Libmonster ID: U.S.-1440
Author(s) of the publication: O. AVDEEV
Educational Institution \ Organization: Russian Foreign Ministry

Among the host of characters in the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha is a very popular, mysterious and at the same time one of the most revered gods. It has an original appearance: the human body is crowned with an elephant's head with a trunk. Such an" anatomical feature " of his images cannot but cause amazement among non-Indians. "Wow, God is wearing a gas mask!" exclaimed a foreign tourist who first saw the sculptural image of Ganesha in the temple.

Hindus look at his grotesque figure with awe, because they firmly believe that success in life depends on Ganesha. Without mentioning his name, none of the temple rituals begin, and without offering gifts to his sculptural or picturesque image, they do not begin to implement their plans, even the most trivial ones. There is hardly a village in India that does not have a shrine dedicated to Ganesha, and it is revered by ordinary Hindus and sophisticated, illiterate and highly educated, and not only by Hindus, but also by representatives of other native Indian religions - Buddhism and Jainism.


Paintings and sculptures of Ganesha are found not only in temples. In India, you can see them everywhere: in almost every shop owned by a Hindu, in every house, and even at road intersections. But above all, Ganesha lives in the heart of the Hindu, regardless of which branch of Hinduism he belongs to. In one form or another, the cult of Ganesha has gone far beyond the borders of India. It is widely practiced in the Kingdom of Nepal (90% of the population professes Hinduism), traces of it have remained in Burma, China, Indochina, Sri Lanka and Indonesia (Java).

Why is a deity who is not part of the triad of supreme Hindu gods, including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, so religiously revered by devout Hindus? Not only and not so much because Ganesha is the son of Shiva, and he is often seen as a mediator when asking for leniency to this all-powerful and terrible god of the Hindu trinity. The main reason is that Ganesha has the image of a deity who gives good luck and prosperity, protects entrepreneurs and removes any obstacles. But before Ganesha, who has an ancient biography, became such a "super-god", hundreds of years passed, during which he changed his initially unfriendly character to benevolence and good nature. The secret of the origin of the cult of Ganesha is irretrievably lost in the depths of centuries. The circumstances surrounding the promotion of this once peripheral cult to the ritualistic forefront of Hinduism are unclear. The very abundance of contradictory legends about Ganesha's birth and his original anatomical structure is confusing.

The cult of Ganesha originates from the worship of the elephant, which originated in ancient times in the agricultural areas of India, which suffered from devastating elephant raids on crops. The traditional attributes of Ganesha - the snare and goad used to tame elephants - indicate that the deity with all the characteristics of an elephant was worshipped to protect against harm caused by these animals. At some stage, the image of the elephant acquired some features of the human form. This was an ancient cult of the native Dravidian tribes, completely unknown to the Aryan nomads from the Eurasian steppes, who began to conquer and settle India from the middle of the second millennium BC.

The Aryan pastoralists who inhabited the open spaces had their own gods, and the elephant, a forest dweller and a little-known animal to the steppe people, played no significant role in their economy. Over time, the nomadic life of the Aryans under the influence of a new one for them

* Dravidians - an ancient population of India who spoke the languages of the Dravidian family. In Northern India, they were almost completely assimilated by the incoming Aryans. Only those Dravidian tribes that lived in remote mountainous and wooded areas retained their language and identity.

page 73

In the process of assimilation of the Aborigines, they became directly acquainted with local cults, which the newcomers did not take seriously at first. So, in the ancient laws of Manu, which reflected the social and ethnic structure of ancient Indian society at the beginning of the Christian era, Ganesha is described as an aboriginal deity, not at all sympathetic to the Aryans. In later religious texts, his veneration was correlated with the sudras-representatives of the lower varna (estate) in the society created by the Aryans, which was strictly stratified into social groups (castes). The high (Aryan) Varnas ignored Ganesha, but over time, although with obvious reluctance, they were forced to recognize his significance, since then he enjoyed a reputation for malevolence and inspired fear and respect for himself. Thus, the Dravidian god alien to the Aryans gained respectability along with their own idols. They called upon him not only to protect themselves from his wrath, but also to cast a spell on their enemies. In fact, such still widely used epithets of Ganesha as Vighnaraja (lord of obstacles) and Vighneshwar (god of obstacles) directly relate to the time when Ganesha was considered an evil deity, who should be feared and cajoled.

In loosely organized Indian mythology, there are several contradictory stories about the origin of Ganesha into the world. Most versions agree that he is the common son of Shiva and his wife Parvati, but not in a biological sense, because he was born separately by one of the spouses. Shiva and Parvati could never have had children together. The other gods, fearing that their offspring would be too powerful, begged Shiva not to have children with Parvati. The same one, having learned about this, cursed the other gods. Therefore, all the Indian gods and goddesses are not able to conceive children in the way that is characteristic of humans. The same offspring they had were born speculatively or in circumstances unknown to mere mortals. That's why they're gods.

The abundance and inconsistency of myths about the birth of Ganesha is explained by the fact that the elephant was a totemic or cult animal of many native tribes in India, each of which had its own traditions, and attempts by Hindu theologians to merge them into something logically complete were not completed.

Similarly, the legends about how Ganesha got the head of an elephant differ. According to one, he deliberately took the shape of an elephant that he liked-a powerful and at the same time graceful animal. According to another, the head of Parvati's son was incinerated by the gaze of Shani (Saturn), the son of the Sun god Surya. Vishnu and Brahma corrected the flaw, but only with the help of an elephant's head. The injury was compensated by the decree that Ganesha would be sacrificed first among all the gods. The most common version says that Ganesha was beheaded in a fit of rage by his own father Shiva, who then, changing his anger to mercy, put the elephant's head on his son. With all the differences in the plot outline of the stories, they seem to be based on a well-aimed observation of the reality surrounding the Indians. The fact is that the naked skull of the deceased baby elephant surprisingly resembles the skull of a baby. Impressionable myth-makers, having refracted this fact in their associative thinking, apparently synthesized such a unique image.

In its current form, the cult of Ganesha was mainly formed during the reign of the Gupta dynasty in India (IV-VI centuries A.D.). Since then, it has rapidly spread throughout India. Ganesha became a popular character in religious literature in the Middle Ages. Around the tenth century, the positive metamorphosis of his image, which was given meekness and kindness, was completed. Then he was first described as the son of the goddess Parvati, removing or destroying obstacles (Vighnavinash), as well as bestowing prosperity and success. The original hybrid of man and elephant has lost its former unsightly characteristics, turning into a deity who favors his worshippers, giving them a livelihood, knowledge and sending down insight to man. The image of Ganesha successfully fell in line with the tendency characteristic of medieval Indian myth-making to exalt certain mythical figures. At the same time, along with Ganesha, some other mythical characters evolved in a positive way, for example, the Garuda bird.


None of the Hindu gods has such an abundance of iconographic forms as Ganesha. There are 32 of them in total. In his typical images, a standard set of basic characteristics is maintained: dwarfism, a rounded body, a grotesque appearance, a curved trunk, an elephant's head without hair, hypertrophied ears, small half-blind eyes, and black teeth.

page 74

From clothing - only a half-lowered loincloth dhoti, usually covering the ankles, in the hands - a water vessel. One-headed images of Ganesha prevail, although there are sculptures with two, three, four and even five heads. The number of hands varies - from two to twelve, in the hands - various types of weapons. Two hands are used to represent Ganesha in a malevolent form (an echo of the former meaning of the cult), while the most common four-armed image symbolizes the benevolent mood of god. The complexion is smoky gray; many Ganesha sculptures retain the natural color of the stone, but most often they are colored in yellow or reddish colors, much less often in blue, black and gold. Ganesha's face is supposed to have an intelligent, peaceful expression; it is blurred by the pleasure of eating food - sweets or sugar cane. The canons prescribe the need to observe in the images of Ganesha the proportions of the body of a plump five-year-old child. Excessive fullness is always emphasized, especially the roundness of a thick tummy is emphasized. From the traditional Indian point of view, a well - fed body is a positive sign. Medieval Renaissance artists had similar views on the bodily ideal.

As a rule, one of the tusks of Ganesha is depicted broken. There are several legends about this. One myth tells that the tusk was damaged in a fight with an asura (demon) named Sindura or Gajasura, who sometimes took an elephant form (in Sanskrit, gajah - elephant), while according to another legend, this injury is the result of a duel with Parashuram - the sixth avatar (earthly hypostasis) of the god Vishnu. There are other versions of the origin of such a cosmetic defect, but they are described below. A purely rationalistic explanation is also given: a single tusk is a symbolic designation of the plow, because the deity Ganesha himself was born in the agricultural community.

The Indian mind is deeply ingrained in the habit of not just seeing an object, but also seeing meaning in everything. Hindus consider the figures of their gods as a certain symbol. For them, the image and attributes of Ganesha are imbued with complex symbolism. A jar of water, a rosary, and some sort of stylus - a hint of knowledge and inspiration. Its attributes, such as the elephant's snare and the driver's goad, respectively denote the desires that burden a person and the knowledge that relieves such a burden. The curve of Ganesha's trunk is a hint of the winding path to truth.

Wisdom, which is acquired with age, is not an accidental quality of Ganesha; since ancient times, the elephant was perceived as the most intelligent of animals, it was easily tamed and lived for a long time. At least longer than most ancient or medieval humans, so that during the life cycle of a domesticated elephant, two or even three generations of people grew up. The image of the obstacle breaker is also logical - the elephant easily makes its way through the dense and prickly jungle. For a person embarking on a long journey or any risky enterprise, it will be very useful to help Ganesha in clearing the unknown, full of surprises path. It is not surprising that the traditional companion of Ganesha, or rather, his individual vehicle (each Hindu god has its own) - a rat that has the ability to penetrate even through a small hole and chews its way through almost any obstacle. Some Indians perceive the rat as the personification of evil and trouble, which Ganesha suppresses. This interpretation is inspired by the images of Ganesha, in which he stands astride this rodent, as if trampling it underfoot. Ganesha's round belly, belted with a snake, is perceived as a vessel containing various benefits. It is characteristic that when Indians ask Ganesha to increase their wealth, they tend to scratch their stomachs at the sculptural image of this god. That is why this part of the stone statues of Ganesha, located in temples and even in museums, can be dirty from touching the fingers of those who seek his favor.

Even the color of Ganesha's sculptures is symbolic. Yellow, for example, is associated with intelligence and cleanliness, while red is associated with hyperactivity. Like other Indian gods, Ganesha has many names-epithets, each of which, describing one or another sign of his physical form, at the same time emphasizes symbolism. To the names already mentioned, the most popular ones could be added: Vakratunda (with a curved trunk), Ekadanta (with one tusk), Krishnapingaksha (with dark brown eyes), Gajavaktra (with an elephant's mouth), Lambodara (with a large belly), Vikata (with physical disabilities), Ganapati (leader Shiva's armies), Dhumravarna (smoky), Vinayaka (god of obstacles), Gajanana (elephant-faced). They are listed in one of the religious hymns to Ganesha,

page 75

under the slow chant of which believers gradually draw out the image of this god in their imagination.


Ganesha is also the patron saint of science and skill, especially writing. He is considered the world's first scribe; according to Indian tradition, it was to him that the legendary sage Vyasa first dictated his gigantic epic poem, the Mahabharata. According to one legend, in order to write it down, Ganesha had to break a tusk and use it as a writing tool. Since then, it has been customary to praise Ganesha in the prologue of every literary work. The devout Hindus truly believe that without divine inspiration and insight, the human intellect will remain helpless. Beginners in school are asked by the teacher to repeat the prayer after them: "Om Ganeshaya nama" (Glory and honor to Saint Ganesha!). And only then does he start learning the alphabet.

It is no exaggeration to say that in our time Ganesha is a favorite object of Indian artists and sculptors. True, this shows not so much creative inspiration as a reaction to the stable demand from fans of this god for his images. In their works, artists start from the multi-aspect nature of Ganesha, which gives great scope for imagination, and interpret his image in accordance with their own ideas about the character of this deity. Abstract forms of Ganesha, which are so much loved by Indian artists, prevail in modern visual art. This is also a tribute to symbolism. Often only a hint of Ganesha is made in a few strokes, but it is not at all difficult to identify him, since at least some of the above iconographic standards are met.

The image of Ganesha is offered a prayer and offered sweets and fruits, as it is believed that he has a great appetite. If you suddenly start to be very unlucky, then the Indians say: "Ganesha turned away." The beginning (most often successful) of any enterprise is indicated by the word "sriganesha" - "merciful Ganesha".


Ganesha is especially celebrated on the day of the festival dedicated to him - Ganesha Chaturthi, which begins on the fourth day of the bright half of the Indian month of Bhadrapada (at the end of August). Sculptures of Ganesha made from natural materials (straw and clay) are worshipped for ten whole days. On the tenth day, at dusk, with a large crowd of people, they are immersed in the water element-the sea or river. This is the most emotionally intense moment of the holiday. Fans of Ganesha with a respectful gesture-coiled palms-chorus implore him to return next year. Believe me, this spectacle makes a strong impression on an outsider. It is interesting that the Indians collect silt in the places of immersion of idols and scatter it in the fields in the hope of high yields. This is one of the evidences of the agricultural roots of the Ganesha cult.

Another interesting feature of the festival dedicated to Ganesha draws attention to itself. These days, his followers avoid looking at the moon in every possible way - this is what Ganesha himself ordered, otherwise you can expect trouble. Such an oddity of festive behavior is clarified in one of the legends. Once Ganesha got angry at the Moon who was making fun of him and broke off one of his tusks and threw it at the offender. Despite the force of gravity, the fragment never came back. Since then, Ganesha has remained with a noticeable aesthetic defect.

Mass celebrations in honor of Ganesha, which are held with a high intensity of religious emotions, confirm that he is such a widely revered deity everywhere in India, and especially in the west of the country, that millions of people can be mobilized by his name. This was first demonstrated in 1898 by the Indian politician B. G. Tilak, who shrewdly and not without success used the Ganesha Chaturthi festival to awaken the pan-Indian national consciousness of the then strictly caste-segregated Indian society and rally its members under the banner of national liberation struggle.

This is how Ganesha is, the patron saint of good endeavors and the favorite of the Indians, so naive in appearance, but embodying in his image the practical wisdom of the ages. It is an integral part of the Indian people's hopes for a better life, and who doesn't want to succeed in this material world?

In ancient India, texts were scratched on palm leaves or written in ink with a reed pen.


Permanent link to this publication:

Similar publications: LUnited States LWorld Y G


Ann JacksonContacts and other materials (articles, photo, files etc)

Author's official page at Libmonster:

Find other author's materials at: Libmonster (all the World)GoogleYandex

Permanent link for scientific papers (for citations):

O. AVDEEV, Traditions, customs, and customs. India. THE ELEPHANT-HEADED GOD OF FORTUNE // New-York: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 06.06.2024. URL: (date of access: 24.07.2024).

Found source (search robot):

Publication author(s) - O. AVDEEV:

O. AVDEEV → other publications, search: Libmonster USALibmonster WorldGoogleYandex


Reviews of professional authors
Order by: 
Per page: 
  • There are no comments yet
Related topics
0 votes
Related Articles
Catalog: Science Economics 
3 days ago · From Ann Jackson
4 days ago · From Ann Jackson
4 days ago · From Ann Jackson
Progress Sums: 1,2,3,4,5..., -1,-2,-3,-4,-5... It can be found using the formula: Sn=(n²a₁+n)/2. Progress Sum: 1,3,6,10,15..., -1,-3,-6,-10,-15... It can be found using the formula: Sn= ((n+a₁)³-(n+a₁))/6. Progress Sum: 1,4,9,16,25..., -1,-4,-9,-16,-25... It can be found using the formula: Sn= a₁(n+a₁)(n²a₁+0.5n)/3. (Where n - is the number of summable terms, a₁ - is the first term of the progression).
Catalog: Mathematics 
5 days ago · From Andrei Verner
To the 80th anniversary of YEVGENY MAKSIMOVICH PRIMAKOV
Catalog: Science History Philosophy 
5 days ago · From Ann Jackson
5 days ago · From Ann Jackson
5 days ago · From Ann Jackson
5 days ago · From Ann Jackson
6 days ago · From Ann Jackson
6 days ago · From Ann Jackson

New publications:

Popular with readers:

News from other countries:

LIBMONSTER.COM - U.S. Digital Library

Create your author's collection of articles, books, author's works, biographies, photographic documents, files. Save forever your author's legacy in digital form. Click here to register as an author.
Library Partners

Traditions, customs, and customs. India. THE ELEPHANT-HEADED GOD OF FORTUNE

Editorial Contacts
Chat for Authors: U.S. LIVE: We are in social networks:

About · News · For Advertisers

U.S. Digital Library ® All rights reserved.
2014-2024, LIBMONSTER.COM is a part of Libmonster, international library network (open map)
Keeping the heritage of the United States of America


US-Great Britain Sweden Serbia
Russia Belarus Ukraine Kazakhstan Moldova Tajikistan Estonia Russia-2 Belarus-2

Create and store your author's collection at Libmonster: articles, books, studies. Libmonster will spread your heritage all over the world (through a network of affiliates, partner libraries, search engines, social networks). You will be able to share a link to your profile with colleagues, students, readers and other interested parties, in order to acquaint them with your copyright heritage. Once you register, you have more than 100 tools at your disposal to build your own author collection. It's free: it was, it is, and it always will be.

Download app for Android