Shri Ganesha, also called Ganapati or Vinayaka, is presented in the form of a human body with the head of an elephant. This blend of human and animal parts is a symbolic representation of a perfect human being, as conceived by Hindu sages. His head symbolizes wisdom, understanding, and a discriminating intellect that one must possess to attain perfection in life. By worshipping Ganesha, a Hindu seeks God’s blessings for achieving success in one’s endeavours in the physical world and for attaining perfection thereafter.  Vinayaka means supreme leader and Ganapati means leader of Ganas, who attends and follows Shiva all the time. No Hindu ritual or auspicious act is ever undertaken without invoking Him and it is believed that with the grace of the lord of Obstacles, everyone will be successful. Let us discuss the iconography associated with Ganesha.

  • Ganesha’s big head represents intellectual capacity and ability to think big. He is considered to be a man of perfect wisdom and has the intellectual depth and width to understand the world perfectly. This is exactly what we all should aspire for in life to be successful and excel in whatever endeavours we are in.
  • His big ears and small mouth reminds all of us that we should listen more and intensely and talk very less.
  • His small eyes show us that the path to success is by concentration on the task ahead.
  • Ganesha’s trunk represents highest efficiency and adaptability. Here is a tool that can uproot and carry a big tree trunk and at the same time pick up the smallest of grass blade from the ground. Human being is yet to design a tool of such versatility and adaptability. This teaches us that discrimination is essential to solve problems in life and our ability to see the gross problem and minor subtleties at the same time make us a better human being and a manager.
  • The discriminative power in us can function only when we are able to differentiate between the good and the bad, right and the wrong and throw away the bad and the wrong. His broken tusk represents this.
  • Ganesha has four hands. In one hand He holds an Axe, which is used to cut our attachments and desires that are the cause of all problems. With the rope that is held in his left hand he pulls us nearer to our goal whether temporal or spiritual. Modaka in his third hand represents rewards for all our efforts and also reminds you that hard work never goes unrewarded, hence continue to work hard even if you are not seeing the benefits instantly. His fourth hand blesses you and takes you towards success both here and there.
  • At the feet of the God is kept the prasadam, the endless eatables of life, also meaning, the glory and pleasures of life. One you have the blessings of the God, and has done what must be done to be successful; the whole world is at your feet for the asking.
  • Finally there is a mouse sitting at the feet of the God, looking up to the God, shivering with anticipation and awaiting permission, but not touching any of the eatables kept disturbingly close to it. Mouse represents desire, if not kept under complete control can destroy and annihilate us, like a mouse that can bring complete damage to a barn of grains overnight. This is what today’s younger generation is facing. Objects of pleasures are easily available but desires are not controlled and therefore do not look up to their parents or teachers for permission for indulgence. The result is complete annihilation and destruction of one’s personality. The mouse is also shown as Ganesha’s vehicle depicting that you have to take control of the vehicle to ride it. Means you have to take control over your desires and attachments to ride the long journey of life.

What can we learn, as professionals, from the Ganesha symbolism?

  • Elephant is considered to be one the most intelligent animals in this world. Use your intelligence to overcome obstacles and be successful. Use it to think big and to make dream objectives in your life.
  • Listening with empathy and rapt attention is an essential element of communication skills, a skill without which no success is possible in life. Ganesha’s big ears and small mouth reminds us to listen more and talk less.
  • Broken tusk reflects the good and the bad that happens in everyone’s life. Generally we only remember the bad and by constantly talking about it keep the memory alive and fresh all the time. We should learn to throw away the bad, forget the unpleasant experiences and look forward for a brighter future.
  • Ganesha’s trunk shows us to be flexible, adaptable and efficient to be successful in our professional life.
  • His four hands remind us to work harder as working with two hands are not good enough in these highly competitive times.
  • Sweet modak in one hand as well as near his legs shows us that rewards will come and will be at our disposal to enjoy once we fulfil our obligations diligently and with total commitment and devotion.
  • The mouse tells to keep our intense desire under control, the desire to achieve everything for nothing under check, the desire to enjoy the pleasures of life without doing our duties under control.

Ganesha has two wives. Buddhi (Intelligence) and Siddhi (Spiritual Power). As mentioned in one of my previous articles, the wife normally compliments the husband to make him successful. To overcome obstacles and to be successful, intelligence is essential. That is why Ganesha is considered to be the lord of Intelligence or the husband of Intelligence. Similarly for spiritual attainment one should have Siddhi, which is his second wife. It is also interesting to note that he has two sons, Shubh (auspiciousness) from Siddhi and Labha (profit) from Buddhi. That also means through spiritual power one attains moksha and through intellectual power one makes profit in life.

The message we should take from this is that one should not only be striving to achieve success in physical world but also in spiritual world. Belief in God and serving the society is equally important as working incessantly to attain glory and pleasures of life.

1 reply
  1. Rishi
    Rishi says:

    I had written a blog on my interpretation of Ganesh Ji long ago. There is a lot more here than what i noticed. Thanks for the insight. My small interpretation of the same which i had written long ago is as follows :

    Om Maha Ganapathaye Namaha!

    Ganesha is the symbol of Knowledge.

    Head: To hold all the knowledege that is to be known. He has a head as large as that of an elephant.

    Ears: Sravana or listening to the scriptures and other forms of knowledge is the first step to learning. Hence the large ears like that of an elephant.

    Trunk: We use the Knowledge we have gained to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. The elephant’s trunk is used to lift heavy objects or a fine blade of grass. Our intellect should be made so efficient that we can solve great problems in our life and also come to understand and know God.

    Tusks: One tusk is broken and the other is whole. This is to show us that even though we must discriminate between good and evil, we must also outgrow pairs of opposites like heat and cold, respect and insult, honour and dishonour.

    Mouse: The mouse represents our desire. Even a desire as small as a mouse can destroy us completely if it is not kept in our control.


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