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

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Shri Ganapati Deva

Let us think of the one-toothed, let us meditate on the crooked trunk, may that tusk direct us - Ganapati Upanishad

If we look at a contemporary image of Ganesha, also known as Ganapati, 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 Ganesha is connected with the three gunas. copyright Jan Bailey 1999

His association with obstacles comes from the great strength of the elephant, the intelligence of the human and the subtelty or ability to penetrate small spaces like a mouse or rat. Ganesha 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 Ganesha means lord of hosts. As usual in the tantrik symbolism the name is really an adjective and this adjective is also applied to Shiva. The hosts are the hosts of spirits or denizens of the three worlds.

Mahaganapati Yantra

This yantra is the Mahaganapati Yantra (unknown artist) and Ganesh has many different aspects including Heramba, Haridra and Ucchishta Ganapati. The tantrik compilation Sharadatilaka gives a most beautiful meditation on Mahaganapati (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, Parijata 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 Parijata tree whereon are the nine gems and beneath it is the great Pitha (altar) on which is the lotus whereon is seated Mahaganapati. 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." Sharadatilakatantra, Agamanusandhana Samiti, 1933.

This is the bija or root mantra of Ganesha, Gam.Before doing the puja, the sadhaka or sadhvini places this bija on his or her body, using the long vowels of Sanskrit. Ganesh is often pictured with the Hindu svastika (the word means little picture of good fortune) and this is formed from four Gam bijas put together.

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

Other forms of Ganapati

There is clear evidence from the original tantrik texts that Ganesh received extensive worship, simply from the number of different forms, mantras and yantras that were worshipped.

Ganesha 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 om ganapataye namah, while his tantrik gayatri is ekadantaya vidmahe, vakratundaya dhimahi, tanno danti prachodayat. His dhyana (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 vahana (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 Sharadatilaka tantra, he holds a noose, a goad, a wine filled skull and his fourth hand touches his shakti. She is seated on his lap and touches his penis with her right hand, while she holds a lotus in her other hand.

Heramba Ganapati The mantra is om 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 Ganesh This name means the Ganesh 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 klim klim klim gam ganapate varavarada sarvajanam me vashamanaya svaha. The mantra's meaning shows that this form of Ganesh is worshipped in specific rites (prayoga).

Siddhivinayaka His mantra is om namo siddhivinayaka sarvakaryakartrai sarvavighnaprashamanaya sarvarajyavashyakaranaya sarvajanasarvastripurushakarshanaya shrim om svaha. As this mantra indicates, again this is a form of Ganesh used in magical rites, in this case to obtain the siddhi of subjugation over kings, men, women and the alleviation of all obstacles. Siddhivinayaka Ganesh has three other mantras in a similar vein.

Shaktivinayaka The mantra of this form of Ganesh is om hrim grim hrim. Bhargava is the rishi of the mantra, virat is the metre for pronouncing it, grim (pronounced greem) is the bija, hrim is the shakti, and the application is success in what is desired. The dhyana is Shaktivinaya, four armed, carrying modaka, ankusha, and rosary. The yantra is of the hexagonal form with the root mantra inscribed in the centre.

Lakshmi Vinayaka Again, the hexagon yantra is used, but with the mantra in the centre, which is om shrim gam saumyaya ganapataye varavarada sarvajanam me vashamanaya svaha. The application is the desired wish, which in this case is lakshmi, luck, good fortune, money.

Haridra Ganesha The word haridra is the yellow powder turmeric. The mantra of this aspect of Ganesha is om hum gum glaum, and the yantra is similar to Lakshmi Vinayaka, with, however, the appropriate mantra in the centre. Here, Ganesha 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.

Ucchishta Ganapati Ucchishta are the leftovers after puja (worship). This form of Ganapati 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 Ganapati Upanishad in Adobe Acrobat format from this site.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1996-2018. Translations and summaries are © Mike Magee 1996-2018. Questions or comments to

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