Top eight incarnations of Ganesha
There are two dedicated scriptures for Lord Ganesha, the Mudgala Purana and the Ganesha Purana. Both the scriptures contain stories of Lord Ganesha’s childhood, his marriage and his various avatars. In Hinduism an avatar is a direct descent of a deity which is born for a purpose. Apart from Hinduism, only Sikhism and Ayyavazhi religions believe in the concept of avatar or incarnations. Thus, Hinduism believes in the principle of Avatarvada.
As per the Ganesha Purana, there are four incarnations of Ganesha, one for each “yuga” (cycle of life). The Mudgala Purana describes eight incarnations of Ganesha which are popular. This article talks about the eight incarnations of Lord Ganesha.
All the avatars of Ganesha have specific attributes. They differ in physical qualities like colour of the skin or the vehicle they use. However the purpose of all the avatars was one, to slay demons. All the avatars symbolize abstract qualities but have similar purpose of existence. The Mudgala Purana preaches that the importance of the stories of the eight avatars is not in their literal recitation but it is in the understanding of their purpose.
The first of Lord Ganesha’s manifestation is called Vakratunda. The name is derived from the physical attributes of this manifestation of Lord Ganesha. Since the avatar has a twisted trunk it is called “Vakratunda”. The reason this avatar was born was to defeat the demon Matsaryasura. Symbolically Matsaryasura is the demon of envy and his defeat by Lord Ganesha is a testimony to triumph over envy.
The second incarnation was Ekdanta. The incarnation got the name because of Lord Ganesha being single tusked. This avatar was born to defeat the demon Madasura. The demon Madasura represents intoxication.
The third manifestation of Lord Ganesha is Mahodara or the big bellied one. He was born to kill the demon of delusion, Mohasura. This incarnation of Lord Ganesha also destroyed Durbuddhi (negative thought) and Jnanaari (Ignorance). Mohasura was born out of momentary confusion of Lord Shiva.
Gajanana, was the fourth incarnation of Lord Ganesha. The name of the avatar is coined after the “elephant face” of Lord Ganesha. He was born to slay the demon of greed, Lobha.
The fifth incarnation of Lord Ganesha is Lambodara who killed Krodha, the demon of anger. The name Lambodara means “potbellied God”.
Vikata, “the misshaped one”, defeated Kama, the demon of desire. Vikata is the sixth incarnation of Lord Ganesha.
The seventh incarnation, Vighnaraja destroyed Mama, the demon of ego. In Sanskrit, Vighnaraja means the king of obstacles.
The last or the eighth incarnation of Lord Ganesha is Dhumravarna (smoke colour). The incarnation got victory over the demon Ahamkara (narcissism).
The purpose of the incarnations was to gain victory over vices. Lord Ganesha helps his devotees to overcome bad qualities and walk the path of righteousness.