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Tanjore Paintings - Lord Ganesha

Creative Art Gallery

Lord Ganesha - Tanjore / Thanjavur Paintings

Ganesha (Sanskrit: गणेश, IAST: Gaṇeśa;), or Ganesh, also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka, is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali (Indonesia) and Bangladesh and in countries with large ethnic Indian populations including Fiji, Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago. Hindu denominations worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains and Buddhists.

Although Ganesha is known by many attributes, he is readily identified by his elephant head. He is widely revered, more specifically, as the remover of obstacles;[9] the patron of arts and sciences; and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. Several texts relate mythological anecdotes associated with his birth and exploits.


Ganesha may have emerged as a deity as early as the 1st century BCE, but most certainly by the 4th and 5th centuries CE, during the Gupta period, though he inherited traits from Vedic and pre-Vedic precursors. Hindu mythology identifies him as the restored son of Parvati and Shiva of the Shaivism tradition, but he is a pan-Hindu god found in its various traditions. In the Ganapatya tradition of Hinduism, Ganesha is the supreme deity. The principal texts on Ganesha include the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa. Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana are other two Puranic genre encyclopaedic texts that deal with Ganesha.

Ganesha has been ascribed many other titles and epithets, including Ganapati (Ganpati) and Vighneshvara. The Hindu title of respect Shri (Sanskrit: श्री; IAST: śrī; also spelled Sri or Shree) is often added before his name.

The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words gana (gaṇa), meaning a 'group, multitude, or categorical system' and isha (īśa), meaning 'lord or master'. The word gaṇa when associated with Ganesha is often taken to refer to the gaṇas, a troop of semi-divine beings that form part of the retinue of Shiva, Ganesha's father. The term more generally means a category, class, community, association, or corporation. Some commentators interpret the name "Lord of the Gaṇas" to mean "Lord of Hosts" or "Lord of created categories", such as the elements. Ganapati (गणपति; gaṇapati), a synonym for Ganesha, is a compound composed of gaṇa, meaning "group", and pati, meaning "ruler" or "lord". Though the earliest mention of the word Ganapati is found in hymn 2.23.1 of the 2nd-millennium BCE Rigveda, it is however uncertain that the Vedic term referred specifically to Ganesha. The Amarakosha, an early Sanskrit lexicon, lists eight synonyms of Ganesha: Vinayaka, Vighnarāja (equivalent to Vighnesha), Dvaimātura (one who has two mothers), Gaṇādhipa (equivalent to Ganapati and Ganesha), Ekadanta (one who has one tusk), Heramba, Lambodara (one who has a pot belly, or, literally, one who has a hanging belly), and Gajanana (gajānana); having the face of an elephant.

Vinayaka (विनायक; vināyaka) or Binayaka is a common name for Ganesha that appears in the Purāṇas and in Buddhist Tantras. This name is reflected in the naming of the eight famous Ganesha temples in Maharashtra known as the Ashtavinayak (Marathi: अष्टविनायक, aṣṭavināyaka). The names Vighnesha (विघ्नेश; vighneśa) and Vighneshvara (विघ्नेश्वर; vighneśvara) (Lord of Obstacles) refers to his primary function in Hinduism as the master and remover of obstacles (vighna).


A prominent name for Ganesha in the Tamil language is Pillai (Tamil: பிள்ளை) or Pillaiyar (பிள்ளையார்). A.K. Narain differentiates these terms by saying that pillai means a "child" while pillaiyar means a "noble child". He adds that the words pallu, pella, and pell in the Dravidian family of languages signify "tooth or tusk", also "elephant tooth or tusk". Anita Raina Thapan notes that the root word pille in the name Pillaiyar might have originally meant "the young of the elephant", because the Pali word pillaka means "a young elephant".

In the Burmese language, Ganesha is known as Maha Peinne (မဟာပိန္နဲ, pronounced [məhà pèiɰ̃né]), derived from Pali Mahā Wināyaka (မဟာဝိနာယက). The widespread name of Ganesha in Thailand is Phra Phikanet. The earliest images and mention of Ganesha names as a major deity in present-day Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam date from the 7th- and 8th-centuries, and these mirror Indian examples of the 5th century or earlier. In Sri Lankan Singhala Buddhist areas, he is known as Gana deviyo, and revered along with Buddha, Vishnu, Skanda and others.

Ganesha is worshipped on many religious and secular occasions, especially at the beginning of ventures such as buying a vehicle or starting a business. K.N Soumyaji says, "there can hardly be a [Hindu] home [in India] which does not house an idol of Ganapati. ... Ganapati, being the most popular deity in India, is worshipped by almost all castes and in all parts of the country". Devotees believe that if Ganesha is propitiated, he grants success, prosperity and protection against adversity.

Ganesha is a non-sectarian deity. Hindus of all denominations invoke him at the beginning of prayers, important undertakings, and religious ceremonies. Dancers and musicians, particularly in southern India, begin art performances such as the Bharatnatyam dance with a prayer to Ganesha. Mantras such as Om Shri Gaṇeshāya Namah (Om, salutation to the Illustrious Ganesha) are often used. One of the most famous mantras associated with Ganesha is Om Gaṃ Ganapataye Namah (Om, Gaṃ, Salutation to the Lord of Hosts).

Devotees offer Ganesha sweets such as modaka and small sweet balls called laddus. He is often shown carrying a bowl of sweets, called a modakapātra. Because of his identification with the color red, he is often worshipped with red sandalwood paste (raktachandana) or red flowers. Dūrvā grass (Cynodon dactylon) and other materials are also used in his worship.

Festivals associated with Ganesh are Ganesh Chaturthi or Vināyaka chaturthī in the śuklapakṣa (the fourth day of the waxing moon) in the month of Bhadrapada (August/September) and the Ganesh Jayanti (Ganesha's birthday) celebrated on the cathurthī of the śuklapakṣa (fourth day of the waxing moon) in the month of magha (January/February)."

An annual festival honours Ganesha for ten days, starting on Ganesha Chaturthi, which typically falls in late August or early September. The festival begins with people bringing in clay idols of Ganesha, symbolising the god's visit. The festival culminates on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi, when the idols (murtis) are immersed in the most convenient body of water. Some families have a tradition of immersion on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, or 7th day. In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak transformed this annual Ganesha festival from private family celebrations into a grand public event. He did so "to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them" in his nationalistic strivings against the British in Maharashtra.[140] Because of Ganesha's wide appeal as "the god for Everyman", Tilak chose him as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule. Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and he established the practice of submerging all the public images on the tenth day. Today, Hindus across India celebrate the Ganapati festival with great fervour, though it is most popular in the state of Maharashtra. The festival also assumes huge proportions in Mumbai, Pune, and in the surrounding belt of Ashtavinayaka temples.

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