There are numerous names given to Ganesh according to different attributes attached to the symbolic representation of a “perfect being”. Ganesh or Ganapati means the Lord of the multitudes. “Vighneshwara” means the God who removes all obstacles and `Vinayaka’ means the supreme leader. Ganesh is also a symbolic representation of a man of perfection.
Various Ganesh symbols, when put together, have many times been made a target of criticism by those who are ignorant of the meaning behind the “odd mixture” of human and animal parts in a divine form. The worship of Ganesh does not mean the worship of an idol but a constant reminder of the value to be inculcated in the worshiper if he/she wants to attain the state of perfection. This may shock ignorant people, but the elephant-headed Lord of auspiciousness represents some of the highest and best ideas in our scriptures. Let me go through two of Ganesha symbols today.
Ganesha’s endearing potbelly is equated with space; it is vast enough to hold all wisdom and all life. Gentle and harmless, he uses his great strength only when provoked. Ganesh, a man of perfection must have the capacity to stomach peacefully all the experiences of life-pleasant or unpleasant. Such a man is always depicted in every culture as a jovial man with Big Belly like Santa Clause and Happy Buddha (see picture above).
The elephant head of Lord Ganesh is the over-seeing, all-seeing, eternal witness, the unmanifest supreme. Ganesha is the lord of all, manifest and unmanifest. The memory of an elephant is, of course, proverbial. A leader must possess wide understanding. He should have a discriminating intellect. Both quantitatively and qualitatively an elephant’s head was found to represent this aspect. The elephant ears are like winnows that separate the wheat from the chaff. All experience must be subjected to scrutiny to determine what is essential and what is nonessential. This is a critical aspect of judgment. The discerning and the wise do what they must and let the rest be.
The elephant trunk has a peculiar efficiency. Here is a tool strong enough to uproot a tree yet delicate enough to pick up a pin from the ground. This range of adaptability is not known to any single man made instrument. This perfect discriminating adaptability in a perfect man can be used in the outer world for solving problems.
Elephant Tusks: Discrimination implies a choice, say, between wisdom and folly, good and evil, right and wrong. This choice is expressed in two tusks. The broken tusk symbolizes the man of discrimination, whose choice in the field of action is always the right one. It is well known that left side (the side of our hearts) is emotion dominated and right side is intellect dominated, In the picture above, we find that the broken tusk is the left one. This symbolizes the dominance of rationale over emotions.