Who is Ganesh?

November 8, 2015

Who-is-GaneshGanesh looks like a cute happy elephant, but he’s more than that.  The elephant-headed deity is one of the most revered gods in Hinduism. We saw him all over India, and he’s worshipped in Nepal and Sri Lanka.  Jains and Buddhists are also devoted to him.

Why is he popular? Ganesh has an important role: he is said to remove obstacles in  our life path. He’s a busy god–he is also responsible for destroying vanity, selfishness and pride.

ganesh indThere are so many depictions of Ganesh, but his symbolism is important. I’ll give you my general understanding, and if you’re Hindu, feel free to correct me and add context. Thank you!

His head stands for the soul or ultimate reality; his body stands for our human and earthly world. The trunk has the symbol of OM — the primal sound and symbol of the Universal reality. Ganesh holds a goad in his upper right hand, which helps him push mankind forward on our eternal path and clear obstacles from our path.

You noticed that Ganesh holds a noose in his left hand–it’s meant to capture all difficulties.

It’s not a pen in his lower right hand, it’s a broken tusk representing sacrifice. He holds a rosary in another hand, which is meant to suggest that our pursuit of knowledge should be ongoing.   His trunk holds a sweet, encouraging us to discover the sweetness of our soul and reality. Those big ears make it easier to hear our pleas. The snake that looks like a belt around his waist represents energy.

Ganesh insideUsually, he’s depicted riding the lowest of creatures, a mouse, said to show his humility. The mouse is also a symbol of darkness, which Ganesh has control over by riding it.
ganesh color for blogAlthough I came to appreciate Ganesh when we spent nearly three weeks in India, I saw Ganesh depicted many times in Santa Fe, along with offerings people had made to him. He’s so important that he’s usually worshipped first, before any other deity.

I’m not Hindu, but Hinduism is probably as close to my beliefs as any “organized” religion. So, of course, Ganesh has an important place in our home as more than an object of decor.


15 comments on “Who is Ganesh?
  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    Well Done, Carol. I couldn’t have done it better and I spent a month there, too. He’s a pretty cool deity and I had an interesting time deciphering his many colorful stories and representations. It’s a religion everyone should at least spend a little time getting to know, especially those who claim they have no stomach for organized religion in the US. Hinduism and Buddhism are an important component to any religious study, and like you, have become a way of life for me.

  2. NainaParis says:

    I’m a Buddhist. I’m pretty sure we don’t worship Ganesh or any other god. In Sri Lanka; Buddhism got a little influence from Hinduism in the past, may be that’s where you got that idea. 🙂
    Despite that, I like the way you honour the religious diversity in your post.

  3. I have a statue of Ganesh in my living room, close to my Buddha. The woman who sold him to me told me that Ganesh would listen to our requests with his large ears and then whisper them into the ears of Buddha with his long trunk, and that because of this I should keep the two of them close together wherever I placed them in our home. Thanks for all of the additional context, now I feel even safer with him close by in my home.

  4. Katy Kozee says:

    I never knew any of this and love it. I particularly like the idea in the comments of hearing our requests and then whispering them into Buddha’s ear. I have a collection where a statue of Ganesh would be right at home! I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for just the right one.

  5. Kim Tackett says:

    I keep a Ganesh card over my desk and have a small Ganesh at our home’s entry. However, my favorite is the one my daughter took to university with her. She keeps it on her dresser at school as a daily reminder. And it seems to have worked!

  6. Jennifer says:

    Ganesh is my favorite. Thanks for reminding me that he is the “overcomer of obstacles!”

  7. Of course you have written about Ganesh today, Carol, I dare say I am the beneficiary of his reminder to breathe and be grateful for his noose, feelings are as permanent as we allow them to be. Thank you.

  8. I always loved Ganesh because he was an elephant but I love learning that he is a remover of obstacles. Thanks for this enlightenment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.