Seated Ganesh - Antique Bayon Style Seated Stone Ganesha Statue - 34cm/14"

Ganesha's Iconography: The Symbolic Meanings of His Attributes

Ganesha, one of the most beloved and widely worshipped deities in Hinduism, is known for his distinctive appearance, characterized by a unique set of attributes he holds in his hands. Each of these attributes carries profound symbolic meaning, reflecting Ganesha's multifaceted role in Hindu mythology and his significance in the lives of devotees.

1. The Elephant Head:

Ganesha's elephant head is perhaps his most distinctive feature. It is the result of a fascinating mythological tale. According to the most well-known legend, Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati, the Divine Mother, using the dust and sweat from her body. When Lord Shiva, Ganesha's father, saw this child guarding Parvati's chamber, he mistook Ganesha for an intruder and beheaded him in a fit of rage. To console Parvati, Shiva replaced Ganesha's head with that of an elephant, granting him a unique appearance.

The elephant head symbolizes wisdom, intelligence, and the ability to overcome obstacles. It suggests that Ganesha possesses immense intellect and the power to discern the truth even in complex situations. It teaches that external appearances may be misleading and that true wisdom lies within.

2. The Broken Tusk:

One of the most distinctive attributes Ganesha holds is his broken tusk. According to Hindu mythology, Ganesha broke his own tusk to use it as a writing instrument when transcribing the epic Mahabharata at the request of the sage Vyasa. This act demonstrates Ganesha's devotion to knowledge and his commitment to his role as the scribe of wisdom.

The broken tusk is also a symbol of sacrifice and selflessness, reminding devotees that they should be willing to sacrifice their ego and attachments in the pursuit of spiritual and intellectual growth.

Khmer Ganesha

3. The Laddus (Sweet Treat):

Ganesha is often depicted holding Laddus, a sweet dumpling-like delicacy, in his hand. Laddus is associated with abundance, prosperity, and the fulfillment of desires. It represents the rewards of devotion and the sweetness that life can offer when lived with dedication to righteousness and piety.

4. The Axe (Parashu):

In some depictions, Ganesha holds an axe or a parashu in one of his hands. The axe symbolizes the cutting of attachments and the removal of obstacles on the spiritual path. It is a reminder that to progress in one's spiritual journey, it is essential to eliminate desires and ego, which often serve as impediments to spiritual growth.

5. The Noose (Pasha) and Goad (Ankusha):

In Ganesha's other two hands, he may hold a noose (pasha) and a goad (ankusha). The noose represents the power to capture and control negative or wayward thoughts and desires, while the goad symbolizes the ability to steer one's life in the right direction, much like a mahout directs an elephant.

In conclusion, Ganesha's attributes, each with its own unique symbolism, encapsulate the multifaceted qualities of this beloved deity. As the remover of obstacles and the god of wisdom, Ganesha's iconography serves as a profound reminder of the values and virtues that devotees aspire to cultivate in their own lives: wisdom, intellect, humility, devotion, and the ability to overcome challenges on the path to spiritual enlightenment.

Thai Ganesh