By Parul Sabherwal
Most people know that Lord Ganesh is known by as many as 108 names. But very few may know that the elephant headed god has taken eight different avatars or incarnations from time to time. The eight incarnations of the lord as mentioned in religious scripture, Mudgala Pura, depicts different characteristics of the Ganpati.
The deity took these avatars to defeat eight weaknesses of human beings. These weaknesses or doshas were arrogance, ego, desire, anger, greed, delusion, inebriation and jealousy. Interestingly, there is a symbolic function in each of these incarnations.
Let's have a look at these eight incarnations and their significance:
This is the first incarnation of Lord Ganesh which means the one with a curved trunk. Vakratunda was the Ganesh who slayed the demon Matsarasura, a devotee of lord Shiva. Matsarasura was and still is the symbol of jealousy and envy. Thus symbolically in this avatar, Ganesh is the destroyer of jealousy. Vakratunda's vahana is the lion.
As the name suggests, this avatar of Lord Ganesh is the one with a single tusk. In this incarnation, he defeated the demon Madasur who after taking Shukracharya’s permission became really powerful and started harming the gods. Madasur was considered as an embodiment of arrogance. Ganesh's vahana in this avatar is a mouse. He had four arms, one tusk, and a huge belly with an elephant head.
The third incarnation was of Mahodara, the one that vanquished Mohasura, the demon of delusion and confusion. Later, the demon became a devotee of the Lord. Even in this avatar, Ganesh's mount was a mouse.
According to religious scriptures, Mohasura was a devotee of the sun god and dominated the three worlds or the lokas All the deities were terrified of him and decided to worship this form of the Ganesh. The lord was pleased with their devotion and decided to fight against the demon. Later on, Lord Vishnu advised Mohasura to surrender and pray to Mahodara.
The fourth incarnation of the Ganesh is Gajanana, which means the Lord with an elephant head. An elephant head on a human body is a unique characteristic of Ganesh. In this incarnation the deity defeated Lobhasura, the son of Lord Kuber. He was a demon of greed. Just like Mahodara and Ekadanta, Gajanana also mounts a mouse.
Lord Ganesh incarnated into this avatar to eradicate the demon of anger, Krodhasura. According to legends, during Samundarmanthan when Lord Vishnu had taken the form of Mohini, Lord Shiva was struck with passion. On seeing this Vishnu immediately gave up the avatar. Lord Shiva became angry and out of his disappointment a terrible demon names Krodhasura was born. Lambodara's vahana was the divine mouse, Krauncha.
Ganesh's next incarnation was of Vikata, the one that subdued the demon of desire, Kamasura. Like the other avatars, in this form too the Lord possesses the body of a human being and head of an elephant. A divine peacock serves as Ganesh's vahana in this incarnation.
This is Lord Ganesh’s most popular incarnation. In this lifetime, Ganesh killed the demon of attachment, Mamasur, also known as Mamtasur. This incarnation is known as the remover of obstacles. In the 7th incarnation Lord Ganapati’s mode of conveyance was a sheshnaag.
In this incarnation the elephant headed god defeated Ahamkarasur, the demon of self-infatuation. According to legends, tired of the rule of Aham, all the deities meditated upon Lord Ganesh for salvation, it was then that the Lord descended to their rescue in the form of Dhoomravarna killed the demon. His mount in this particular incarnation was also a mouse.