Consorts of Ganesha

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Ganesha with consorts Riddhi and Siddhi, Painting titled "Riddhi Siddhi" by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)

The marital status of Ganesha varies widely in mythological stories and the issue has been the subject of considerable scholarly review.[1] Several patterns of associations with different consorts are identifiable. One pattern of myths identifies Ganesha as an unmarried brahmacārin with no consorts. Another pattern associates him with the concepts of Buddhi (intellect), Siddhi (spiritual power), and Riddhi (prosperity); these qualities are sometimes personified as goddesses who are considered to be Ganesha's wives.[2] Another pattern connects Ganesha with the goddess of culture and the arts, Sarasvati, and the goddess of luck and prosperity, Lakshmi.[3] In the Bengal region he is linked with the banana tree, Kala Bo (or Kola Bou).[4] He also may be shown with a single consort or a nameless servant (Sanskrit: daşi).[5]

Some of the differences between these patterns can be understood by looking at regional variations across India, the time periods in which the patterns are found, and the traditions in which the beliefs are held. Some differences pertain to the preferred meditation form used by the devotee, with many different traditional forms ranging from Ganesha as a young boy (Sanskrit: बाल गणपति; bālagāņapati) to Ganesha as a Tantric deity.[6][7]

Unmarried[edit]

According to one tradition, Ganesha was a brahmacārin, that is, unmarried.[8] This pattern is primarily popular in southern India.[9] This tradition was linked to Hindu concepts of the relationship between celibacy and the development of spiritual power.[10] Bhaskaraya alludes to the tradition in which Ganesha was considered to be a lifelong bachelor in his commentary on the Ganesha Purana version of the Ganesha Sahasranama, which includes the name Abhīru (verse 9a).[11] In his commentary on this verse Bhaskaraya says the name Abhīru means "without a woman," but the term can also mean "not fearful."[12]

Buddhi, Siddhi, and Riddhi[edit]

Ganesha as 'Mayureśvara' with Buddhi and Siddhi, Moragaon[13]

The Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana contain descriptions of Ganesha flanked by Siddhi and Buddhi.[14] In these two Puranas they appear as an intrinsic part of Ganapati[15] and according to Thapan[16] do not require any special rituals associated with shakti worship. In Chapter I.18.24-39 of the Ganesha Purana, Brahmā performs worship in honor of Ganesha, and during it Ganesha himself causes Buddhi and Siddhi to appear so that Brahmā can offer them back to Ganesha. Ganesha accepts them as offerings.[17] In Ganesha Purana I.65.10-12 there is a variant of this incident, in which various gods are giving presents to Ganesha, but in this case Siddhi and Buddhi are born from Brahmā's mind and are given by Brahmā to Ganesha.[17]

The Ganesha Temple at Morgaon is the central shrine for the regional aṣṭavināyaka complex. The most sacred area within the Moragaon temple is the sanctum (garbhagŗha), a small enclosure containing an image of Ganesha. To the right and left sides of the image stand Siddhi and Buddhi.[18] In northern India the two female figures are said to be Siddhi and Riddhi. There is no Purāṇic evidence for the pair, but the pairing parallels those of Buddhi and Siddhi in Shiva Purana and Riddhi and Buddhi from Matsya Purana.[19]

Interpretation of relationships[edit]

The Śiva Purāṇa has a story in which Ganesha and his brother Skanda compete for the right to marry the two desirable daughters of Prajāpati, Siddhi and Buddhi, and Ganesha wins through a clever approach.[20] This story adds that after some time Ganesha begat two sons: Kshema (Kşema) (Prosperity), born to Siddhi, and Lābha (Acquisition, Profit) born to Buddhi. In Northern Indian variants of this story the sons are often said to be Śubha (Hindi Shubh) (auspiciousness) and Lābha.[21] In discussing the Shiva Purana version, Courtright comments that while Ganesha is sometimes depicted as sitting between these two feminine deities, "these women are more like feminine emanations of his androgynous nature, Shaktis rather than spouses having their own characters and spouses."[22]

Ludo Rocher says that "descriptions of Gaṇeśa as siddhi-buddhi-samanvita 'accompanied by, followed by siddhi and buddhi.' often seem to mean no more than that, when Gaṇeśa is present, siddhi 'success' and buddhi 'wisdom' are not far behind. Such may well have been the original conception, of which the marriage was a later development."[23] In verse 49a of the Ganesha Purana version of the Ganesha Sahasranama, one of Ganesha's names is Ŗddhisiddhipravardhana ("Enhancer of material and spiritual success"). The Matsya Purana identifies Gaṇesha as the "owner" of Riddhi (prosperity) and Buddhi (wisdom).[24] In discussing the northern Indian sources, Cohen remarks:

"They are depersonalized figures, interchangeable, and given their frequent depiction fanning Gaṇeśa are often referred to as dasīs — servants. Their names represent the benefits accrued by the worshipper of Gaṇeśa, and thus Gaṇeśa is said to be the owner of Ṛddhi and Siddhi; he similarly functions as the father of Śubha (auspiciousness) and Lābha (profit), a pair similar to the Śiva Purāṇa's Kṣema (prosperity) and Lābha. Though in Varanasi the paired figures were usually called Ṛddhi and Siddhi, Gaṇeśa's relationship to them was often vague. He was their mālik, their owner; they were more often dasīs than patnīs (wives)."[25]

In the Ajitāgama, a Tantric form of Ganesha called Haridra Ganapati is described as turmeric-colored and flanked by two unnamed wives. The word "wives" (Sanskrit: दारा; dārā) is specifically used (Sanskrit: दारायुगलम्; dārāyugalam).[26] These wives are distinct from shaktis.[27]

Ashta Siddhi[edit]

Ganesha with the Ashta (8) Siddhi. The Ashtasiddhi are associated with Ganesha. - painting by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)

Ganesha's relationship with the Ashtasiddhi — the eight spiritual attaintments obtained by the practice of yoga — is also of this depersonalized type. In later iconography, these eight marvellous powers are represented by a group of young women who surround Ganesha.[28] Raja Ravi Varma's painting (shown in this section) illustrates a recent example of this iconographic form. The painting includes fans and Fly-whisks, which establish the feminine figures as attendants. In cosmopolitan Śākta worship of Ganesha, the Aṣṭa Siddhi are addressed as eight goddesses. In Ganesha Purana, these personified Aṣṭa Siddhi are used by Ganesha to attack demon Devantaka. These eight consorts are fused in a single devi, Ganesha’s śakti, according to Getty. She speculates as to whether the Aṣṭa Siddhi are a transformation of the saptamātṝikas with whom Ganesha is often sculpturally represented.[29]

Santoshi Ma[edit]

Ganesha was depicted as a householder married to Riddhi and Siddhi and the father of Santoshi Ma (Devanagari: संतोषी माँ), a new goddess of satisfaction, in the 1975 Hindi film Jai Santoshi Maa. The movie script is not based on scriptural sources. The fact that a cult has developed around the figure of Santoshi Ma has been cited by Anita Raina Thapan and Lawrence Cohen as evidence of Ganesha's continuing evolution as a popular deity.[30][31]

Buddhi (Wisdom)[edit]

Ganesha is considered to be the Lord of Intelligence.[32] In Sanskrit the word buddhi is a feminine noun that is variously translated as intelligence, wisdom, or intellect.[33] The concept of buddhi is closely associated with the personality of Ganesha as of the Puranic period, where many stories develop that showcase his cleverness and love of intelligence. One of Ganesha's names in the Ganesha Purana and in the Ganesha Sahasranama is Buddhipriya.[34] The name Buddhipriya also appears in a special list of twenty-one names that Gaṇeśa says are of special importance at the end of the Ganesha Sahasranama.[35] The word priya can mean "fond of" or in a marital context it can mean "a lover, husband",[36] so Buddhipriya means "fond of intelligence" or "Buddhi's husband".[37]

This association with wisdom also appears in the name Buddha, which appears as a name of Ganesha in the second verse of the Ganesha Purana version of the Ganesha Sahasranama.[38] The positioning of this name at the beginning of the Ganesha Sahasranama indicates that the name was of importance. Bhaskararaya's commentary on the Ganesha Sahasranama says that this name for Ganesha means that the Buddha was an avatar of Ganesha.[39] This interpretation is not widely known even among Ganapatya, and the Buddha is not mentioned in the lists of Ganesha's incarnations given in the main sections of the Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana. Bhaskararaya also provides a more general interpretation of this name as simply meaning that Ganesha's very form is "eternal elightenment" (nityabuddaḥ), so he is named Buddha.

Motif of shaktis[edit]

Ganesha in his form as Mahāganapati with a shakti. From the Sritattvanidhi (19th century).

A distinct type of iconographic image of Ganesha shows him with a single human-looking shakti (Sanskrit: śakti).[40] According to Ananda Coomaraswamy, the oldest known depiction of Ganesha with a shakti of this type dates from the sixth century.[41] The consort lacks a distinctive personality or iconographic repertoire. According to Cohen and Getty, the appearance of this shakti motif parallels the emergence of tantric branches of the Ganapatya cult. Getty mentions a specific cult of "Shakti Ganapati" that was set up by the Ganapatyas involving five distinct forms.[42] Of the thirty-two standard meditation forms for Ganesha that appear in the Sritattvanidhi (Śrītattvanidhi), six include a shakti.[43] A common form of this motif shows Ganesha seated with the shakti upon his left hip, holding a bowl of flat cakes or round sweets. Ganesha turns his trunk to his own left to touch the tasty food. In some of the tantric forms of this image, the gesture is modified to take on erotic overtones.[44] Some tantric variants of this form are described in the Śāradātilaka Tantram.[45]

Prithvi Kumar Agrawala has traced at least six different lists of fifty or more aspects or forms of Ganesha each with their specific female consorts or shaktis. In these lists of paired shaktis are found such goddess names as Hrī, Śrī, Puṣṭī, etc. The names Buddhi, Siddhi, and Riddhi do not appear on any of these lists. The lists provide no details about the personalities or distinguishing iconographic forms for these shaktis. Agrawala concludes that all of the lists were derived from one original set of names. The earliest of the lists appears in the Nārada Purāṇa (I.66.124-38), and appears to have been used with minor variations in the Ucchiṣṭagaṇapati Upāsanā. These lists are of two types. In the first type the names of various forms of Ganesha are given with a clear-cut pairing of a named shakti for that form. The second type, as found in the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa (II.IV.44.63-76) and the commentary of Rāghavabhaṭṭa on the Śāradātilaka (I.115), gives fifty or more names of Ganesha collectively in one group, with the names of the shaktis provided collectively in a second group. The second type of list poses problems in separating and properly connecting the names into pairs due to ambiguities in the formation of Sanskrit compound words.[46][47]

Sarasvati and Lakshmi[edit]

Throughout India, on contemporary poster art, Ganesha is portrayed with Sarasvati (goddess of culture and art) or Lakshmi (goddess of luck and prosperity) or both.[48] Ganesha, Lakshmi and Sarswati are often grouped together as the divinities immediately responsible for material welfare. Ganesha and Saraswati share control over Buddhi (Wisdom), while Ganesha and Lakshmi are both deities of Ṝddhi and Siddhi (material and spiritual success).[49] Particularly in Maharashtra, Ganesha is associated with Śarda or Sarasvati. Some identify the two goddesses as the same person and thus the single consort of Ganesha while others consider them distinct and one or both of them as married to Ganesha.[50] Lakshmi's association with Ganesha is rarely tied with the Tantric tradition of Lakshmi as Ganesha's śakti. Other reasons are variously offered for their relationship: their functional equivance and their joint worship on Diwali and in general by the "business community."[49] Conversely, in Calcutta, Ganesha is said to be the brother of Sarasvati and Lakshmi.[51]

Kola Bo[edit]

Kola Bo (Banana wife) dressed in a white-red sari placed near the Ganesha image in a Durga Puja

In Bengal, Ganesha on Durga Puja is associated with a plantain (banana) tree, the "Kola Bo"[52] (also spelled Kalobou or Kolabau), ritually transformed into a goddess during the festival.[53][54]

On the first day of Durga Puja the Kala Bo is draped with a red-bordered white sari and vermilion is smeared on its leaves. She is then placed on a decorated pedestal and worshipped with flowers, sandalwood paste, and incense sticks. The Kala Bo is set on Ganesha's right side, along with other deities. For most who view her, the new sari indicates her role as a new bride, and many Bengalis see it as symbolizing the wife of Ganesha.

A different view is that the Kala Bo represents Durga herself, who in Bengal is considered the mother of Ganesha. Those who know of that tradition do not consider Ganesha's association with Kala Bo as a marital one. Haridas Mitra says that the Kala Bo is intended to serve as a symbolic summary for the nine types of leaves (nava patrika) that together form a sacred complex on Durga Puja.[55] The officiating priests who carry out the ceremony tie a bunch of eight plants on the trunk of the plantain tree and it is the grouping of all nine plants that constitute the Kala Bo.[56] The nine plants all have beneficial medicinal properties. According to Martin-Dubost, the Kala Bo does not represent a bride or shakti of Ganesha, but rather is the plant form of Durga. He connects the plant symbol back to the festival enactment of Durga's return of the blood of the buffalo demon to the earth so that the order of the world may be re-established and luxuriant vegetation reappear. He links Ganesha to this vegetation myth and notes that Astadasausadhisristi (Aṣṭādaśauṣadhisṛṣṭi, "Creator of the eighteen medicinal plants") is a name of Ganesha.[57]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ For a review, see: Cohen, Lawrence. "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, pp. 115–140.
  2. ^ For a review of associations with Buddhi, Siddhi, Riddhi, and other figures, and the statement "In short the spouses of Gaṇeśa are the personifications of his powers, manifesting his functional features...", see: Krishan 1999, p. 62.
  3. ^ For associations with Sarasvati ,Śarda and Lakshmi see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown, pp.132.-pp.135
  4. ^ For discussion of the Kala Bo, see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, pp. 124–125.
  5. ^ For single consort or a nameless daşi (servant), see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 115.
  6. ^ For pictures of the 32 meditation forms along with the Sanskrit descriptions appearing in the Śrītattvanidhi, see: Chinmayananda 1987, pp. 85–118 and Grimes 1995, pp. 60–61.
  7. ^ For descriptions of the 32 meditation forms appearing in the Śrītattvanidhi, see: Martin-Dubost, pp. 120-123.
  8. ^ For statement that "According to ancient tradition, Gaṇeśa was a Brahmacārin, that is, an unmarried deity; but legend gave him two consorts, personifications of Wisdom (Buddhi) and Success (Siddhi).", see: Getty 1936, p. 36.
  9. ^ Brown p.126
  10. ^ Heras, p. 59. Heras quotes from Herbert's Ganesa, which says, "La couleur rouge de son corps est celle que donne aux grandes yogins la pratique intense de la meditation" (translation: The red color of his body is that which the intense practice of meditation gives to great Yogis).
  11. ^ Gaṇeśasahasranāmastotram: mūla evaṁ srībhāskararāyakṛta ‘khadyota’ vārtika sahita. (Prācya Prakāśana: Vārāṇasī, 1991). Includes the full source text and the commentary by Bhāskararāya in Sanskrit.
  12. ^ Apte, p. 720.
  13. ^ For description of the main shrine, with svayambhū image flanked by Buddhi and Siddhi, see: Courtright, pp. 212-213.
  14. ^ Mudgala Purana VI.9.8 and Ganesha Purana II.125.39, II.6.24, II.31.9. Citations for the Ganesha Purana are from the Yogindra Mata 1985 (Part II) editions.
  15. ^ Mudgala Purana VIII.43.26-7 and Ganesha Purana II.130.22.
  16. ^ Thapan, pp. 192-193.
  17. ^ a b Bailey 1995.[page needed]
  18. ^ Courtright, pp. 212-213.
  19. ^ For statement , see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 130.
  20. ^ Śiva Purāṇa 2.5.19.15-20. Translation. Courtright, pp. 123-125.
  21. ^ Brown p.130
  22. ^ Courtright, pp. 124, 213. "They are his śaktis (the feminine emanations of his creative powers)."
  23. ^ For quotation regarding phrase "siddhi-buddhi-samanvita" see: Rocher, Ludo, "Gaṇeśa's Rise to Prominence in Sanskrit Literature", in: Brown 1991, p. 74.
  24. ^ Matsya Purana 260.55. Edited by Jamna Das Akhtar (Delhi: Oriental Publishers, 1972), 310.
  25. ^ For quotation on "depersonalized figures", see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 130.
  26. ^ Macdonell, p. 118.
  27. ^ Ajitāgama Vol. III. 55.18.
  28. ^ Martin-Dubost, p. 332.
  29. ^ Brown p.122
  30. ^ For discussion of the depiction of Ganesha in the film see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 130.
  31. ^ Thapan, pp. 15-16, 230, 239, 242, 251.
  32. ^ Nagar, p. 5.
  33. ^ Apte, p. 703.
  34. ^ Ganesha Purana I.46, v. 5 of the Ganesha Sahasranama section in GP-1993, Sharma edition. It appears in verse 10 of the version as given in the Bhaskararaya commentary.
  35. ^ Sharma edition, GP-1993 I.46, verses 204-206. The Bailey edition uses a variant text, and where Sharma reads Buddhipriya, Bailey translates "Granter-of-lakhs."
  36. ^ Practical Sanskrit Dictionary By Arthur Anthony MacDonell; p.187 (priya); Published 2004; Motilal Banarsidass Publ; ISBN 81-208-2000-2
  37. ^ Krishan 1999; pp. 60-70 discusses Ganesha as "Buddhi's Husband".
  38. ^ Gaṇeśasahasranāmastotram: mūla evaṁ srībhāskararāyakṛta ‘khadyota’ vārtika sahita. (Prācya Prakāśana: Vārāṇasī, 1991). Includes the full source text and the commentary by Bhāskararāya in Sanskrit. The name "Buddha" is in verse 7 of the volume cited, which corresponds to verse 2 of the śasahasranāma proper.
  39. ^ Bhaskararaya's commentary on the name Buddha with commentary verse number is: "नित्यबुद्धस्वरूपत्वात् अविद्यावृत्तिनाशनः । यद्वा जिनावतारत्वाद् बुद्ध इत्यभिधीयते ॥ १५ ॥"
  40. ^ For prevalence of the motif of the single śakti, see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 120.
  41. ^ Coomaraswamy, Ananda. Bulletin of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts 26, no. 153 (1928): pp.30-31, cited in Getty 1936.
  42. ^ For the cult of five Śakti-Ganapatis called Ucchiṣṭa Gaṇapati, Mahā Gaṇapati, Ūrddhva Gaṇapati, Piṅgala Gaṇapati, and Lakṣmi Gaṇapati, see: Getty 1936, p. 20.
  43. ^ For depictions of Shakti Ganapati, Ucchista Ganapati, Mahaganapati, Urdhva Ganapati, Uddanda Ganapati, and Sankastharana Ganapati, see: Chinmayananda 1987, pp. 87–118.
  44. ^ For discussion of examples of this form, see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 121.
  45. ^ Avalon. Section 13. An English translation of this section is also included in the introduction.
  46. ^ Agrawala. Appendix I: Multiple Gaṇapatis and their female Śaktis. Complete lists for all six variants identified by Agrawala are given in Appendix I in tabular form permitting easy comparison.
  47. ^ Nagar, pp. 197-198. A list of fifty aspects as described in the Yoginīhṛdaya that is similar to those identified by Agrawala.
  48. ^ Brown p.129
  49. ^ a b Brown p.133
  50. ^ For associations with Śarda and Sarasvati, and the identification of those goddesses with one another, see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 132.
  51. ^ For Calcutta belief that Ganesha is the brother of Sarasvati and Lakshmi, see: see: Cohen, Lawrence, "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", in: Brown 1991, p. 123.
  52. ^ The spelling Kola Bo is that given by Cohen, Lawrence. "The Wives of Gaṇeśa". Brown, p. 124-125.
  53. ^ Martin-Dubost defines the Kala Bo (Kolābau) as "the banana tree goddess ... worshipped every year in the villages of Bengal, during the great Durga festival in September–October. Paul Martin-Dubost says that the etymology of the name Kolābau is from kolā (banana) + bau (young bride).
  54. ^ Martin-Dubost, pp. 88-90, 349. Uses the term "Kolābau" for this tree.
  55. ^ Mitra, Haridas. "Ganapati" Visva Bharati Annals 8 (n.d.):246. Cited by Cohen, Lawrence. "The Wives of Gaṇeśa". Brown, p. 124-125. Cohen says that the reference text "Vishnu Kosh" by Nogindranath Basu also identifies the Kala Bo with Durga herself.
  56. ^ A list of the constituent plants and method of assembly is given in Martin-Dubost, pp. 89-90.
  57. ^ Ganesha Purana I.46.154 (1993 Sharma edition).

References[edit]

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