Names of Ganesh

Chapter summary

The four Ganesh incarnations during the Yuga
The eight incarnations of Ganesh
The twelve main names of Ganesh
The twenty one names of Ganesh
The thirty two names of Ganesh
The fifty one names of Ganesh
The litanies of one hundred and eight names
Litany of one thousand names of Ganesh

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The topic of the Ganesh names is nearly endless. Indeed, these names are supposed to reflect all the qualities, all the powers of this beloved god. The Ganesh devotees think that these powers have no limitation. Although it's impossible to give a comprehensive description on that subject, it looks really interesting to express some of the Ganesh names. This overview allows the reader to get a rough idea about the "functions" of Ganesh.

The four Ganesh incarnations during the Yuga

According to the Ganesha Purâna, four Ganesh incarnations came on earth during the different periods (yuga), in order to fight the devils. They are :

  1. Mahotkata with ten arms, seated on a lion, shining like the sun, came during the Krita Yuga to kill the demons Narântak and Devântak
  2. White-colored Shri Mayureshvar with six arms, riding the peacock, faced the demon Sindhu during the Treta Yuga
  3. Red-colored Shri Gajânana with four arms, mounted on his rat, destroyed the demon Sindur during the Dwapara Yuga
  4. Dhûmraketu is the form of Ganesh who will come in the future; we are now living in the Kali Yuga. Two-arms and smoke-colored Dhûmraketu will ride on a blue horse; he will fight all the devils to restore peace and harmony in the world.

The eight incarnations of Ganesh

The Mudgala Purâna, is an eminent scripture dated of the 16 th century. It tells the story of the eight incarnations of Ganesh. Let us describe them in brief :

  1. Vakratunda, "the Lord with the curved trunk". He is represented seated on a lion. He came to struggle against the devil Matsara, who is the symbol of jealousy.
  2. Ekadanta, "the Lord who has only one tusk". exterminated Mada, the demon of drunkeness.
  3. Mahodara, "the Lord who has a big belly", gives battle to Moha, the demon of illusion.
  4. Gajânana, "the Lord with an elephant face", put Lobha, the demon of greed, to death .
  5. Lambodara, "the Lord with a protuberant belly", masters Krodha, the demon of anger.
  6. Vikata, "the misshapen", subdued Kâma, the demon of desire
    Ekadanta, Mahodara, Gajânana, Lambodara and Vikata are represented mounted on a rat.
  7. Under the form of Vighnarâja, "the Lord King of obstacles", lying on Shasha, the Snake of Eternity, Ganesh destroyed Mama, the demon of ego.
  8. Finally, the last Ganesh incarnation is Dhûmravarna, "the Lord with a tawny color", riding a mouse, who got victory over Ahamkâra, the demon of self-infatuation.

These mythic forms demonstrate that Ganesh has the capacity to reduce all the human weaknesses, such as jealousy, drunkeness, illusion, greed, anger, desire, egotism, self-infatuation (arrogance), which send the devotee away from his path to god. We must notice that the battle against these ennemies of the human being are really the basis of the sadhana for the spiritual seeker. But, for all that, the demons are not definitely destroyed. They are only under control and the spiritual path only allows this result.

The twelve main names of Ganesh

The Ganesha Purâna, important text of the Gânapatya, gives a list of the twelve main names of the elephant-headed-god. These names must be used before any ritual. They are the following :

  1. Sumukha : "The very graceful Lord"
  2. Ekadanta : "The Lord who has only one tusk"
  3. Kapila : "The Lord of a tawny color"
  4. Gajakarna : "The Lord with elephant ears"
  5. Lambodara : "The Lord with a prominent belly"
  6. Vikata : "The Misshapen"
  7. Vighnanâsaka : "The Lord destroyer of obstacles"
  8. Ganâdhipa : "The Lord Protector of the Gana"
  9. Dhûmraketu : "The Lord of a smoky color" with two arms riding on a blue horse, Ruler of the Kali Yuga
  10. Ganâdhyaksha : "The Minister of the Gana"
  11. Bhâlachandra : "The Lord who wears the moon crescent on his head"
  12. Gajânana : "The Lord with an elephant face".

We notice that the incarnations 2, 4, 5, 6, are also found in this list.

Of course, in this Purâna, we meet many other Ganesh names. There is also litany of one thousand names of Ganesh… (see below).

The twenty one names of Ganesh

During a pûjâ, offerings of flowers and rice accompany the 21 Ganesh names (eka vishanti nama) as follow :

  1. Vighnarâja : "The King of obstacles"
  2. Gajânana : "The Lord who has an elephant face"
  3. Lambodara : "The Lord with a prominent belly"
  4. Shivatmaja (son of Shiva)
  5. Vakratunda : "The Lord with a twisted trunk"
  6. Supakarna
  7. Ganeshvara : "The Lord of the Gana"
  8. Vighnanashin : "The Destroyer of Obstacles"
  9. Vikata : "The Misshapen"
  10. Vamana : "The Dwarf"
  11. Sarvadeva
  12. Sarvadukhavinâshi
  13. Vighnarhartr : "The Lord who cancels the obstacles"
  14. Dhûmrâja
  15. Sarvadevâdhideva
  16. Ekadanta : "The Lord who has only one tusk"
  17. Krishnapingala : "The blue and dark Lord"
  18. Bhâlachandra : "The Lord who carries the crescent of moon on his head"
  19. Gananâtha : "The supreme Chief of the Gana"
  20. Shankarasunav : "The son of Shankara"
  21. Anangapujita : "The formless Lord"

The thirty two names of Ganesh

The Srîtattvanidhi is a document written in the 19 th century in Karnataka, under the guidance of the Mysore Mahârâja. It compiles and describes in detail the thirty two main forms of Ganesh.

  1. Bâla Ganapati : "Ganapati the Child". He has four arms. His hands bear a mango, a small branch of a mango-tree, a stem of sugar-cane and a cake.
  2. Taruna Ganapati : "Ganapati the Teenager". Her has eight arms. His hands expose the single tusk, the elephant goad, the kapittha fruit, the sugar-cane, the noose, the paddy ear, the apûpa cake.
  3. Bhakta Ganapati : "Ganapati, the Perfect Worshippert". He has four arms. His hands show a banana, the small branch of a mango-tree, the bowl of sugared rice (payâsapâtra).
  4. Vîra Ganapati : "Ganapati the Hero". He has sixteen arms. He wears the trident, the vampire, the two-head club, the axe, the arrow, the elephant goad, the sword, the disc, the pestle, the club, the snake, the spear, the banner, the bow, the noose and the small damaru drum.
  5. Shakti Ganapati : "Ganesh embracing the goddess Success; - Pushti". He has four arms. His low right hand shows the movement of lack of fear (abhaya); the two others wear the elephant goad and the noose; the last hand, who holds a lemon, embraces the goddess. With the top of his trunk, Shakti Ganapati holds a cake.
  6. Ucchista Ganapati : "Ganapati devouring the remnants of the meal". He has six arms. His hands show the rosary, the pomegranate, the paddy ear (shalyagra), the nocturnal lotus, the lute (vîna) ; his sixth hand sometimes bears a guñja berry, embraces the goddess. The Ucchista Ganapati trunk is placed on the goddesse's thigh.
  7. Siddhi Ganapati : "Ganapati bestowing success", fond of the sesame cake. He has four arms. His hands hold the axe, the noose, the sugar-cane stem and the mango.
  8. Dvija Ganapati : "Ganapati the Twice-Born". He has four heads and four arms. His hands hold the rosary, the washing pot (kamandalu), the walking-stick of an ascetic or the ritual spoon (sruk) and the manuscript on palm-leaves (pustaka).
  9. Vighna Ganapati : "Ganapati removing the obstacles". He has eight arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the disc, the arrow-flowers, the hatchet, the conch, the sugar-cane stem, the noose, the elephant goad. With the tip of his trunk, he carries a bunch of flowers (pushapamañjari).
  10. Kshipra Ganapati : "Ganapati the Speedyle". He has four arms. His hands show the single tusk, the elephant goad, the creeper of the votive tree (kalpalatâ), the noose. With the end of his trunk, he carries the stone cup full of precious stones (ratnakumbha).
  11. Heramba Ganapati : "The five-heads Ganapati riding the lion". He has ten arms. His first hand shows the movement of lack of fear(abhaya), the others hold the rosary, the citron, the club, the elephant goad, the noose, the axe, the kadabu cake, the single tusk; his tenth hand shows the movement which bestows boons (varada).
  12. Lakshmî Ganapati : "Ganapati the Fortunate" embracing his wives Siddhi and Buddhi. He has eight arms. His hands hold a pomegranate, a sword, the the creeper of the votive tree, the elephant goad, the parrot, the noose, the jewels pot; his eighth hand bestows boons (varada).
  13. Mahâganapati : "The Great Ganapati" with the goddess Wealth - Pushti. He has ten hands. His hands hold the single tusk, the pomegranate, the club, the sugar-cane bow, the disc, the conch, the noose, the nocturnal lotus, the paddy ear, the jewels pot.
  14. Vijaya Ganapati : "Ganapati the Victorious", riding a rat which trots at a smart pace. He has four arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the noose and the mango.
  15. Nrtya Ganapati : "The Dancing Ganapati" under the boon-tree. He has four arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the noose, the axe (parashu) or the hatchet (kuthâra). The dhyâna sloka specifies that one of the four hands can show a cake apûpa.
  16. Ûrdhva Ganapati : "The Rising Ganapati", seated with his Shakti on his left thigh. He has eight arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the arrow-flower, the daylight lotus, the blue lily (kalhara), the sugar-cane bow, the paddy ear, the club; his last hand claps the goddess. The extremity of his trunk is rolled around the right breast of the goddess.
  17. Vara Ganapati : "The Delightful Ganapati" with the goddess Wealth - Pushti, seated on his left thigh. He has four arms. His first three hands hold the elephant goad, the skull filled with liquor (madhumatkapâla) and the noose. The fourth hand creeps between the thighs of the goddess who holds a lotus and a banner.
  18. Ekâkshara Ganapati : "Ganapati identified with the word OM". He has four arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the noose and the cake modaka. Somtimes, he wears, with the extremity of his trunk (bîjapûra).
  19. Tryakshara Ganapati : "The Three-letters A+U+M Ganapati". He has four ars. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the noose and the mango. He holds the cake modaka with the trunk end.
  20. Kshipraprasâda Ganapati : "Ganapati bestowing quickly his mercy". He has six arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the lotus, the creeper of the votive tree (kalpalatâ), the noose, the lemon.
  21. Haridrâ Ganapati : "The curcuma-colored Ganapati". He has four arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the noose and the cake modaka.
  22. Ekadanta Ganapati : "The Single Tusk Ganapati". He has four arms. His hands hold a large tusk, a rosary, a hatchet (kuthâra) and the small ball of sweets (laddu).
  23. Shristi Ganapati : "Ganapati the Creator", riding a big rat. His has four arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the noose and the mango.
  24. Uddanda Ganapati : "Ganapati the Unchained", with his Shakti seated on his left thigh. He has twelve arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the club, the nocturnal lotus, the noose, the paddy ear, the elephant goad, the washing pot (kamandalu), the sugar-cane bow, the disc, the daylight lotus, the conch and the pomegranate. His trunk is placed on the top of the goddesse's breast or, sometimes, maintains a jewels pot (manikumbha).
  25. Sankatahara Ganapati : "Ganapati seated on a large lotus with his Shakti "; he removes the impediments. He has four arms. His first hand show the movement to bestow boons (varada) ; the three others hold the elephant goad, the noose and the bowl of sugared rice (pâyasapâtra).
  26. Dundhi Ganapati : "The Ganapati which we have to look for". He has four arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the rosary, the hatchet (kuthâra) and the pot of jewels (ratnapâtra).
  27. Trimukha Ganapati : "The Tree-Head Ganapati". He has six arms. His first hand shows the movement which gives boons (varada), the four others hols a very sharp elephant goad, a rudrâksha grain of the rosary, the noose and the ambrosia pot (amritakumbha) ; the sixth hand removes the fear (abhaya).
  28. Simha Ganapati : "The Lion-face Ganapati". He has eight arms. His first hand shows the movement which bestow boons (varada). The following hold the disc, the bunch of flowers, the lute (vîna), thez daylight lotus, the jewels pot, the creeper of the votive tree; the last hand shows the movement which removes fear (abhaya).
  29. Yoga Ganapati : "Ganapati the Ascetic". He has four arms. His legs are surrounded with the meditation girdle (yogapatta). His hands hold the rosary, the elbow-rest or the walking-stick, the noose and the sugar-cane.
  30. Durgâ Ganapati : "Ganapati similar the the Goddess Durgâ". He has eight arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the arrow, the rosary, the noose, the bow, the creeper of the votive tree (kalpalatâ) and the rose-apple fruit.
  31. Rnamocaka Ganapati : "Ganapati who discharges from debts". He has four arms. His hands hold the single tusk, the elephant goad, the noose and the rose-apple fruit.

    The fifty one names of Ganesh

    South India is the main region where 51 names are given to Ganesh, as many as letters of the sanskrit alphabet. We remember that those letters are also found, in a specific order, on the chakra petals. Thus, there are four in the mûladhara chakra where Ganesh is the presiding deity.

    The litanies of one hundred and eight names of Ganesh

    During the pûjâ, one uses to repeat a litany of one hundred and eight names only (Shri Ganesh ashtottara shata nâma). The lists look nearly similar but can differ on some details. We give one of these lists in annex .

    Each name is preceded by the mantra OM and following by the word namaha (which means "I/We bow (to Ganesh)")

    Litany of one thousand names of Ganesh

    This is the acme of the litanies. The litanies of the one-thousand-and-eight-names (Shri Ganesha Sahasra Nâma) covers most of the qualities given to the invoked deity. We give one of these lists in the chapter Sri-Ganesha-Sahasra-Naamavali. This list is adapted from the book Lord Ganesha, Sadguru Sant Keshavadas, 1988.

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