September 9, 2021 : Ganesha is worshipped all around the country, not just during Ganesh Chaturthi, but also before every puja or religious rite. But did you know that Ganesha took eight avatars or incarnations to protect the earth from demons who symbolised a dosha or flaw in human nature, according to the Mudgala Purana. These doshas exist in gods as well, and it is through them that demons were created. Ganesha has an elephant head and trunk in every avatar but he trades his vahana Mooshik for other animals in some of his incarnations. Let us read through the avatars of Lord Ganesha on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Avatars of Lord Ganesha and the stories behind them
Let’s start with the story behind the avatars, which we should all be aware of.
Vakratunda, which means curled trunk, was Ganesha’s first avatar. Lord Indra’s pramaada (heedlessness), according to tradition, gave birth to the demon Matsarasura. Matsara is a Sanskrit word that implies “jealousy” and “selfishness.”
Matsarasura obtained the gift of fearlessness from Shiva after a long period of penance. He conquered the three realms with his two sons, Sundar Priya and Vishal Priya, and wreaked devastation everywhere. All of the gods came to Shiva for assistance, but he was limited by his own boon. Lord Dattatreya finally came to the rescue. He revealed the knowledge of the monosyllabic mantra, Gam, to all the gods and instructed them to invoke Lord Vakratunda. Vakratunda, the lion, arrived in his vehicle and killed both of Matsara’s sons. When the demon saw the great god, he surrendered and begged pardon. He was forgiven by the Lord, and the three worlds were reunited.
Ganesha, in his Vakratunda avatar, demonstrates to the world that knowledge resides in knowing and accepting one’s limits, no matter how powerful or wealthy one is.
Ekadanta, one of the most common avatars of Lord Ganesha that we can spot in idols
Mada, the asura Chyavana’s son, was a madira (alcohol) drinker. Mada was educated by his uncle Shukracharya, Chyavana’s brother and the asuras’ guru. Madasura expressed his desire to control the world to Shukracharya.
Shukracharya gave his nephew the Shakti Mantra ‘Hrim’ since he was pleased by his nephew’s aspiration. Madasura invoked the goddess and obtained unique powers after performing penance for a thousand years. Madasura began conquering the three worlds, armed with these new abilities and high on booze and arrogance. The gods sought assistance from Sanat Kumara, a sage. They were instructed to invoke Ekadanta by Sanat Kumara. Ekadanta, seated on Mooshika, arrived to fight the demon. In front of the almighty god, Madasura, however, lost his courage and surrendered, winning Ekadanta’s forgiveness.
In his Ekadanta avatar, Ganesha demonstrates how drunkenness may fill one with pride that is out of control.
There are two accounts of Ganesha’s third avatar, Mahodara. The main antagonist, Mohasura, became known as Daitya Raj or the King of the Asuras as a result of his devotion to Surya, the sun deity, in the first version.
When Shiva was in profound meditation and the gods needed him, they urged Parvati to help them break his trance in the second version. Parvati acquired an attractive appearance and diverted Shiva’s attention. Parvati shed her beautiful form when Shiva awoke from his meditation state. This abandoned energy manifested as Mohasura, the delusion’s incarnation, who went on a rampage over all three worlds.
Both stories come to a similar conclusion. Surya offered assistance to the gods who were afraid. Surya recommended that they pray to Mahodara. Mahodara arrives on Mooshika, pleased by the prayers, to wage war against Mohasura. Vishnu appears at this point and advises Mohasura to surrender since all will be forgiven. Mohasura follows Lord Vishnu’s advice and surrenders to Mahodara, becoming his eternal devotee.
Gajanana, one of the well-known avatars of Lord Ganesha
Kubera, the heavenly treasurer, once paid a visit to Lord Shiva’s residence, Kailasa. He made goddess Parvati angry by gazing at her with lustful eyes. Kubera began to tremble with terror.
Lobha was developed from this fearful energy. Lobhasura went on to study under Shukracharya, performing penance with the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya,” and eventually conquering the three realms. The gods contacted sage Raibhya for help, and he advised them to appeal to Lord Gajanana. Lobhasura was filled with remorse and begs for forgiveness simply because Gajanana is around.
This avatar demonstrates to the world that passion is self-centered and self-indulgent, and that it unwittingly leads to the destruction of the world.
Vishnu took the shape of the gorgeous and attractive Mohini to deceive the asuras during the story of the celestial churning of the ocean. He did not, however, notice Shiva becoming charmed by his avatar. Vishnu returns to his normal form as soon as he realises this. Shiva was saddened and enraged, and his rage appeared as Krodhasura, a dreadful demon. Krodhasura became Shukracharya’s student, venerating the Sun deity and performing penance, and eventually gaining enough power to wreak havoc on the three worlds.
To put an end to Krodhasura’s fury, Ganesha acquired the appearance of Lambodara and arrived with a potbelly large enough to hold the demon Krodhasura’s rage. Krodhasura is defeated by Lambodara, and peace is restored.
Kamasura is the son of Vishnu and Vrinda, the demon Jalandhara’s wife. He was the embodiment of deception, lust, and the consequences of lust. Kamasura sought shelter with Shukracharya, the asuras’ guru, and was instructed to practise strict penance and concentrate on Shiva. Kamasura then acquired a blessing, allowing him to conquer the three worlds and cause havoc among the gods. On the suggestion of the sage Mudgala, the gods began to sing “Om ” in Mayuresa Kshetra, thereby summoning Ganesha in the form of Vikata, atop a peacock. Ganesha can easily overcome Kamasura in his Vikata avatar. This avatar demonstrates to the rest of the world that desire knows no bounds.
Satisfaction and contentment are a state of being that comes from inside, not as a result of any accomplishment.
Once, goddess Parvati was relaxing in the company of her friends in a forest when her burst of laughter manifested into a handsome boy. She named him ‘Mama,’ which means ‘Mine’ in Sanskrit, when she was surprised by her creation and persuaded by her ego, which resulted in attachment. She advised him to always stay on the straight and narrow and to pray to Lord Ganesha. Mama chooses to retreat to the woods to focus on Lord Ganesha, but he is attacked by the demon Sambara.
Sambara lures him into the world of the asuras, and the kind Mama gradually transforms into the demon Mamasura. He marries Mohini, the asura chief’s daughter, and begins his campaign to control all three worlds. The gods turn to Ganesha for help after being defeated and cast out of Swarglok. As a result, he assumes the form of Vighnaraja, the Obstacle Remover. Vighnaraja tames the demon of attachment and brings serenity while riding on the giant serpent Sheshnaag.
Vighnaraja was a symbol that demonstrated to the world that worldly attachments provide no pleasure. Everything else is an illusion to the soul, which seeks truth and holiness.
This was Ganesha’s final incarnation. Brahma once handed his grandson, the sun god Surya, the right to preside over the “world of action.” Surya felt confident, thinking to himself that since karma, or deed, governs the entire universe, he had ascended to the throne of the world. As this thought flashed through his head, he sneezed, and a demon appeared from his sneeze.
Because he was born from the sun’s ego, the demon was given the name Ahamkarasura by Shukracharya. Shukracharya also instructed him to perform penance and pray to Ganesha. The gods, terrified by Ahamkaura’s rising might, turn to Ganesha for assistance. Ganesha obliges, assuming the form of Dhumravarna and travelling to Mooshika, where he defeats the arrogant demon.
This Avatar reminds us that the primary cause of self-destruction is ‘ahamkara,’ or ego.
Now that we have learnt about the avatars of Lord Ganesha, we plunge Ganesha’s likeness in the sea, along with all of our undesirable attributes, such as pride, arrogance, want, delusion, greed, rage, envy, or self-love.