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also spelled Ganesa or Ganesh and also known as
Ganapati, Vinayaka, and Pillaiyar, is one of the
best-known and most widely worshipped
deities in the
His image is found throughout
Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations.
Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends
to Jains, Buddhists, and beyond India.
Although he is known by many other attributes, Ganesha's elephant
head makes him easy to identify.
Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles
and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles (Vighnesha,
patron of arts and sciences, and the
deva of intellect and wisdom.
He is honoured at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies and invoked as
Patron of Letters during writing sessions.
Several texts relate
mythological anecdotes associated with his birth and exploits and
explain his distinct iconography.
Ganesha emerged as a distinct deity in clearly recognizable form in
the 4th and 5th centuries
Gupta Period, although he inherited traits from Vedic and pre-Vedic
His popularity rose quickly, and he was formally included among the five
primary deities of
Smartism (a Hindu denomination) in the 9th century. A sect of
devotees called the
ga?apatya), who identified Ganesha as the supreme deity, arose
during this period.
The principal scriptures dedicated to Ganesha are the
Ganesha Purana, the
Mudgala Purana, and the
Ganesha as 'Shri Mayureshwar' with consorts Buddhi and
(the central shrine for the regional
Ganesha has many other titles and epithets, including Ganapati
and Vigneshvara. The Hindu title of respect
sri, also spelled Sri or Shree) is often added
before his name. One popular way Ganesha is worshipped is by chanting a
Ganesha Sahasranama, a litany of "a thousand names of Ganesha".
Each name in the
sahasranama conveys a different meaning and symbolises a different
aspect of Ganesha. At least two different versions of the Ganesha
Sahasranama exist; one version is drawn from the
Ganesha Purana, a
Hindu scripture venerating Ganesha.
The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words
ga?a), meaning a group, multitude, or categorical system and
isa), meaning lord or master.
The word gana when associated with Ganesha is often taken to
refer to the ganas, a troop of semi-divine beings that form part of the
The term more generally means a category, class, community, association,
Some commentators interpret the name "Lord of the
Ganas" to mean "Lord of Hosts" or "Lord of created categories",
such as the elements.
ga?apati), a synonym for Ganesha, is a compound composed
ga?a, meaning "group", and
pati, meaning "ruler" or "lord".
an early Sanskrit lexicon, lists eight synonyms of Ganesha :
Vighnaraja (equivalent to Vignesha),
Dvaimatura (one who has two mothers),
Ga?adhipa (equivalent to Ganapati and Ganesha),
Ekadanta (one who has one tusk), Heramba, Lambodara
(one who has a pot belly, or, literally, one who has a hanging belly),
and Gajanana (IAST:
gajanana) ; having the face of an elephant).
vinayaka) is a common name for Ganesha that appears in the
Pura?as and in Buddhist Tantras.
This name is reflected in the naming of the eight famous Ganesha temples
in Maharashtra known as the
The names Vignesha (Sanskrit:
vighnesa) and Vigneshvara (Sanskrit:
vighnesvara) (Lord of Obstacles)
refers to his primary function in Hindu mythology as the creator and
remover of obstacles (vighna).
A prominent name for Ganesha in the
Tamil language is Pille or Pillaiyar (Little Child).
A. K. Narain differentiates these terms by saying that pille
means a "child" while pillaiyar means a "noble child". He adds
that the words pallu, pella, and pell in the
Dravidian family of languages signify "tooth or tusk of an
elephant", but more generally "elephant".
Anita Raina Thapan notes that the
root word pille in the name Pillaiyar might have
originally meant "the young of the elephant", because the
pillaka means "a young elephant".
Ganesha is a popular figure in
Unlike those of some deities, representations of Ganesha show wide
variations and distinct patterns changing over time.
He may be portrayed standing, dancing, heroically taking action against
demons, playing with his family as a boy, sitting down, or engaging in a
range of contemporary situations.
Images of Ganesha first appeared in Sri Lanka at least as early as
the 2nd century CE. The earliest known image occurs at the Kantaka
Mihintale, which is dated to earlier than the 1st century BC. The
figure is a one-tusked Gana (dwarf) attended by other ganas,
who hold the various attributes of the deity.
Ganesha images were prevalent in many parts of
the 6th century.
The figure shown to the right is typical of Ganesha statuary from
900–1200, after Ganesha had been well-established as an independent
deity with his own sect. This example features some of Ganesha's common
iconographic elements. A virtually identical statue has been dated
between 973–1200 by Paul Martin-Dubost,
and another similar statue is dated c. 12th century by Pratapaditya Pal.
Ganesha has the head of an elephant and a big belly. This statue has
four arms, which is common in depictions of Ganesha. He holds his own
broken tusk in his lower-right hand and holds a delicacy, which he
samples with his trunk, in his lower-left hand. The motif of Ganesha
turning his trunk sharply to his left to taste a sweet in his lower-left
hand is a particularly archaic feature.
A more primitive statue in one of the
Ellora Caves with this general form has been dated to the 7th
Details of the other hands are difficult to make out on the statue
shown. In the standard configuration, Ganesha typically holds an axe or
goad in one upper arm and a noose in the other upper arm.
The influence of this old constellation of iconographic elements can
still be seen in contemporary representations of Ganesha. In one modern
form, the only variation from these old elements is that the lower-right
hand does not hold the broken tusk but rather is turned toward the
viewer in a gesture of protection or fearlessness (abhaya
The same combination of four arms and attributes occurs in statues of
Ganesha dancing, which is a very popular theme.
A typical four-armed form. Miniature of
school (circa 1810).
Ganesha has been represented with the head of an elephant since the
early stages of his appearance in Indian art.
Puranic myths provide many explanations for how he got his elephant
One of his popular forms,
Heramba-Ganapati, has five elephant heads, and other less-common
variations in the number of heads are known.
While some texts say that Ganesha was born with an elephant head, in
most stories he acquires the head later.
The most recurrent motif in these stories is that Ganesha was born with
a human head and body and that
beheaded him when Ganesha came between Shiva and
Shiva then replaced Ganesha's original head with that of an elephant.
Details of the battle and where the replacement head came from vary
according to different sources.
In another story, when Ganesha was born, his mother, Parvati, showed off
her new baby to the other gods. Unfortunately, the god
(Saturn), who is said to have the
eye, looked at him, causing the baby's head to be burned to ashes.
Vishnu came to the rescue and replaced the missing head with that of
Another story says that Ganesha was created directly by Shiva's
laughter. Because Shiva considered Ganesha too alluring, he gave him the
head of an elephant and a protruding belly.
Ganesha's earliest name was Ekadanta (One Tusk), referring to
his single whole tusk, the other having been broken off.
Some of the earliest images of Ganesha show him holding his broken tusk.
The importance of this distinctive feature is reflected in the
Mudgala Purana, which states that the name of Ganesha's second
Ganesha's protruding belly appears as a distinctive attribute in his
earliest statuary, which dates to the Gupta period (fourth to sixth
This feature is so important that, according to the Mudgala Purana,
two different incarnations of Ganesha use names based on it:
Lambodara (Pot Belly, or, literally, Hanging Belly) and Mahodara
Both names are Sanskrit compounds describing his belly (Sanskrit:
The Brahmanda Purana says that Ganesha has the name Lambodara
because all the universes (i.e.,
cosmic eggs; IAST:
brahma??as) of the past, present, and future are present in
The number of Ganesha's arms varies; his best-known forms have between
two and sixteen arms.
Many depictions of Ganesha feature four arms, which is mentioned in
Puranic sources and codified as a standard form in some iconographic
His earliest images had two arms.
Forms with 14 and 20 arms appeared in central India during the 9th and
The serpent is a common feature in Ganesha iconography and appears in
According to the Ganesha Purana, Ganesha wrapped the serpent
Vasuki around his neck.
Other depictions of snakes include use as a sacred thread (IAST:
wrapped around the stomach as a belt, held in a hand, coiled at the
ankles, or as a throne. Upon Ganesha's forehead there may be a
eye or the
Shaivite sectarian mark (Sanskrit:
which consists of three horizontal lines.
The Ganesha Purana prescribes a tilaka mark as well as a
crescent moon on the forehead.
A distinct form of Ganesha called Bhalachandra (IAST:
bhalacandra; "Moon on the Forehead") includes that
iconographic element. Specific colors are associated with certain forms.
Many examples of color associations with specific meditation forms are
prescribed in the
Sritattvanidhi, a treatise on
Hindu iconography. For example, white is associated with his
representations as Heramba-Ganapati and Rina-Mochana-Ganapati
(Ganapati Who Releases from Bondage).
Ekadanta-Ganapati is visualized as blue during meditation on that
The earliest Ganesha images are without a
the eight incarnations of Ganesha described in the Mudgala Purana,
Ganesha has a mouse in five of them, uses a lion in his incarnation as
Vakratunda, a peacock in his incarnation of Vikata, and
the divine serpent, in his incarnation as Vighnaraja.
four incarnations of Ganesha listed in the Ganesha Purana,
Mohotkata has a lion,
Mayuresvara has a peacock, Dhumraketu has a horse, and
Gajanana has a rat.
Jain depictions of Ganesha show his vahana variously as a mouse,
elephant, tortoise, ram, or peacock.
Ganesha is often shown riding on or attended by a
Martin-Dubost says that the rat began to appear as the principal vehicle
in sculptures of Ganesha in central and western India during the 7th
century; the rat was always placed close to his feet.
The mouse as a mount first appears in written sources in the
Matsya Purana and later in the Brahmananda Purana and
Ganesha Purana, where Ganesha uses it as his vehicle only in his
Ganapati Atharvashirsa includes a meditation verse on Ganesha that
describes the mouse appearing on his flag.
Mu?akavahana (mouse-mount) and
Akhuketana (rat-banner) appear in the
The mouse is interpreted in several ways. According to Grimes, "Many,
if not most of those who interpret
Ga?apati's mouse, do so negatively; it symbolizes
tamogu?a as well as desire".
Along these lines, Michael Wilcockson says it symbolizes those who wish
to overcome desires and be less selfish.
Krishan notes that the rat is destructive and a menace to crops. The
mu?aka (mouse) is derived from the root
mu? (stealing, robbing). It was essential to subdue the rat
as a destructive pest, a type of vighna (impediment) that needed
to be overcome. According to this theory, showing Ganesha as master of
the rat demonstrates his function as Vigneshvara (Lord of
Obstacles) and gives evidence of his possible role as a folk
gramata-devata (village deity) who later rose to greater prominence.
Martin-Dubost notes a view that the rat is a symbol suggesting that
Ganesha, like the rat, penetrates even the most secret places.
A Ganesha image worshipped during Ganesh Festival in
, India. Ganesha is widely worshiped across India
as the remover of obstacles
Ganesha is Vighneshvara or Vighnaraja, the Lord of
Obstacles, both of a material and spiritual order.
He is popularly worshipped as a remover of obstacles, though
traditionally he also places obstacles in the path of those who need to
be checked. Paul Courtright says that "his task in the divine scheme of
is to place and remove obstacles. It is his particular territory, the
reason for his creation."
Krishan notes that some of Ganesha's names reflect shadings of
multiple roles that have evolved over time.
Dhavalikar ascribes the quick ascension of Ganesha in the Hindu
pantheon, and the emergence of the
Ganapatyas, to this shift in emphasis from
vighnakarta (obstacle-creator) to
However, both functions continue to be vital to his character, as Robert
Brown explains, "even after the
Pura?ic Ga?esa is well-defined, in art
Ga?esa remained predominantly important for his dual role as
creator and remover of obstacles, thus having both a negative and a
Ganesha is considered to be the Lord of letters and learning.
In Sanskrit, the word
is a feminine noun that is variously translated as intelligence, wisdom,
The concept of buddhi is closely associated with the personality of
Ganesha, especially in the Puranic period, when many stories stress his
cleverness and love of intelligence. One of Ganesha's names in the
Ganesha Purana and the
Ganesha Sahasranama is Buddhipriya.
This name also appears in a list of 21 names at the end of the
Ganesha Sahasranama that Ganesha says are especially important.
The word priya can mean "fond of", and in a marital context it
can mean "lover" or "husband",
so the name may mean either "Fond of Intelligence" or "Buddhi's
Ganesha is identified with the Hindu
also called Om). The term
o?karasvarupa (Aum is his form), when identified with
Ganesha, refers to the notion that he personifies the primal sound.
Ganapati Atharvashirsa attests to this association.
Chinmayananda translates the relevant passage as follows:
(O Lord Ganapati!) You are (the Trinity)
Mahesa. You are
You are fire [Agni]
and air [Vayu].
You are the sun [Surya]
and the moon [Chandrama].
Brahman. You are (the three worlds) Bhuloka [earth],
Antariksha-loka [space], and
Swargaloka [heaven]. You are Om. (That is to say, You are all
Some devotees see similarities between the shape of Ganesha's body in
iconography and the shape of Aum in the
Kundalini yoga, Ganesha resides in the first
Mula means "original, main"; adhara means "base,
foundation". The muladhara chakra is the principle on which the
manifestation or outward expansion of primordial Divine Force rests.
This association is also attested to in the Ganapati Atharvashirsa.
Courtright translates this passage as follows: "[O Ganesha,] You
continually dwell in the
sacral plexus at the base of the spine [muladhara
Thus, Ganesha has a permanent abode in every being at the Muladhara.
Ganesha holds, supports and guides all other chakras, thereby "governing
the forces that propel the
wheel of life".
Family and consorts
giving a bath to
. Kangra miniature, 18th century. Allahbad
Museum, New Delhi.
Though Ganesha is popularly held to be the son of
Puranic myths disagree about his birth.
He may have been created by Shiva,
or by Parvati,
or by Shiva and Parvati,
or appeared mysteriously and was discovered by Shiva and Parvati.
The family includes his brother
who is also called Karttikeya, Murugan, and other names.
Regional differences dictate the order of their births. In
northern India, Skanda is generally said to be the elder, while in
the south, Ganesha is considered the first born.
Skanda was an important martial deity from about 500 BCE to about 600
CE, when worship of him declined significantly in northern India. As
Skanda fell, Ganesha rose. Several stories tell of sibling rivalry
between the brothers
and may reflect sectarian tensions.
Ganesha's marital status, the subject of considerable scholarly
review, varies widely in mythological stories.
One pattern of myths identifies Ganesha as an unmarried
This view is common in southern India and parts of northern India.
Another pattern associates him with the concepts of Buddhi
(intellect), Siddhi (spiritual power), and Riddhi
(prosperity); these qualities are sometimes personified as goddesses,
said to be Ganesha's wives.
He also may be shown with a single consort or a nameless servant
Another pattern connects Ganesha with the goddess of culture and the
Sarda (particularly in
He is also associated with the goddess of luck and prosperity,
Another pattern, mainly prevalent in the
region, links Ganesha with the banana tree,
Shiva Purana says that Ganesha had two sons:
Ksema (prosperity) and
Labha (profit). In northern Indian variants of this story, the
sons are often said to be
Subha (auspiciouness) and
Jai Santoshi Maa shows Ganesha married to Riddhi and Siddhi and
having a daughter named
Santoshi Ma, the goddess of satisfaction. This story has no Puranic
basis, but Anita Raina Thapan and Lawrence Cohen cite Santoshi Ma's cult
as evidence of Ganesha's continuing evolution as a popular deity.
Ganesha is worshipped on many religious and secular occasions;
especially at the beginning of ventures such as buying a vehicle or
starting a business.
K.N. Somayaji says, "there can hardly be a [Hindu] home [in India] which
does not house an idol of Ganapati. [..] Ganapati, being the most
popular deity in India, is worshipped by almost all castes and in all
parts of the country".
Devotees believe that if Ganesha is propitiated, he grants success,
prosperity and protection against adversity.
Ganesha is a non-sectarian deity, and Hindus of all denominations
invoke him at the beginning of prayers, important undertakings, and
Dancers and musicians, particularly in southern India, begin
performances of arts such as the
Bharatnatyam dance with a prayer to Ganesha.
such as Om Shri
Ga?eshaya Namah (Om, salutation to the Illustrious Ganesha)
are often used. One of the most famous mantras associated with Ganesha
Ga? Ganapataye Namah (Om,
Ga?, Salutation to the Lord of Hosts).
Devotees offer Ganesha sweets such as
and small sweet balls (laddus).
He is often shown carrying a bowl of sweets, called a
Because of his identification with the color red, he is often worshipped
red sandalwood paste (raktacandana)
or red flowers.
Durva grass (Cynodon
dactylon) and other materials are also used in his worship.
Festivals associated with Ganesh are "the Vinayaka caturthi
(Ganesh Chaturthi) in the
suklapak?a (the fourth day of the waxing moon) in the month
bhadrapada (August/September) and the
Ga?esa jayanti (Ga?esa's
birthday) celebrated on the cathurthi of the
k???apak?a (fourth day of the waning moon) in the month of
An annual festival honours Ganesha for ten days, starting on Ganesh
Chaturthi, which typically falls in late August or early September.
The festival culminates on the day of
Ananta Chaturdashi, when images (murtis)
of Ganesha are immersed in the most convenient body of water.
Lokmanya Tilak transformed this annual Ganesha festival from private
family celebrations into a grand public event.
He did so "to bridge the gap between the
Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in
which to build a new grassroots unity between them" in his nationalistic
strivings against the British in
Because of Ganesha's wide appeal as "the god for Everyman", Tilak chose
him as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule.
Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in
pavilions, and he established the practice of submerging all the public
images on the tenth day.
Today, Hindus across India celebrate the Ganapati festival with great
fervour, though it is most popular in the state of Maharashtra.
The festival also assumes huge proportions in
and in the surrounding belt of Ashtavinayaka temples.
In Hindu temples, Ganesha is depicted in various ways: as an acolyte
or subordinate deity (pãrsva-devatã);
as a deity related to the principal deity (parivara-devatã);
or as the principal deity of the temple (pradhana),
treated similarly as the highest gods of the Hindu pantheon.
As the god of transitions, he is placed at the doorway of many Hindu
temples to keep out the unworthy, which is analogous to his role as
In addition, several shrines are dedicated to Ganesha himself, of which
the Ashtavinayak (Sanskrit: ??????????;
a??avinayaka; lit. "eight Ganesha (shrines)") in Maharashtra are
particularly well known. Located within a 100-kilometer radius of the
city of Pune,
each of these eight shrines celebrates a particular form of Ganapati,
complete with its own lore and legend; together they "form a
demarking the sacred cosmos of Ganesha".
A statue of Ganesha carved in wood
There are many other important Ganesha temples at the following
Wai in Maharashtra;
and Raipur (Pali)
Rajasthan; Baidyanath in
Baroda, Dholaka, and Valsad in
and Dhundiraj Temple in
Uttar Pradesh. Prominent Ganesha temples in southern India include
the following: : the Jambukesvara Temple (Ucchi pillaiyar kottai) at
Karpaka Vinayakar Temple in
T. A. Gopinatha notes, “Every village however small has its own image
Vighnesvara (Vigneshvara) with or without a temple to house
it in. At entrances of villages and forts, below
pipa?a trees […], in a niche […] in temples of
Vi??u (Vishnu) as well as
Siva (Shiva) and also in separate shrines specially
Siva temples […]; the figure of
Vighnesvara is invariably seen.”
Ganesha temples have also been built outside of India, including
and in several western countries.
Rise to prominence
Ganesha appeared in his classic form as a clearly-recognizable deity
with well-defined iconographic attributes in the early 4th to 5th
Shanti Lal Nagar says that the earliest known iconic image of Ganesha is
in the niche of the Shiva temple at Bhumra, which has been dated to the
His independent cult appeared by about the 10th century.
Narain summarizes the controversy between devotees and academics
regarding the development of Ganesha as follows:
[W]hat is inscrutable is the somewhat dramatic appearance of
Ganesa on the historical scene. His antecedents are not clear. His
wide acceptance and popularity, which transcend sectarian and
territorial limits, are indeed amazing. On the one hand there is the
pious belief of the orthodox devotees in Ganesa's Vedic origins and
Pura?ic explanations contained in the confusing, but
nonetheless interesting, mythology. On the other hand there are
doubts about the existence of the idea and the icon of this
deity" before the fourth to fifth century A.D. ... [I]n my opinion,
indeed there is no convincing evidence of the existence of this
divinity prior to the fifth century.
Courtright reviews various speculative theories about the early
history of Ganesha, including supposed tribal traditions and animal
cults, and dismisses all of them in this way:
In this search for a historical origin for Ganesa, some have
suggested precise locations outside the
Brahma?ic tradition.... These historical locations are
intriguing to be sure, but the fact remains that they are all
speculations, variations on the Dravidian hypothesis, which argues
that anything not attested to in the Vedic and
Indo-European sources must have come into
Brahma?ic religion from the Dravidian or aboriginal
populations of India as part of the process that produced Hinduism
out of the interactions of the Aryan and non-Aryan populations.
There is no independent evidence for an elephant cult or a totem;
nor is there any archaeological data pointing to a tradition prior
to what we can already see in place in the
Pura?ic literature and the iconography of
Thapan's book on the development of Ganesha devotes a chapter to
speculations about the role elephants had in early India but concludes
that, "although by the second century AD the elephant-headed
yak?a form exists it cannot be presumed to represent
Ga?apati-Vinayaka. There is no evidence of a deity by this name
having an elephant or elephant-headed form at this early stage.
Ga?apati-Vinayaka had yet to make his debut."
One theory of the origin of Ganesha is that he gradually came to
prominence in connection with the four
Hindu mythology, the
Vinayakas were a group of four troublesome demons who created
obstacles and difficulties
but who were easily propitiated.
The name Vinayaka is a common name for Ganesha both in the
Pura?as and in Buddhist Tantras.
Krishan is one of the academics who accepts this view, stating flatly of
Ganesha, "He is a non-vedic god. His origin is to be traced to the four
Vinayakas, evil spirits, of the Manavagrhyasutra (7th–4th century
BCE) who cause various types of evil and suffering".
Depictions of elephant-headed human figures, which some identify with
Ganesha, appear in
Indian art and
coinage as early as the 2nd century.
The elephant-headed Ganesha as lord of the Ganas was known to the people
Sri Lanka in the early pre-Christian era.
Vedic and epic
Fifth century marble Ganesha found at
, now at Dargah Pir Rattan Nath, Kabul. The
inscription says that this "great and beautiful image of
" was consecrated by the
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The title "Leader of the group" (Sanskrit:
ga?apati) occurs twice in the
Rig Veda, but in neither case does it refer to the modern
Ganesha. The term appears in RV 2.23.1 as a title for
Brahmanaspati, according to commentators.
While this verse doubtless refers to Brahmanaspati, it was later adopted
for worship of Ganesha and is still used today.
In rejecting any claim that this passage is evidence of Ganesha in the
Rig Veda, Ludo Rocher says that it "clearly refers to
B?haspati—who is the deity of the hymn—and
Equally clearly, the second passage (RV
10.112.9) refers to
who is given the epithet 'ga?apati',
translated "Lord of the companies (of the Maruts)."
However, Rocher notes that the more recent Ganapatya literature often
quotes the Rigvedic verses to give Vedic respectability to Ganesha .
Two verses in texts belonging to
Maitraya?iya Sa?hita (2.9.1)
Taittiriya Ara?yaka (10.1),
appeal to a deity as "the tusked one" (Danti?),
"elephant-faced" (Hastimukha), and "with a curved trunk" (Vakratun?a).
These names are suggestive of Ganesha, and the 14th century commentator
explicitly establishes this identification.
The description of Dantin, possessing a twisted trunk (vakratu??a)
and holding a corn-sheaf, a sugar cane, and a club,
is so characteristic of the Puranic Ganapati that Heras says "we cannot
resist to accept his full identification with this Vedic Dantin".
However, Krishan considers these hymns to be post-Vedic additions.
Thapan reports that these passages are "generally considered to have
been interpolated". Dhavalikar says, "the references to the
elephant-headed deity in the
Maitraya?i Sa?hita have been proven to be very late
interpolations, and thus are not very helpful for determining the early
formation of the deity".
Ganesha does not appear in
Indian epic literature that is dated to the
Vedic period. A late interpolation to the epic poem
Mahabharata says that the sage
asked Ganesha to serve as his scribe to transcribe the poem as he
dictated it to him. Ganesha agreed but only on condition that Vyasa
recite the poem uninterrupted, that is, without pausing. The sage
agreed, but found that to get any rest he needed to recite very complex
passages so Ganesha would have to ask for clarifications. The story is
not accepted as part of the original text by the editors of the critical
edition of the Mahabharata,
in which the twenty-line story is relegated to a footnote in an
The story of Ganesha acting as the scribe occurs in 37 of the 59
manuscripts consulted during preparation of the critical edition.
Ganesha's association with mental agility and learning is one reason he
is shown as scribe for
Vyasa's dictation of the Mahabharata in this
Richard L. Brown dates the story to the 8th century, and
Moriz Winternitz concludes that it was known as early as c. 900, but
it was not added to the Mahabharata some 150 years later.
Winternitz also notes that a distinctive feature in
South Indian manuscripts of the Mahabharata is their omission
of this Ganesha legend.
vinayaka is found in some recensions of the
Anusasanaparva that are regarded as interpolations.
A reference to
Vighnakart?i?am ("Creator of Obstacles") in Vanaparva
is also believed to be an interpolation and does not appear in the
Stories about Ganesha often occur in the
corpus. Brown notes while the Puranas "defy precise chronological
ordering", the more detailed narratives of Ganesha's life are in the
late texts, c. 600–1300.
Yuvraj Krishan says that the Puranic myths about the birth of Ganesha
and how he acquired an elephant's head are in the later Puranas, which
were composed from c. 600 onwards. He elaborates on the matter to say
that references to Ganesha in the earlier Puranas, such as the Vayu and
Brahmanda Puranas, are later interpolations made during the 7th to 10th
In his survey of Ganesha's rise to prominence in
Sanskrit literature, Ludo Rocher notes that:
Above all, one cannot help being struck by the fact that the
numerous stories surrounding
Ga?esa concentrate on an unexpectedly limited number of
incidents. These incidents are mainly three: his birth and
parenthood, his elephant head, and his single tusk. Other incidents
are touched on in the texts, but to a far lesser extent.
Ganesha's rise to prominence was codified in the 9th century, when he
was formally included as one of the five primary deities of
Smartism. The 9th century philosopher
Sa?karacarya popularized the "worship of the five forms" (pañcayatana
puja) system among orthodox Brahmins of the Smarta tradition.
This worship practice invokes the five deities Ganesha,
Sa?karacarya instituted the tradition primarily to unite the
principal deities of these five major sects on an equal status. This
formalized the role of Ganesha as a complementary deity.
Statue of Ganesha with a flower
Once Ganesha was accepted as one of the five principal deities of
chose to worship Ganesha as their principal deity. They developed the
Ganapatya tradition, as seen in the Ganesha Purana and the
The date of composition for the Ganesha Purana and the
Mudgala Purana—and their dating relative to one another—has sparked
academic debate. Both works were developed over time and contain
age-layered strata. Anita Thapan reviews comments about dating and
provides her own judgement. "It seems likely that the core of the
Ganesha Purana appeared around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries",
she says, "but was later interpolated."
Lawrence W. Preston considers the most reasonable date for the
Ganesha Purana to be between 1100 and 1400, which coincides with the
apparent age of the sacred sites mentioned by the text.
R.C. Hazra suggests that the Mudgala Purana is older than the
Ganesha Purana, which he dates between 1100 and 1400.
However, Phyllis Granoff finds problems with this relative dating and
concludes that the Mudgala Purana was the last of the
philosophical texts concerned with Ganesha. She bases her reasoning on
the fact that, among other internal evidence, the Mudgala Purana
specifically mentions the Ganesha Purana as one of the four
Puranas (the Brahma, the Brahmanda, the Ganesha,
and the Mudgala Puranas) which deal at length with Ganesha.
While the kernel of the text must be old, it was interpolated until the
17th and 18th centuries as the worship of Ganapati became more important
in certain regions.
Another highly regarded scripture, the Ganapati Atharvashirsa, was
probably composed during the 16th or 17th centuries.
"Dancing Ganesh. Central Tibet. Early fifteenth century.
Colours on cotton. Height: 68 centimetres".
This form is also known as Maharakta ("The Great Red One").
Ganesha statue in 9th century
temple, Java, Indonesia
Commercial and cultural contacts extended India's influence in
southeast Asia. Ganesha is one of many Hindu deities who reached
foreign lands as a result.
Ganesha was particularly worshipped by traders and merchants, who
went out of India for commercial ventures.
The period from approximately the 10th century onwards was marked by the
development of new networks of exchange, the formation of trade guilds,
and a resurgence of money circulation. During this time, Ganesha became
the principal deity associated with traders.
The earliest inscription invoking Ganesha before any other deity is
associated with the merchant community.
Hindus migrated to the
Malay Archipelago and took their culture, including Ganesha, with
Statues of Ganesha are found throughout the Malay Archipelago in great
numbers, often beside Shiva sanctuaries. The forms of Ganesha found in
Hindu art of Java, Bali, and Borneo show specific regional influences.
The gradual spread of Hindu culture to southeast Asia established
Ganesha in modified forms in Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand. In
Indochina, Hinduism and
Buddhism were practiced side by side, and mutual influences can be
seen in the iconography of Ganesha in the region.
In Thailand, Cambodia, and among the Hindu classes of the
Chams in Vietnam, Ganesha was mainly thought of as a remover of
Even today in Buddhist Thailand, Ganesha is regarded as a remover of
obstacles, the god of success.
Before the arrival of
Afghanistan had close cultural ties with India, and the adoration of
both Hindu and Buddhist deities was practiced. A few examples of
sculptures from the 5th to the 7th centuries have survived, suggesting
that the worship of Ganesha was then in vogue in the region.
Ganesha appears in
Mahayana Buddhism, not only in the form of the Buddhist god
Vinayaka, but also as a Hindu demon form with the same name.
His image appears in Buddhist sculptures during the late Gupta period.
As the Buddhist god
Vinayaka, he is often shown dancing. This form, called
N?tta Ganapati, was popular in northern India, later adopted in
Nepal, and then in Tibet.
In Nepal, the Hindu form of Ganesha, known as Heramba, is very popular;
he has five heads and rides a lion.
Tibetan representations of Ganesha show ambivalent views of him.
A Tibetan rendering of Ganapati is tshogs bdag.
In one Tibetan form, he is shown being trodden under foot by
Mahakala, a popular Tibetan deity.
Other depictions show him as the Destroyer of Obstacles, sometimes
Ganesha appears in China and Japan in forms that show distinct regional
northern China, the earliest known stone statue of Ganesha carries
an inscription dated to 531.
In Japan, the Ganesha cult was first mentioned in 806.
The canonical literature of
does not mention the worship of Ganesha.
However, Ganesha is worshipped by most Jains, for whom he appears to
have taken over certain functions of
Jain connections with the trading community support the idea that
Jainism took up Ganesha worship as a result of commercial connections.
The earliest known Jain Ganesha statue dates to about the 9th century.
A 15th century Jain text lists procedures for the installation of
Images of Ganesha appear in the Jain temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat.]
For Reference Notes please go to Wikipedia