Tantric Forms of Ganesa

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Item Code: IDK823
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Gudrun Buhnemann
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 8124604533
Pages: 156 (12 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.9" X 6.3"
Weight 480 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Although the number of publications dealing with Ganesa is not insignificant, few take original Sanskrit texts into consideration. The Tantric aspects of the deity have certainly been studied took little. This book contributes to our knowledge of this less familiar side of Ganesa. It describes his forms according to the Vidyarnavatantra, a large compilation on mantrasastra Attributed to Vidyaranya Yati and compiled around the seventeenth century. This text gives the iconographic peculiarities, mantras, and Yantras of fourteen forms of Ganesa as well as instructions for the ritual application of the mantras.

About the Author

Gudrun Buhnemann is Professor of Sanskrit and South Asia Religions in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Her recent Publications include the Iconography of Hindu Tantric Deities (2 volumes, E. Forsten 2000-2001); Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Tradition (E.J. Brill, 2003, revised edition by D.K. Printworld, 2007); and Eighty-four Asanas in Yoga : A Survey of Traditions (with Illustrations) (D.K. Printworld, 2007).


The following study describes the forms of Ganesa/Ganapati occurring in the Vidyarnavatantra (=VT), a large compilation on mantrasastra attributed to Vidyaranya Yati. This text gives the iconographic peculiarities, mantra, and Yantras of the special forms of Ganesa as well as instructions for the ritual application of the mantras. The information gathered from this text has been compared with descriptions found in other Tantras and works on iconography. I have also tried to include references to visual representations of such forms as far as they agree with the description in the VT. In 1986 I undertook two trips to South India, where I examined photographs of Ganesa sculptures kept in the archives of the institut francais d'indologie, Pondicherry, and visited many important temples to photograph the sculptures. In the same years I consulted the photo archives of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Ramnagar-Varansi, and visited museums in North India, such as Mathura, Gwalior, and Khajuraho, to obtain further material. However, identification of the sculptures presents many problems as the attributes are not always clear and the sculptures are often mutilated. Very few specimens agree with the descriptions provided in the VT.

Although the number of publications dealing with Ganesa is not insignificant, the Tantric aspect of this deity has not been investigated and a study from this point of view is necessary. Ganesa is also worshipped in South-East Asia, Nepal, Tibet, and Japan, but only material from India has been included here for comparison.

For valuable suggestions I am indebted to Prof. K.S. Arjunwadkar and Dr. R.P. Goswami, Pune. I wish to thank Charles Pain, Berkeley, for improving my English; the staff members of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, and the Institut francais d'indologie, Pondicherry, and particularly Dr. N.R. Bhatt, for their cooperation; Dr. S.S. Janaki, Madras (Chennai), for providing some information in connection with Muthusvami Dikshitar's compositions; the staff members of the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras (Chennai), for providing a transcript of a chapter of the Prayogasara; and the university Manuscripts Library, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), for allowing me to consult a manuscript of the Yantrasara. Finally, I wish to thank the Indian Council of Historical Research, Delhi, for supporting my research with a grant.


This edition is in large part a reissue of my book forms of Ganesa: A Study Based on the Vidyarnavatantra (published in 1989 by the Institut fur Indologie, Wichtrach, Switzerland) with minor corrections and update information worked into the text. The original edition, which is out of print now, received positive book reviews in academic journals but had only a limited circulation. It has not been available in South Asia due to the absence of a distributor and the high cost of the book.

Although a number of books and articles on Ganesa have appeared in recent years, adding to an already large body of literature on the deity, only a few take original Sanskrit texts on Ganesa into consideration. The Tantric aspects of the deity have certainly been studied too little. I hope that this book will contribute to our knowledge of this less familiar side of him. Since the publication of forms of Ganesa, I brought out the two-volume work The Iconography of Hindu Tantric Deities (Groningen, 2000-2001) in which descriptions of deities have been extracted from the Prapancasara, Saradatilaka and Mantramahodadhi – among them, several Tantric forms of Ganesa. Volume I of the work (pp. 4 and 14) includes some new research on the date of the Vidyarnavatantra (which) I chose to call Srividyarnavatantra in that volume), suggesting that the Tantra was compiled after 1588 and before 1726.


Apart from one-headed, four-armed forms of Ganesa (also known as Ganapati or Vinayaka), which are commonly found all over India, many forms of this deity exist with 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 18 or more arms and with 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 heads. These forms are represented either alone or in the company of one or two consorts. Many of these forms are described in the Tantric texts but do not appear to be represented in art; others are depicted in sculpture or painting but their textual descriptions have not yet been discovered or may never have existed. Today the worship of Gaņesa is most prominent in South India (especially Tamil Nadu and Kerala) and Maharashtra. In Maharashtra four-armed forms and sometimes a ten-armed form called Dasabhuja-Ganapati are worshipped, while in South India a variety of forms are represented in sculpture and worshipped: e.g. a ten-armed form with a consort, sitting on a lotus (often called Vallabhä-Ganapati), or a ten-armed form with five heads, sitting on a rat. Many of the forms found in South Indian temples have been eulogized by the musician Muthusvami Dikshitar (CE 1775-1835), who was initiated in the Tantric tradition. His descriptions of these forms in Sanskrit verses reflect the teachings of mantrasastra. So far 26 of his compositions (krti) on Ganapati have been discovered; these have yet to be studied and analysed critically.

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