Ganesha, also known as Vinayaka (the prominent leader), is the elephant-headed Hindu god of wisdom, literature and worldly success.
Ganesha is a propitious god, promising success, prosperity, and peace and he is invoked before any sort of venture. It is his responsibility to decide between success and failure, to remove obstacles or create them as necessary.
Ganapati is not only the God of Beginnings, he is the defacto God of Learning and Wisdom, as befits his elephant head. The better attributes of the elephant are that it lives long, forgets nothing and it is brave, loyal, kind, strong and gentle.
An explanation to his missing tusk is that Ganapati is considered to have taken down the Mahabharatha at the dictation of its composer, the poet-saint Vyasa. He broke off one of his tusks to write it with, in honor of the great epic he was privileged to set down.
Ganapathi laid a condition that he will quit his assistance once he found that the flow of vyasa’s dictation is broken. Vyasa laid a counter condition that Ganapathi would not write down anything that he did not fully comprehend so that he can get some breathing time when Ganapathi comprehends the versus.
The symbol of Aum represents the elephant head and the trunk of Ganesha. It is noteworthy to mention the fact that the Tamil symbol for Aum does look very similar to the Ganapati head indeed.
Ganesha is depicted with having four arms. These symbolize him as the universal ruler establishing four categories of beings — firstly those who can live only in water, secondly those who can live in water and earth, thirdly those who can live only on earth and lastly those who can fly in the air. Moreover it is also Ganesha who instituted the four castes and four Vedas.
The vehicle of Ganesha is a rat or mouse. As rats generally succeed in gnawing their way through every obstruction, the rat symbolizes this god’s nature of destorying every obstacle.
As the Lord of Obstacles and the personification of those qualities which surmount all difficulties, Ganesha is often honored at the outset of any project or venture and consequently has become particularly popular with businessmen and students. He is the typical lord of success in life and its accompaniments of good living, prosperity and peace. In all ceremonies, Ganesha is first invoked. He is revered by all Hindus and Budhists, whether followers of Shiva, Vishnu or Budha.
Ganesha represents the unity of the Small Being, the rat with the Great Being, the elephant. It is the blending of the microcosm with macrocosm, of drop of water with the ocean and of individual soul with divinity
The Mudgala Purana gives eight Inner Avatars of Ganapati. These avatars can be understood to symbolize abstract qualities which triumph over similar personifications of evil and weakness. The Purana explicitly states that the stories are to be meditated upon for their inner meaning, which will be revealed according to the inner development of each individual and are not meant to be understood as literal narratives.
The first of these is Vakratunda (twisted trunk) an embodiment of the Absolute Impersonal aspect of Godhood called Brahman in the form of Ganesha. He defeated a demon called Matsaryasura, ‘Envy-Jealousy’, born amazingly from the fact that Indra, king of the gods, was absent-minded and lost control of his faculties of mind! This lapse in awareness resulted in this impossibly powerful demon coming into being, and he defeated all, as there is nothing that envy cannot overpower in the long run. Only the pure abstract form of god, hence without qualities that can be overcome by Envy, could beat him. The myth is of course an allegory on the yogic belief that in the end all the qualities of the mind have to be transcended for liberation.
The next incarnation was in the form of Ekadanta (single tusked) who defeated the demon Madasura. This is purely an allegorical story as Madasura gained power by meditating on the famous Shakti mantra, ‘Hrim’, revealing its essentially tantrik source. The form of Ekadanta has been interpreted to mean Eka, ‘one’, but also creative power of matter, Maya and Danta stands for ‘truth’. Ekadanta is thus the Supreme Truth that wields Maya. Madasura was let off with the admonition that he could benefit from all the demonic desires manifest in the universe, but he could not harass those with pure intentions and actions, an obvious statement of the fact that evil can enter only when it is invited in.
The next was Mahodara who vanquished Mohasura, the demon of Delusion and Confusion.As Lambhodara, the Essence of Sattva, he defeats Krodhasura (Anger).
As Vikata (Intelligence) he defeats Kamasura (Lust).Vignaraja (Lord of Obstacles) defeated the demon Mamasura (Possessiveness). It is a not so subtle attempt to convey that the major roadblock to spiritual evolution is the desire to possess.Dhumravarna , the destructive power of Brahman, overcame the demon Abhimanasura (Attachment, Pride).
All these demons are known as the Inner Enemies, and represent the qualities that one needs to get rid of, as one grows in the spiritual life. They are in a real sense obstacles, and Ganapati is the best qualified to remove obstacles from any life.
Each one of these qualities are part of the Shadow, a vital aspect of our personas, providing great energy if they are controlled, but wreaking disaster if they are allowed to become dominant in the psyche. They are to be subdued not destroyed, for in the famous words of Jung, “How can I cast a Shadow if I am not substantial?” The more you develop as a human being, the more the potential for these qualities to manifest and drag you down is enhanced. But recognizing that they are within you and refusing to let them take charge is the way forward. It is not surprising that the mere sight of Ganapati, Awareness, renders these demons impotent and powerless. Once they are recognized and acknowledged for what they are, they lose their influence instantly.