Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ganesh and his wives

Ganesh and his wives

A lot of Indian people think that Ganesh has normally to remain a bachelor god. Besides, several specialists state that, according to the commun faith, Ganesh is really a bachelor, and nay even misogynous god. In support of this proposition, they explain that classical images showing Ganesh in association with feminine characters would be rather rare...

In reality, when Ganesh is a bachelor, we may consider him as a brahmachârin , that is to say engaged in spiritual practices for the purification.

In other cases, traditional as well as contemporary iconography show it many times, Ganesh is said to be married with two beautiful girls named Siddhi (Success) and Buddhi (Wisdom). Is it a symbol to emphasize the wisdom and success necessary action in the course to remove obstacles, and we know that Ganesh is the best specialist in that matter ?

Or, do the two Ganesh wives personnify His wisdom and accomplisment ?

The best known history of the Ganesh wedding is narrated in the Shiva Purâna.

Shiva and Pârvatî told their two sons : "You two are good sons, equal to our eyes. An auspicious marriage will be granted to the first of you coming back here after he has travelled three times all over the universe." Skanda started immediately to journey round the world, but Ganesh took time to think about the challenge. He got a purification bath, then installed two comfortable seats and invited his parents to sit down on these. Praising them, he turned around them seven times, then declared : "Please take the decision to celebrate my marriage. I am the winner". Indeed, his parents were surprised, but Ganesh replied : "Is it not written in theVeda and the Shastra that the man who ritually circumambulate (pradakshina) seven times around his parents can get as many merits as if he journeys round the world ? Please, let organize quickly my wedding now". Hearing this statement from their son, Shiva et Pârvatî were really surprised but they decided to congratulate him for his guile. So, Ganesh was mattied to the Prajâpati's daughters : Siddhi (success) and Buddhi (wisdom, cleverness). After some times, Ganesh got two sons : Kshema (prosperity) born from Siddhi, and Lâbha (acquisition) born from Buddhi. When Skanda came back and discovered that his brother had diddled him, he went to the Krauncha mountain where he dwelled unmarried, still now.

Other references, in the texts, talking about the Ganesh marriage are the following :

A well developed narration in the Vinâyakâpurânam (18 th century)
The Matsyapurâna which indicates Ganesh as the "Riddhi (success, prosperity) and Buddhi (intelligence) owner"; for this reason, some commentators consider that these goddesses are not Shaktis, but only symbols of the Ganesh qualities
The Brahmavaivartapurâna mentions the Ganesh marriage with Pushti (Prosperity)
In the Ganeshapurâna, the great Sage Nârada propose the Ganesh wedding with Siddhi and Buddhi, the two daughters of god Brahmâ
In the Mudgalapurâna, the two Ganesh wives, Siddhi and Buddhi are not daughters of god Brahmâ, but daughters of Marici, the Brahmâ's son...

The wives names can be different. As indicated above, the Shivapurâna names them as Siddhi and Buddhi, but they are called Riddhi and Buddhi in the Matsyapurâna. And theBrahmavaivartapurâna mentions only Pushti as the Ganesh wife...

More. Sometimes, the Ganesh "wife" is indistinctly, according to the regions, the people, the sects, named Sarasvatî, Sharda, Lakshmi, and even Pârvatî...

The same heterogeneity is found to name popularly the Ganesh mother : generally, she is known as Pârvatî, but also as Gauri, Lakshmi, Durgâ.

Definitely, Ganesh often goes with a female image seated on his left lap, or with his two brides , rarely on his two laps, but more often seated ont on the right lap, the other on the left one; this can be observed on the painted walls in the Shekavati region in Rajasthan; sometimes stone frescoes are found

The question remains weither the Ganesh wives are Shakti or only wives. Most probably, the two options are credible. To support the second option, we known that, according to theShivapurâna, two sons were born from the Ganesh marriage with his wives : Siddhi got Kshema (Welfare) and Buddhi gave birth to Lâbha (lucre).

On the other hand,it is undisputable that Ganesh Shkti are known. Except the elephant-headed Vinâyakî (see below), who is obviously a "typical" Shakti since she is quite similar to Ganesh (but she is a female representation), the Shakti Ganesh form a particular category connected with tantric cults.

These Shakti Ganesh are escorted by a human-shape goddess, perched on his left lap. Such Tantric Ganesh are :


The big Mahâganapati statue just located at the entrance of the one-thousand pilars hall of the Minâkshîsundareshvara temple in Madurai, is very famous. But we may also remember that Ganesh is not really a bachelor in many present handicraft works .

Ganesh and Vinâyakî

Vinâyakî is a feminine form of Ganesh; she has a elephant head and female breast. Only a few such representations are known in India, about thirty only, for instance :

In Uttar Pradesh à Rikhian, Banda district : stone lintel (10 th, century, Pratîhâra period)

In Madhya Pradesh :

In Udayapur, north of Vidisha; in this place, Vinâyakî and Vinâyaka (11 th century, Paramâra period) are represented together, which is a quite unique feature
In Bheraghat, near Jabalpur, a 11 th century Vinâyakî is locally named Shri Aingini
In Suhania, Morena region (10 th century, Pratîhara period)
Coming from Satna,but on display at the Indian Museum in Calcutta, a notable Vrishaba , cow-headed goddess (particular form of Durgâ, with eight arm, 10 th century, Chedi period); a very nice small seated Vinâyakî, with four arms, is located at the feet of this large Vrishaba

In Orissa :

In Hirapur, near Bhubaneshwar (10 th century, East Ganga period)
In Ranipur Jhariyal (10 th century, East Ganga period)

In Maharashtra, Aundha Nâganâtha (Parbani district), 13 th century

In Tamil Nadu, where she got tiger feet (Vyâghrapâda Vinayakî) in


Specialized books give the description of other Vinâyakî images in the following locations :

A 16 th century bronze, Shirali museum (Karnataka)
A 17 th century Maharashtra bronze, Lucknow museum
A 17 th century Kerala bronze, Staat Museum fur Völkerkunde de Munich (Germany)

This goddess is again marked out in Gujarat, in Bihar, in Assam.

This feminine Ganesh forms have been discovered in circular enclosure called 64 Yoginî (Chaushasthi Yoginî) enclosures or temples. Eighteen such Yoginî temples have been indexed in Inde and Sri Lanka.

Several names are known for these Ganesh feminine forms : Vinâyakî of course, but also Ganeshânî, Gajânanâ, etc.

Who is Vinâyakî ? Ancient texts consider her as one of the 64 Yoginî, or even one of the Saptamâtrikâ. We need to read the Purâna to get a rough idea about the role of this goddess.

According to the Silpasâra, document in which the Yoginî are presented as terrifying Durgâ consorts, the description explain thjat some Yoginî feed with dead bodies, other stare on you at night like devils; moreover, other look like demons with awful eyes and the hair drawn up on the head.

To summarize, Vinâyakî is obviously the Shakti of Ganesh/Vinâyaka, that is to say the creativeness of the god. On the contrary, the other consort goddesses like Buddhi, Siddhi, Riddhi, Pushti, Nîla Sarasvatî), may be considered as his wives. They have a human body and a seducing face.

The Vinâyakî iconography is similar to the Ganesh one; for instance, she is represented with two or four arms, standing or seated, sometimes she is dancing. More complicated forms are unknown. Emblems are the same as Ganesh emblems; however Vinâyakî can bear a vînâ. Her hands can show the abhaya or the varada mudra .

For J. Herbert, the Ganesh Shakti is diversely represented. Sometimes, she is a twin figure, one is Buddhi (supra mental power of unerstanding), the other is Siddhi (higher cleverness and superhuman power both) or Riddhi (perfection); these goddesses are represented with normal human bodies. In esoteric situations, the Shakti is named Ganeshânî, represented with an elephant head and a woman body. Ganesh embraces her tenderly close by him. Most probably, Herbert speaks abput the twin japanese Ganesh.

Ganesh and the Saptamâtrikâ

In the Hinduism, the seven (sapta) Mâtrikâ (Mothers) are divine images. In a few places, like Elephanta, near Mumbai (Bombay), they are eight in number (ashta).

The Mâtrikâ's seems to be complex. Their nature is ambivalent : in the Varâha-Purâna, it is said that they have been created by Shiva and other gods in order to fight an unconquerable devil, Andhakâsura. Every blood drop oozing from his wounds and falling on the ground was immediately transformed in a new Asura adverse to gods. Then, the Shakti bustled themselves to collect the demon's blood before it could reach the ground. Then Andhakâsura died. But, the legend reports that each of these Shakti was the symbol of one of the eight "bad mental feelings".

In course of time, the symbolic meaning of the Mâtrikâ has progressively changed; being initially malevolent deities, they became benevolent and protector. Indeed, a very long time ago, the Mothers were connected, in the popular believes, with the event of usual diseases, like smallpox, typhoid, cholera. To avoid these deseases, the only solution was to obtain the Mothers goodwill, giving offerings and sacrifices to them.

The present popular conviction, among lowest castes and out-casts, still assigns a considerable importance to the Mothers who shield them from such ilnesses. For instance, Maryamma for the smallpox, is prayed in a small temple near the Swayambunath temple (Kathmandu, Nepal).

Incorporated in the divine idols venerated by brahmanism, the Mâtrikâ were progressively considered as female counterparts and personnified Shakti (Creation Power) of the Vedic gods. According to some authors, they are also forms derived from the Chandî goddess.

These forces, Shakti of main gods, share their iconography and equally own particuler mounts and emblems. The following frame give the symbols attached to the Mâtrikâ.

GodMâtrikâTypical emblemMount
BrahmâBrahmânîKamandalu, ShrukGoose or swan
Shiva Mâheshvarî (or Yogeshvarî)
Nandi Bull
Vishnu Vaishnavî
Garuda eagle
Skanda (Kumâra)Kaumârî
Indra IndrânîVajraAirâvata elephant
YamaChâmundâCrânesJackal or buffalo

In the Harivamsha, one can find prayers adressed to the Mâtrikâ, imploring them to protect the children, as if they are their true mothers. For this reason, the Mother icons are sometimes depicted with a child seated on their laps (see in Ellora, for instance) or standing nearby.

According to a 11 th century text, the Ishâna-Shiva-gurudeva-paddhati, Ganesh invoked as Vinâyaka is able to preserve children from malevolent evils; then, he removes all the obstacles which could prevent the cult rendered to the Mothers. Because of that, the god is viewed as patron of the Mâtrikâ. Accordingly, Ganesh is often represented whis them in the Shiva temples. We must also remember (described in the Vâmanapurâna) that, after the Ganesh birth, Shiva requests the Mâtrikâ and the awfull dead spirits to serve the son of Pârvatî at all times.

The Suprabhedâgama explains that Ganesh must be standing up when he escorts the Saptamâtrikâ. However, most often, we find him seated and even dancing. He is generally at the very left side of the group, nearby Chamundâ. This arrangement is also found in Ellora in the caves nb. 14, 16, 21 et 22 (end 6 th to 8 th century).

Alike the Mothers, Ganesh can provoke a lot of hindrances to anybody. Therefore, it is compulsory to propitiate the god and to supplicate him to remove the obstacles. Actually, and this point is many times emphasized in the texts, Ganesh must be auspicious before the cult to other gods is started. This is why the Gobhilasmriti demands to begin every ritual by a preliminary invocation to Ganesh and the Mothers.

Ganesh near the Saptamâtrikâ is found rather frequently in the Deccan peninsula, in Orissa, in Bengal, but mainly in Tamil Nadu. A few locations only are reported here :

Aihole (Ravana Phadi ceve), 6 th century, Chalukya period (Karnataka)
Pattadakal (Galaganath temple), Chalukya period (Karnataka)
Tiruttani (Virattanesvara temple), Pallava period (Andhra Pradesh)
Kanchipuram (Kailashanath temple, Pallava period)
Bhubaneshvar (Parashurâmeshvara temple), East Ganga period (Orissa)
Khajuraho (Vishvanatha temple), Chandella period (Madhya Pradesh)
Osian, Gurjara-Pratihâ,ra period (Rajasthan)
Ellora, Râmeshvara cave, calle cave 21 (other carvings representing the Mothers are situated in the cave 14 - Ravana cave -, and in the Kailasha temple - cave 16), Rashtrakuta period (Maharashtra)
Kanchipuram (Kailâsanâtha temple), 7 th century, Pallava period
Vadodara (Museum) : Ganesh and Châmundâ from Tintoi

1 comment:

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