Ganesha, aka: Gaṇeśa, Gāṇeśa, Gana-isha; 15 Definition(s)


Ganesha means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit terms Gaṇeśa and Gāṇeśa can be transliterated into English as Ganesa or Ganesha, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Shilpashastra (iconography)

Gaṇeśa—“The god of Wisdom and the patron of learning”—Everything that we perceive in the universe must be grasped and expressed by the mind through the means of categories, therefore “category” is a fundamental principle of existence. The ‘principle’ by which all classifications, and the relationship of one thing to another in the universe can be understood is called Gaṇa-eṣa (“The-Lord-of-Categories”).

Gaṇeśa represents one of the basic concepts of Hindu Philosophy—the identity between the macrocosm and the microcosm. In religious terms this is the identity between the individual and the universe (humankind made in the image of God).

In iconography Gaṇeśa is represented as an Elephant-headed man: The man part of Gaṇeśa represents the manifest Principle which is subordinate to the unmanifest Principle which is represented by the elephant's head. The elephant head also represents certain qualities to which a sincere spiritual seeker is encouraged to aspire — strength, intelligence, endurance and gracefulness.

Source: Red Zambala: Hindu Icons and Symbols | Inner Circle IV

Gaṇeśa (गणेश) is found as a sculpture at the temple of Lokeśvara, south wall, southern façade.—Gaṇeśa seated in lalitāsana. His head is shown in profile, facing west with his trunk up. His right foot is folded and placed on the throne, whereas his left leg is hanging. His lower two hands hold something which looks like a serpent. Probably he is tying it around his belly. His upper right hand is in dolahasta, hanging straight, whereas the upper left is bent in an angle and held in sarpaśīrṣa pose. He wears probably a small crown. With his hands and trunk he draws a figure that looks like a svastika, an auspicious sign. The emplacement of his hands and trunk, dishevelled hair, draws something like edges of two triśūla or tridents in horizontal position. He wears one necklace and an udarabandha, a belt on his stomach or sarpabandha. His paunch is not that big as in many later images.

Gaṇeśa (गणेश) is also found as a sculpture on the eastern wall of the outer maṇḍapa of the temple of Pāpanātha.—Gaṇeśa has the pose of padmāsana lotus, on a lotus seat, where the petals are clearly visible. There is a manuscript in his right hand and the left holds a modaka with his trunk applied on it to relish it. A small tiara adorns his head. He is lambodara, big tummy.

Source: Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (śilpa)
Shilpashastra book cover
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Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

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Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

The Suprabhedāgama is reported to contain a story according to which Śiva and Pārvatī, when they retired to a forest on the slopes of the Himālayas to enjoy themselves, saw two elephants making love. This excited their passion, and they decided to transform themselves into elephants. As a result, Gaṇeśa, too, was born with the face of an elephant. See T. S. Gopinath Rao, Elements of Hindu Iconography, 1.1:44-45.

According to Jayaratha’s Hara-carita-cintāmaṇi (chap. 18) Gaṇeśa was born, not with one but with five elephants’ heads, which were later reduced to one by Śiva. See Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, 2:807-8.

Source: Google Books: Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God
Shaivism book cover
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Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

Ganesha in Purana glossary... « previous · [G] · next »

Gaṇeśa (गणेश) is the name of a deity, as defined in the Śivapurāṇa 1.16. Accordingly, “by the worship of Gaṇeśa the devotee shall attain his wish in this world itself. The days of special worship of Gaṇeśa are Fridays, the fourth day of the bright half of the lunar months of Śrāvaṇa and Bhādrapada, and the Śatabhiṣak star of the month of Dhanus. He shall be worshipped duly on these days. Or the devotee shall worship continuously for hundred or thousand days”.

Source: Siva Purana - English Translation

Gaṇeśa (गणेश) is one of the sons of Śiva: a deity once worshipped in ancient Kashmir (Kaśmīra) according to the Nīlamatapurāṇa.—The term Gaṇeśa occurs twice only in the Nīlamata, once for Śiva’s gaṇa (not bull) Nandī, and secondly for various images having different names but the common epithet Gaṇeśa. The manuscripts of the longer redaction refer to Gaṇeśa a third time also in connection with Dhanada Caturthī.

Source: Nilamata Purana: a cultural and literary study

1a) Gaṇeśa (गणेश).—Is Vināyaka (s.v.); sprung out of Kāmeśvara, thought of by Lalītā; destroyed Bhaṇḍa's followers and filled the Śakti host with enthusiasm. Killed Gajāsura (s.v.). His riding animal was rat. Lalitā honoured him as the first to be worshipped among gods;1 was Nikumbha in whose honour Divodāsa built a temple.2 The head of a Śiva gaṇa who sports in sidda-kṣetras, Rathyas, desolate gardens and places where there are children, the mad and others. Icons of;3 origin in an elephant-faced doll made by Pārvatī from the oil and dirt scraped off her body in the course of an oil bath; cast into Ganges where he grew in size and became Gāngeya.4

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa III. 41. 37-41: 42. 2 and 33: 43. 18 and 31: 44. 70. Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 27. 72-104: 44. 67.
  • 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 67. 55.
  • 3) Matsya-purāṇa 23. 38 and 84: 154. 524, 533-41: 250. 25, 259. 23.
  • 4) Matsya-purāṇa 154. 502-5.

1b) Formerly men who by brahmacarya and pilgrimages pleased Śankara and attained this status; very dear to Śiva; Pārvatī's first view of them; their habits and food; Vīraka, (s.v.) one of them attracted Pārvatī's attention.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 154. 522. to 41.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati and he is prayed during the Ganesh Chaturthi. The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words gana which connotes group, multitude and isha meaning lord or master. Ganesha is shown with a pot -belly because it is the Hindu idea of beauty and signs of well-fed prosperity.It is believed that Ganesha`s head signifies Atman the Highest Reality while the body below the neck represents Maya ,the principle of phenomenal existence. Ganesha`s ears, which appear like large winnowing baskets, have a philosophical significance too.

Source: Wisdom Library: Hinduism

Gaṇesha (गणेश): The god of good fortune, commonly identified for his elephant head.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

The Goddess Pārvatī gave birth to Gaṇeśa during a longlasting absence of her husband Śiva. When Śiva returned he found ayoung boy–Gaṇeśa–near his residence. Assuming the boy was an enemy the outraged Śiva decapitated the boy. This, of course, caused immense grief to Pārvatī. So, in order tocomfort his wife Śiva quickly revived Gaṇeśa’s life by seizingthe first head of a living being he encountered. The first livingcreature he encountered happened to be an elephant, thus Śiva decapitated the elephant’s head and put it on Gaṇeśa’s body.

Source: The Kapalik Ganapati

Gaṇeśa (गणेश).—The demigod in charge of material opulence and freedom from misfortune. He is the son of Lord Śiva and Pārvatī, and is the scribe who wrote down the Mahābhārata.

Source: ISKCON Press: Glossary

In Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Gaṇeśa (गणेश) is the name of an ancient Tibetan tantric deity.—The Newari people of Nepal worship both the Buddha and Gaṇeśa and sometimes even Śiva. In the Tibetan canon there are some hymns and sādhanas dedicated to Gaṇapati, one of the forms of Gaṇeśa, considered also by Buddhists as an emanation of Avalokiteśvara.

Source: A Collection of Tantric Ritual Texts
Tibetan Buddhism book cover
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Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

Ganesha in Marathi glossary... « previous · [G] · next »

gaṇēśa (गणेश).—m (S gaṇa & īśa Lord of troops or bands.) The son of Shiva and Parvati. He is the deity of wisdom and the remover of difficulties and obstacles; whence, in the commencement of undertakings, the opening of literary compositions &c., he receives reverential acknowledgment. He is the leader of the classes of subordinate gods who are regarded as Shiva's attendants. This god (esp. under the form of the word gaṇapati) is the standard of comparison or reference for an eminent writer or composer; as bṛhaspati is for an eloquent speaker, māruti or hanumān for a runner or leaper, bhīmasēna or durvāsa for a glutton, kumbhakarṇa for a sleepyhead, kadaryu for a miser, karṇa or balī for a man of generosity.

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

gaṇēśa (गणेश).—m A deity-the son of śiva & pārvatī.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

Gāṇeśa (गाणेश).—A worshipper of Gaṇeśa.

Derivable forms: gāṇeśaḥ (गाणेशः).

--- OR ---

Gaṇeśa (गणेश).—Name of Gaṇapati, Śiva's son (see gaṇapati below). °जननी (jananī) an epithet of Pārvatī. °भूषणम् (bhūṣaṇam) red-lead.

Derivable forms: gaṇeśaḥ (गणेशः).

Gaṇeśa is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms gaṇa and īśa (ईश).

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Gaṇeśa (गणेश).—m.

(-śaḥ) 1. A name of Siva. 2. Ganesa, the son of Siva and Parvati; he is the deity of wisdom, and remover of obstacles, whence in the commencement of all undertakings, the opening of all compositions. &c. he receives the reverential homage of the Hindus. He is represented as a short fat man with the head of an elephant; and the persent appellation, with other similar compounds, alludes to his office as chief of the various classes of subordinate gods, who are regarded as Siva'S attendants. E. gaṇa a troop or class (of deities attendant upon Siva,) and īśa lord or master.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary
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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Relevant definitions

Search found 1071 related definition(s) that might help you understand this better. Below you will find the 15 most relevant articles:

Gaṇā (गणा).—A female attendant of Skanda. (Śalya Parva, Chapter 46, Verse 3).
Gaṇapati is the name of deity as found depicted in the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai (or Madura),...
Īśa (ईश) is the name of a deity who was imparted with the knowledge of the Dīptāgama by Sadāśiv...
Hṛṣīkeśa (हृषीकेश).—m. (-śaḥ) Vishnu. E. hṛṣīka an organ of sense, īśa lord.
Maheśa (महेश).—m. (-śaḥ) Siva. E. maha great, īśa lord or god.
Gaṇanātha (गणनाथ) is an epithet of both Śiva and Gaṇeśa, as mentioned in the Śivapurāṇa-māhātmy...
Devagaṇa (देवगण).—See Manvantara.
Bhagaṇa.—(IA 19), a bangle. Note: bhagaṇa is defined in the “Indian epigraphical glossary” as i...
Guṇagaṇa (गुणगण).—m., also nt., reckoning, counting, cal- culation of virtues; avoidance of thi...
Jagadīśa (जगदीश).—m. (-śaḥ) An epithet of Vishnu. E. jagat the universe, and īśa lord.
Vighneśa (विघ्नेश).—m. (-śaḥ) Ganesa. E. vighna an obstacle, īśa lord: see vighnanāśana .
Pitṛgaṇa (पितृगण).—1) the whole body of ancestors taken collectively. 2) a class of Manes or de...
Yakṣagāna (यक्षगान).—In South Kanara the term ”Yakṣagāna“ refers both to a style of singing and...
Variṣa (वरिष).—n. (-ṣaṃ) A year. m. plu. (-ṣāḥ) The rains or rainy season. E. vṛṣ to sprinkle, ...
Nāgeśa (नागेश).—1) an epithet of Śeṣa. 2) Name of the author of Paribhāṣenduśekhara and several...

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