Ganesha (also called Ganesh) is the elephant-headed Hindu god who is considered one of the most famous deities in Hinduism. He is the god of knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom. He is also often called the god of prosperity and patron saint of travelers.

seated Ganesha with food
Seated Ganesha with food.

What is his story?
The story of Ganesha can be found in various historical Hindu sources, such as the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. Although the stories may differ slightly, this is the most well-known version:

Ganesha is the son of Shiva (the god of destruction) and Parvati (the goddess of creation and fertility). During a conflict between father and son, Shiva accidentally - on a whim - cut off Ganesha's head.

Parvati was devastated. Shiva promised to find a new head for his son so that he could continue living. It had to be the head of the first creature they encountered that looked northward. That creature turned out to be an elephant, giving Ganesha an elephant's head. This way he could come back to life.

Ganesha mask
Wooden Ganesha mask.

How do you recognize Ganesha?
Ganesha is usually depicted with an elephant's head, a large belly, and four arms. But there are different manifestations of him. He is sometimes depicted with multiple arms and different attributes (see below). He is also sometimes depicted on a throne or a lotus flower. He uses a rat or (shrew) mouse as a Vahana (mount).
seated Ganesha with crown
Seated Ganesha with crown. His rat sits next to his foot.
Standing Ganesha
Standing Ganesha.

Of all the attributes, he carries the mace most often. This is his weapon to destroy obstacles. In addition, he often carries a sweet treat, which symbolizes success and spiritual knowledge. That delicacy could be modak, for example. This is a sweet Indian dish of dough filled with coconut, sugar, cardamom, nuts, and dried fruit.

Seated Ganesha with food side
Seated Ganesha with food.

Symbolism of his body parts
Each body part has a certain symbolic meaning. For example, his elephant head represents wisdom and intelligence, an association that occurs in different cultures. His trunk symbolizes (mental) strength and flexibility. His eyes are small, indicating concentration. By focusing his gaze, he is not distracted from his task of removing obstacles. Its large ears symbolize listening and absorbing knowledge. Its large belly is interpreted in various ways, including as a symbol of the cosmos. The belly can also mean abundance and pleasure (he eats a lot and enjoys life).
Seated Ganesha
Seated Ganesha.

People worship Ganesha at different times and for different reasons. For example, he is worshiped by travelers to gain protection. And by students because it is associated with intelligence. But people also worship him for success in new (spiritual or material) ventures. That is why it is often found at the entrances of houses and temples, or on the road.
Writing Ganesha
Writing Ganesha.

For some, it is tradition to stroke his trunk to receive blessings for good luck, success, and overcoming obstacles. Therefore, the trunk of a stone statue may be smoother than the rest of the statue due to friction.

Also, the delicacy with which he is sometimes depicted - modak - is used for offerings to the god. By doing this, people hope to receive his sympathy and blessings.
Ganesha Deepak
Ganesha Deepak with bells and offering bowls.

Rootz Gallery collection
At Rootz Gallery we sell many different types of Ganesha statues and masks. All photos in this article are photos of items from our collection. Please feel free to contact us if you are interested (send an email to

Ganesha dark bronze
White Ganesha
Ganesha mask
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