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Ganesha Meaning : Hindu Deity of Overcoming & New Beginnings

Ganesha is one of the most well-known and popular deities in the Hindu pantheon. He is also known as Ganapati or Lord Ganesh. He is the colorful and memorable elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati.

Ganesha is primarily viewed as the lord of new beginnings and the overcomer of obstacles. His mantras and prayers are often used at the beginning of an undertaking. Ganesha is an unusual and beloved part of Hindu tradition.

Ganesha Meaning Full Illustration

Ganesha, God of New Beginnings
See Prints & Products Featuring Ganesha


This article includes the origin of Ganesha, his parents Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha’s death, his elephant head, how Ganesha relates to overcoming obstacles, Ganesha mantras, and Ganesha’s connection to the root chakra.

Origins of Ganesha

Tales of Ganesha’s origins differ widely. In some stories, Parvati created him from clay. Another legend says that Parvati created him from the soap suds in her bath. Another myth claims that Shiva’s laughter created him. In yet another tale, Ganesha simply appeared mysteriously and was found by Shiva and Parvati.

In a simple version of the story, Ganesha was born from Malini. Malini is an elephant-headed goddess. She drank bath water that Parvati had thrown into a river. Subsequently, Ganesha was born.

These stories do not necessarily explain Ganesha meaning completely. A longer version of Ganesha’s origins involves the separation and eventual reunion of the goddess Parvati and Shiva.

The Parents of Ganesha: Shiva and Parvati

Ganesha’s mother Parvati and his father Shiva have very different personalities. Parvati is loving and devoted. Shiva is austere and fierce. Some legends suggest that they had a disagreement about whether or not to have children. As a result of this disagreement, Shiva and Parvati separated.

During their long separation, Parvati realized that she could create a child for herself without Shiva’s assistance. After all, she is a goddess. In this version of the story, Parvati breathed into the foam in her bath. Her son Ganesha appeared.

Parvati Goddess

Goddess Parvati, Mother of Ganesha
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Unfortunate Death of Ganesha

As Ganesha grew up, he became his mother’s defender. Shiva had been absent a long time and many suitors were coming to the palace door. One day Shiva himself appeared.

Not knowing his son (clearly his paternity can be debated), he thought that someone had taken his place. He immediately challenged Ganesha, attacked him and cut off his head. This reckless murder was a huge obstacle interfering with Shiva’s quest to reunite with Parvati.

Ganesha Symbolism Head Detail

Why Ganesha Has an Elephant Head

Realizing his horrendous error, Shiva ran into the forest. He saw an old elephant. Fortunately, the elephant was a Shiva devotee. The elderly elephant offered to assist him. When Shiva explained the situation, the elephant allowed himself to be sacrificed. Shiva rushed back to the palace and magically joined the elephant’s head to the body of his son.

Why Ganesha Meaning Relates to Obstacles

The story of Parvati and Shiva’s separation and reunion explains why Ganesha is viewed as the overcomer of obstacles. By magically fusing the elephant head to his son’s body, Shiva brought his son back to life. In this way, Shiva overcame the seemingly insurmountable obstacle to his reunion with Parvati. This was a new beginning for the entire family. Ganesha received a new name after undergoing this ordeal and transformation.

Ganesha Meaning and Mantras

There are a number of mantras to Ganesha. This video is a variation of one of the more common ones.

Ganesha Sharanam, Sharanam Ganesha (2x)
Sayisha Sharanam Sharanam Ganesha Sharanam (2x)

Meaning: I take refuge (sayisha) in Ganesha. I surrender (sharanam) to Ganesha.

Another common mantra is the following: 

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha (repeat)

Meaning: I give honor to Ganesha.

Ganesha Meaning and the Root Chakra

Ganesha is associated with the root chakra at the base of the spine. The heaviness of an elephant connects them to the earth. This chakra is the foundation for the other energy centers located further along the spine.

This chakra establishes a connection to your physical body, the earth, and the environment. The base chakra is associated with survival instincts for food, shelter, safety, comfort, and belonging. “Lam” (lum) is the seed syllable for the base chakra. The base chakra is said to support all of the other chakras.

Most sources say that the base chakra governs the lower part of the body, including the legs, hips, lower back, and lower spine. These generally provide a strong foundation for physical health and a platform for our presence in the world.

Root Chakra Hindu Symbol
Root Chakra Symbol by Rose Karlsen

More Ganesha Meaning

Why is Ganesha holding an axe in one hand and a lotus flower in the other? Why does he have a plate of sweets and what does the lotus flower mean? What is Ganesha’s yantra? See articles on Ganesha Symbolism and Yantra Meanings

Ganesha Symbolism

Learn more about the objects associated with Ganesha.

Yantra Meaning

 Learn how to use yantras for meditation and mantra practice.

About the Author

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.

Kathleen’s Books

Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey and years of research into mantras, chanting and kirtan. Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life. 

Flower Symbols by Kathleen Karlsen features fascinating information about the folklore of the world’s most beloved flowers. Flowers accompany us in nearly every major event in life. This book is a perfect gift for every flower lover in your life! 

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Ganesha is well-known in the East as an aspect of God to appeal to at the beginning of new endeavors. He is the Hindu god of overcoming, a fusion of an elephant head and a human body, something like Western superheroes (think of Batman, Spiderman and Catwoman). This article covers the origins of Ganesha, his mantras, his elephant head and the connection between Ganesha meaning and the root chakra. 

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