Ganesha - The Hindu Elephant Headed Deity

Ganesha is the elephant-headed deity of Hinduism. This god is also referred to as Ganesh or GanapatiGanesha is typically the first deity contacted in Hindu prayers. Those who seek wisdom and prosperity often call for him.

In Hindu art Ganesha is usually depicted with four arms and a rather portly human body. Each of Ganesha's arms carries an item with important spiritual significance. He usually holds his own broken tusk in his lower-right hand and a laddoo sweet in his lower-left hand which he tastes with his trunk.  An axe is held in the right upper hand and a noose is held in the left upper hand. 

Ganesha - Hindu Elephant Headed Deity

Artistic depictions of Ganesh have evolved from their ancient Indian roots. In a modern variation, the lower-right hand does not hold the broken tusk but is turned toward the viewer in a gesture of protection and fearlessness (the abhaya mudra).  He sometimes also wields an elephant goad in order to master life’s obstacles. Some artists illustrate Ganesh with additional arms (beyond four) which hold additional symbolic items such as musical instruments, rosary or flowers such a water lily, sports items such as a discus, or weapons like a mac, spear, or staff. 

Kroncha - Ganesha's Vahana

Hindu deities are usually associated with an animal that acts as a vehicle (vahana) to transport them wherever they please. Ganesha is depicted riding Kroncha, a giant bandicoot rat known for its agility. Kroncha can gnaw through all barriers and it can slide into crevices too tiny for Ganesha to enter.

The relationship is symbolic of Ganesha’s ability to overcome any obstacle. He plays a dual role of a supreme being powerful enough ensure success or create obstructions for those whose ambition has become destructive. In this way Ganesh stands against pride, vanity, and selfishness.

Ganesha's Story

The Hindu tradition contains many different versions of Ganesha’s origins, but the most popular story is as follows:

One day Goddess Parvati was preparing for a bath at home on Mt.Kailash. Parvati was often disturbed by her husband, Shiva, who had a habit of barging in on her as she bathed. She told Shiva’s Bull, Nandi, to stand guard at the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, but when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside Nandi let him pass being loyal first to Shiva. 

Parvati was angry at this slight, but even more so at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So kneading the dirt from her body into the shape of a child and breathing life into it, she created Ganesha, declaring him to be her own loyal son. She then had Ganesha guard the entrance for her next bath.

In due course, Shiva came home to find this boy who claimed he was Parvati's son and prevented him from entering his own quarters! Furious, Shiva ordered his army of demons, the bhutaganas, to destroy the boy. Such power did Ganesha possess, being the son of Parvati Herself, he defeated them all! Witnessing this power, Shiva decided he would have to fight him. In Shiva's mad fury he beheaded Ganesh.

Parvati was distraught with the events and threatened to destroy the entire Creation! She said she would stop if two conditions were met: one, that Ganesha be resurrected, and two, that he be forever worshiped before all the other deities. Shiva realizing his wrongdoing, agreed to Parvati’s conditions. He requested his servants bring the head of the first creature they crossed that was laying with its head facing North. The servants returned with the head of an elephant, which Shiva placed onto Ganesha’s body. Breathing new life into him, he declared Ganesha to be his own son as well, and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods.The elephant's head symbolizes unmatched wisdom and the gaining of knowledge through reflection and listening. 

As a reward for his great courage in fighting the demons, Shiva made Ganesha the leader all the ganas (classes of beings) and the bhutaganas (demons) hence his name. And because of his role as his mother's doorkeeper, he is often placed facing doorways to keep out the unworthy.

There are further stories surrounding Ganesh that are conflicting in nature such as how his tusk came to be broken:

One story is that he broke it off himself in order to write down the Mahabharata, one of the world's longest epic poems, as it was dictated to him by the sage Vyasa. Ganesh's pen failed during the transcription and so he snapped off his tusk as a replacement in order that the process not be interrupted.  The broken tusk therefore symbolises sacrifice (particularly in the pursuit of artistic endeavors) and reiterates Ganesh's role as patron of the arts and of letters. 

Another version of the broken-tusk story highlights Ganesh's devotion and loyalty.  In this story his father, Shiva, decided to take a nap and asked Ganesh to guard him. A Brahmin warrior named Parashuram came to visit Shiva but was stopped from waking him by Ganesh.  Parashuram was furious and fought with him throwing his ax at his head. Ganesh stopped the ax with his tusk which broke, giving him the nickname Eka-danta, or "One Toothed."

Calling Upon Ganesha

Ganesha is the archetype who you call upon when you’re about to embark on a new endeavor such as launching a new business and thus is the patron of intellectuals, bankers, scribes, and authors. Ganesha can be helpful for: 

  • An endeavor of any size in which you want to succeed.
  • Artistic or literary projects 
  • Making a big decision such as deciding whether to leave or change your job.
  • Overcoming an obstacle that preventing you from further success.  


Jewelry featuring Ganesha is very popular as it promotes a peaceful state of mind and cultivation of success. It is a symbol that is great to carry as a lucky token. If you're looking for some ganesh themed jewelry take a look at these gorgeous ganesh necklaces and ganesh chokers: