Hindu Gods are often represented in a vivid manner. Lord Ganesha being one of the most important Gods of Hindus is no different. From his countenance to each artefact in his hand, everything holds a meaning and a lesson.
Legend has it that Ganesha was created out of mud and sweat of Parvati. His elephant head was given to him by Shiva when he unknowingly killed his son. This is mentioned in the Shiva Purana. Another story of creation of Ganesha is known as per the Brahma Vaivarta Purana.
The dramatic pictures of Ganesha holds many meanings. His large head represents great wisdom and knowledge. The broken tusk represents the sacrifice required to gain the wisdom and knowledge. He sometimes holds the tusk in his hand to show that one must finish what one started. The trunk of Lord Ganesha indicates the ability to differentiate between good and evil. Lord Ganesha’s large stomach contains all the known and unknown of the universe. His large ears are to listen to the call of his devotees when they need him. Ganesha’s raised hand symbolizes protection to his devotees.
Moving on to the artefacts Lord Ganesha holds in his hands, the axe is used for the protection of his devotees. In some idols the axe is replaced by a sword. He also holds a Trishul that has a spiritual meaning. The trident indicates love, wisdom and action. The mace is indicative of Lord Ganesha’s decisiveness and discipline. With the mace he guides humanity towards enlightenment. The noose is also believed to be a weapon that is used by Ganesha to pull wandering devotees back to the supposed right path. The hammer indicates that Ganesha is a patron of arts and crafts. Ganesha also holds a stick that is a symbol of warning, to not waver from the path of righteousness.
The artefacts apart from the weapons also represent different things. For instance the laddoo (sweet) that Ganesha holds in his trunk and the bowl of modaka in his hand is the reward for his true devotees. The lotus in his hand is symbolic to the ascent of the spirit above material pleasures. The conch shell in Lord Ganesha’s right hand is the call to his devotees to pray. The goad is used to prod those who walk on the path of spirituality. The Veena (an Indian musical instrument) promotes the importance of listening to one’s conscience.
Apart from his countenance and the artefacts that he holds, the things that are depicted around him are also symbolic to his teachings. The bowl of fruit by his feet or even his transport (the mouse) represents something. The pineapple is representative of giving and sharing while the mango in the fruit basket symbolizes purification of the spirit. The coconut indicates the triumph over ego. It is used to show the ego that is hard from outside and soft once penetrated.
Pictures of Ganesha are thus visual representation which furnish teachings that hold deeper meaning than is apparent to the uninitiated, and should be implemented by his devotees in their life.