Ganesha Meaning

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. This deity is commonly believed to be the ruler of new beginnings, success, wisdom, removing obstacles, letters and learning.

Ganesha Meaning Full Illustration

Ganesha, God of New Beginnings
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Origins of Ganesha

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

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. Ganesha also has a brother named Kartikeya, the god of war.

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.

Parvati Hindu Goddess Deity Meaning Love

Goddess Parvati, Mother of Ganesha
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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.

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

Ganesha Meaning and His 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.

Ganesha Meaning and 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. In fact, Ganesha received his new name after undergoing this ordeal and transformation. Interestingly, although he is known for removing obstacles, Ganesha sometimes places obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked.

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

Ganesha Meaning & Symbolism Resources

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 Meaning

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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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