Ganesha: The Elephant God in the Room

Ganesha: The Elephant God in the Room


One of the most well-known deities in Hindu tradition is Ganesha, who is depicted as an elephant headed god. The name Ganesha means the “Lord of the People.” Ganesha is the son of Shiva, one of the main gods in the Hindu trimurti, and his consort Parvati.

Shiva Family

There are a few different legends that explain the birth of Ganesha. According to one, Parvati created her son out of a piece of cloth, which she asked Shiva to bring to life. However, another popular myth tells the story of how Parvati was taking a bath and molded the dirt that she was rubbing off of herself into the shape of a child, who then came to life. Upon seeing the boy, either Shiva or one of his attendants cut the child’s head off. Shiva then got an elephant and cut its head off as well in order grant it to the headless Ganesha. Thus, the icon of Ganesha as a lord with an elephant head came to be.

Large Lord Ganesha with a Traditional Prabhavali and Parasol Atop


Ganesha is worshipped as the Lord of success and the god of knowledge, wisdom, and wealth. His large elephant head, accordingly, represents deep wisdom, understanding, and an astute intellect. Hindus also believe that he is the destroyer of evils and obstacles, paving the way for one to move forward in life. He is, therefore, considered the patron of bankers, intellectuals, scribes, and authors. Many devotees worship Ganesha before embarking on a new enterprise. The Hindu tradition of Ganapatya worships Ganesha as their supreme deity. The Ganesh Chaturthi, which is a ten-day summer festival between August to September, is celebrated in his honor.

38" Large Ganesha with Designer Arch | Handmade | Madhuchista Vidhana (Lost-Wax) | Panchaloha Bronze from Swamimalai

Aside from his elephant head, Ganesha is depicted as having a large mouth and a hefty potbelly. These are said to represent the innate human desire to enjoy life. As such, Ganesha is also often portrayed holding Indian sweets in his one hand, which he’s fond of. Ganesha is likewise frequently portrayed with an Indian bandicoot rat or small mouse as his vahana or vehicle. This is meant to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to overcome any seemingly insurmountable challenge and achieve what he wants. Legend also has it that the mouse was actually an evil demon that Ganesha defeated and trapped. As punishment, from that day forward, the demon mouse was made to carry Ganesha wherever he went.

Lord Ganesha with Riddhi and Siddhi Tanjore Painting | Traditional Colors With 24K Gold | Teakwood Frame | Gold & Wood | Handmade | Made In India

Some Hindus believe that Ganesha has two wives – Buddhi, who represents intelligence and Siddhi who is synonymous for success. However, other traditions state that Ganesha has a third wife called Riddhi, representing prosperity.

Ganesha is very well-known for having written the legendary Mahabharata. It is believed that the sage Vyasa wanted to dictate an epic poem as it came to his mind. However, he couldn’t find anyone on Earth who could write it down for him. Vyasa then went to Ganesha as the destroyer of obstacles and Lord of success in order to help him. Ganesha then wrote down the Mahabharata as Vyasa recited it. While writing it down, Ganesha’s pen broke. Having agreed to write the epic poem in its entirety without stopping, Ganesha then broke one of his tusks and used it to finish writing the Mahabharata. This is the reason behind the popular image of Ganesha with a broken tusk held in his other hand.

Lord Ganesha Writing the Mahabharata

As the Lord of success and the writer of one of the most important Hindu legends, it is no surprise that Ganesha is one of the most worshipped and well-known gods in Hinduism.
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