The Eight Avatars of Ganesha

- July 16, 2020

Ganesha is revered all over the country not only during Ganesh Chaturthi but before every puja or ritual of worship. But did you know that, according to the Mudgala Purana, Ganesha took eight avatars or incarnations to save the world from demons who personified a dosha or shortcoming in human nature? These doshas are also present in gods and it is through them that the demons were born. Ganesha has an elephant head and trunk in every avatar but he trades his mouse-y vahana Mooshik for other animals in some of his incarnations. Let’s get to know the stories behind each avatar.  Vakratunda Illustration: Ritoparna Hazra Ganesha’s first incarnation was as Vakratunda meaning curved trunk. According to the legend, Lord Indra’s pramaada (heedlessness) gave birth to the demon Matsarasura. Matsara means jealousy and selfishness. After severe penance, Matsarasura received the boon of fearlessness from Shiva. He along with his two sons Sundarpriya and Vishaypriya, conquered the three worlds and created havoc everywhere. All the gods approached Shiva for help but bound by his own boon, Shiva could not do much. Finally, Lord Dattatreya came to the rescue. He gave all the gods the secret of the monosyllabic mantra, Gam, and asked them to call upon Lord Vakratunda. Seated on his vehicle, the lion, Vakratunda arrived and killed both sons of Matsara. Looking at the mighty god, the demon surrendered and asked for forgiveness. The Lord forgave him and restored the three worlds. Ganesha, in his Vakratunda avatar, shows the world that however powerful or rich you are, wisdom lies in knowing and understanding your limits. Ekadanta Illustration: Ritoparna Hazra The asura, Chyavana, had a son, Mada, who was fond of madira or alcohol. Mada was schooled by his uncle Shukracharya, Chyavana’s brother as well as the guru of the asuras. Madasura told Shukracharya that he wanted to rule the world. Pleased by his nephew’s ambition, Shukracharya gave him the Shakti Mantra ‘Hrim’. Madasura performed penance for a thousand years invoking the goddess and received special powers from her. Armed with these new powers, and high on alcohol and arrogance, Madasura started conquering the three worlds. The gods turned to the sage, Sanat Kumara, for help. Sanat Kumara asked them to invoke Ekadanta. Seated on Mooshika, Ekadanta came to wage war against the demon. However, Madasura lost his courage in front of the mighty god and surrendered, earning Ekadanta’s forgiveness. Ganesha in Ekadanta avatar shows us that intoxication can fill one with pride beyond control. Mahodara Illustration: Ritoparna Hazra The story of Ganesha’s third avatar, Mahodara, has two versions. The first version talks of the main antagonist, Mohasura, who came to be known as Daitya Raj or the king of the asuras, because of his devotion to Surya, the sun god. In the second version, once when Shiva was in deep meditation and the gods needed him, they asked Parvati to help break his trance. Parvati took an alluring form and distracted Shiva. When Shiva came out of his meditative state, Parvati discarded her alluring form. This discarded energy took the form of Mohasura, the embodiment of delusion, who then went on a rampage against all three worlds. Both stories concl...

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