8 Incarnations of Lord Ganesha

Based on the descriptions in Mudgalapurana (20/5-12) there have been eight chief incarnations of Lord Ganesha. The Mudgala Purana is an upapurāṇa that includes many stories and ritualistic elements relating to Ganesha. The Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana are core scriptures for devotees of Ganesha, known as Ganapatyas (Gāṇapatya). These are the only two Purana that are exclusively dedicated to Ganesha.

The Mudgala Purana lists 32 different forms of Lord Ganesha but only eight, in particular, are popular due to their association with defeating demons of eight destructive habits – Kaama (lust), Krodha (wrath), Mada (drunkenness), Lobha (greed), Matsarya (jealousy), Moha (delusion), Ahankara (pride) and Ajnana (ignorance).

Idol of Lord Ganesha
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The 8 incarnations of Lord Ganesha are:

Vakratunda- Lord Ganesha, in his first incarnation as Vakratunda (meaning the one with a twisted trunk), used lion as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Matsarasura (envy, jealousy), surrender before him.

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Ekadanta– Lord Ganesha, in his second incarnation as Ekadanta (meaning the one with a single tusk), used mouse as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Madasura (arrogance, conceit), surrender before him.

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Mahodara- Lord Ganesha, in his third incarnation as Mahodara (the one with a big belly), used mouse as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Mohasura (delusion, confusion), surrender before him. Mohasura became a staunch devotee of Lord Ganesha (Mahodara). In this very incarnation he slew two other demons, Durbuddhi (counter intelligence) and his son Jnanaari (foe of wisdom) also.

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Gajanana- Lord Ganesha, in his fourth incarnation as Gajanana (meaning the one with elephant face), used mouse as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Lobhasura (meaning greed, who was son of Kubera) surrender before him.

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Lambodara- Lord Ganesha, in his fifth incarnation as Lambodara (the one with pendulous belly), used mouse as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Krodhasura (anger), surrender before him. In this very incarnation Lord Ganesha (Lambodara) slew the demon, Mayaka also. Lambodara corresponds to Śakti, the pure power of Brahman. 

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Vikata- Lord Ganesha, in his sixth incarnation as Vikata (meaning unusual form), used peacock as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Kamasura, surrender before him.

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Vighnaraja- Lord Ganesha, in his seventh incarnation as Vighnaraja (lord of obstacles), used Sheshanaaga as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Mamasura (also known as Mamatasura, meaning possessiveness), surrender before him.

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Dhoomravarna- Lord Ganesha, in his eighth incarnation as Dhoomravarna (smoke colored), used mouse as his mode of conveyance and made the demon, Ahamtasura (also known as Ahamkarasura and Abhimanasura, meaning ego, pride and attachment), surrender before him.

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These stories are powerful aphorisms that tell us to outgrow the negative human emotions and develop chitta-shudhi (purity of mind). Lord Ganesha also represents the first chakra, the Muladhara. The Muladhara chakra is the principle on which the manifestation or outward expansion of primordial Divine Force rests. Lord Ganesha is identified with the syllable Om and is revered across the world as the god of intelligence and remover of obstacles.

Here’s an article on Sri Maha Ganesha Pancharatnam, a song written by Adi Sankaracharya on Lord Ganesha. Do take a read to understand how the greatest of advaitic seers have also sung the glory of Lord Ganesha.

Published by The Cowherd

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