Three lingas at Goa Gaja cave in Bali, 11th century. ce Copyright Mike Magee

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Original artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2021. Translations are ©
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Śrī Gaṇapati Deva

Let us think of the one-toothed, let us meditate on the crooked trunk, may that tusk direct us – Gaṇapati Upaniṣad

If we look at a contemporary image of Gaṇeśa, also known as Gaṇapati, the iconography has preserved much of the esoteric side, although the exoteric side has triumphed. We see a strange composite of elephant and man, and at the bottom of the picture a mouse or rat. The image represents the three worlds – of heaven, earth and the underworld, or sun, moon and fire. And in a very clever and wise way the symbolism has been drawn from the animal or mammal kingdom. In this picture, mankind is the mean between the large universe and the small universe. Because of this triple symbolism Gaṇeśa is connected with the three guṇas. copyright Jan Bailey 1999

His association with obstacles comes from the great strength of the elephant, the intelligence of the human and the subtlety or ability to penetrate small spaces like a mouse or rat. Gaṇeśa is usually shown with four arms – these represent the four directions of space or the four elements – the god being the spirit or quintessence of these. The word Gaṇeśa means lord of hosts. As usual in the tantrik symbolism the name is really an adjective and this adjective is also applied to Śiva. The hosts, the gaṇas, are the spirits or denizens of the three worlds.

Mahaganapati Yantra

This yantra is the Mahāgaṇapati Yantra (unknown artist) and Gaṇeśa has many different aspects including Heramba, Haridra and Ucchiṣṭa Gaṇapati. The tantrik compilation Śāradātilaka gives a most beautiful meditation on Mahāgaṇapati (Arthur Avalon’s English introduction): “…he is to be meditated upon as seated on a lotus consisting of the letters of the alphabet. The sadhaka should meditate upon an island composed of nine gems, placed in an ocean of sugarcane juice; a soft gentle breeze blows over the island and makes the waves wash the shore thereof. The place is a forest of Mandara, Pārijāta and other Kalpa trees and creepers, and the light from the gems thereon casts a red glow on the ground. The six gladdening seasons are always there. The sun and moon brighten up the place. In the middle of the island is a Pārijāta tree whereon are the nine gems and beneath it is the great Pitha (altar) on which is the lotus whereon is seated Mahāgaṇapati. His face is that of the great elephant with the moon on it. He is red and has three eyes. He is held in loving embrace by his beloved who is seated in his lap and has a lotus in her hand. In each of his ten hands he is holding a pomegranate, a mace, a bow, a trident, a discus, a lotus, a noose, a red water-lily, a sheaf of paddy and his own tusk. He is holding a jewelled jar in his trunk. By the flapping of his ears, he is driving away the bees attracted to his temples by the fluid exuding therefrom, and he is scattering gems from out of the jar held in his trunk. He is wearing a ruby-studded crown and is adorned with gem.” Śāradātilaka Tantra, Agamanusandhana Samiti, 1933.

This is the bīja or root mantra of Gaṇeśa, Gam. Before doing the pūja, the sādhaka or sādhvini places this bīja on his or her body, using the long vowels of Sanskrit. Gaṇeśa is often pictured with the Hindu svastika (the word means little picture of good fortune) and this is formed from four Gaṃ bījas put together.

Until the middle ages c.e., it appears that there was a separate cult of tantriks, the Gaṇapatyas, who followed this Deva and his Śakti. Like Śiva, he was worshipped via a linga, but in this case red.

Other forms of Gaṇapati

There is clear evidence from the original tantrik and other texts like the purāṇas that Gaṇeśa received extensive worship, simply from the number of different forms, mantras and yantras that were worshipped. Also, it’s hard to find people that dislike elephants apart from hunters driven by the killing instinct or for money, or for both.

Gaṇeśa His yantra consists of a square, inside which is an eight petalled lotus, inside this is a hexagon and in the centre an upward facing triangle. His mantra is oṃ ganapataye namah, while his tantrik gāyatrī is ekadantaya vidmahe, vakratundaya dhimahi, tanno danti prachodayat. His dhyāna (meditation image) is as having one tusk, four arms, carrying noose and elephant goad, with the other two hands bestowing boons and dispelling fear. His vāhana (vehicle) is a rat, while he has a big belly and long winnowing ears. He is adorned with red flowers and various red scents. But according to the Śāradātilaka Tantra, he holds a noose, a goad, a wine filled skull and his fourth hand touches his śakti’s yoni. She is seated on his lap and touches his penis with her right hand, while she holds a lotus in her other hand.

Heramba Gaṇapati The mantra is oṃ gum namah. He is as bright as a thousand suns and sits on a lion and has five faces, each of a different colour. He has eight arms.

Trailokyamohanakara Gaṇeśa This name means the Gaṇeśa who is the cause of delusion in the three worlds. His yantra is similar to the above, except there is no triangle in the centre of the hexagon, which instead includes his mantra, which is vakratundayai klīṃ klīṃ klīṃ gaṃ ganapate varavarada sarvajanam me vashamanaya svāhā. The mantra’s meaning shows that this form of Gaṇeśa is worshipped in specific rites (prayoga).

Siddhivināyaka His mantra is oṃ namo siddhivinayaka sarvakaryakartrai sarvavighnaprashamanaya sarvarajyavashyakaranaya sarvajanasarvastripurushakarshanaya śrīṃ oṃ svāhā. As this mantra indicates, again this is a form of Gaṇeśa used in magical rites (prayogas) – in this case to obtain the siddhi of subjugation over kings, men, women and the alleviation of all obstacles. Siddhivināyaka Gaṇeśa has three other mantras in a similar vein.

Śaktivināyaka The mantra of this form of Gaṇeśa is oṃ hrīṃ hrīṃ hrīṃ. Bhargava is the ṛṣi of the mantra, virāṭ is the metre for pronouncing it, grīṃ is the bīja, hrīṃ is the śakti, and the application is success in what is desired. The dhyāna is Śaktivināya, four armed, carrying modaka (sweeties), aṅkuśa (elephant goad) and rosary. The yantra is of the hexagonal form with the root mantra inscribed in the centre.

Lakṣmī Vināyaka Again, the hexagon yantra is used, but with the mantra in the centre, which is oṃ śrīṃ gam saumyaya ganapataye varavarada sarvajanam me vashamanaya svāhā. The application is the desired wish, which in this case is Lakṣmī, luck, good fortune, money.

Haridra Gaṇeśa The word haridra is the yellow powder,  turmeric obtained from the species curcuma longa. The mantra of this aspect of Gaṇeśa is oṃ hūṃ gum glaum, and the yantra is similar to Lakṣmī Vinayaka, with, however, the appropriate mantra in the centre. Here, Gaṇeśa is clothed all in yellow, has four arms, one of which touches his trunk, while the others hold noose, goad, and modaka bowl. The application is success in desires.

Ucchiṣṭa Gaṇapati Ucchiṣṭa are the leftovers after pūja (worship). This form of Gaṇapati comes with a nine lettered mantra, a 12 lettered mantra, a 19 lettered mantra, a 32 lettered mantra, and a 37 lettered mantra.

You can download the Gaṇapati Upaniṣad in Adobe Acrobat format from this site. See also a transliteration of the Sanskrit, here.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2021. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2021.Questions or comments to mike.magee@btinternet.com

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