to many devotees due to his domains:
1. REMOVER OF OBSTACLES
Ganesha is believed to remove physical and spiritual obstacles from the path of his devotees. This is seen when he helped the Pandavas defeat the Kauravas in the Mahabharata. To reclaim their kingdom, Ganesha assisted them in finding their way through the forest, defeating the demons standing in their way, and win the final battle against the Kauravas.
The sacred elephant is also usually path makers in forests. When they pass through thick woods, a clear path is made for other animals to follow and use
2. GOD OF NEW BEGINNINGS
Ganesha is often depicted as sitting on a lotus flower – a symbol of new beginnings and purity. This is why he is often worshipped before starting any new venture such as a new business or job, a new relationship, or shifting phase from adolescence to adulthood.
There is also a fable of Ganesha fighting with his brother Karthikeya about who was wiser. Their parents settled the predicament by having them race around the Earth three times. Knowing that he could not outspeed his brother’s mount Paravani (Peacock) with his Mushika (Mouse), he instead circled around his parents three times and declared himself the winner, explaining that his parents are the world to him. Shiva was happy with his son’s wisdom that he granted a boon to Ganesha that he would be worshipped at the start of any ceremony or puja.
3. PATRON OF KNOWLEDGE AND LEARNING
When sage Vyāsa decided to compose the Mahabharata, he selected Ganesha to scribe the epic with one condition – that he has to do it non-stop until the end. It was the longest dictation ever, culminating in 200,000 verses and about 1.8 million words total – roughly 10 times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, and about four times the length of the Ramayana.
Vyāsa barely stopped, which is why Vedic Sanskrit has no commas. He did not pause when finishing sentences, but Ganesha was wise enough to add a full stop at the end of every verse. He also broke the feather quill at one point and through sheer determination broke off one of his tusks to use as a pen. This is why Ganesha is popular amongst scholars and intellects.
4. GOD OF WISDOM AND MASTERY OVER EGO
Ganesha’s Mushika also symbolises ego and unending cravings and requires Ganesha’s wisdom and enlightenment to fully keep in control. His broken left tusk represents emotions, whereas his unbroken right tusk represent wisdom – signifying you need to have wisdom over your emotions to surpass the mind-body duality to achieve bliss and tranquillity.
LLADRÓ’S TRIBUTE TO LORD GANESHA
Lladro’s collection of the Hindu pantheon will not be complete without Lord Ganesha himself. Ernest Massuet and the design team at Lladró took great care to include all significant features so that Lord Ganesha is depicted as accurately within their High Porcelain creation: Lord Ganesha Sculpture Limited Edition. Limited to 1800 numbered units, this piece features an astounding flower garland containing over 206 delicate flowers, all handcrafted petal by petal. The matt porcelain piece is also embellished with glossy accents, enamel work, and 24K gold lustre finishes. The single-firing high-temperature allows for the piece to achieve the softest of pastel tones, thus be fully UV- and fade-resistant to last a lifetime.
Bansuri Ganesha Figurine (left). Ganesha Figurine (middle). Lord Ganesha Figurine (right).
Learn more about other Hindu deities: