The much-adored Lord Ganesha is worshipped not only as God of Wisdom and Learning but also as the Lord of Beginnings, Lord of Attainment, Lord of Prosperity and so on. His many aspects are reflected in his many names[i]-Vighnakarta (Creator of obstacles), Vighnaharta (Destroyer of Obstacles), Vighnesvara (Lord of Obstacles), Ganapati (Lord of the Ganas), Ekdanta (One who has only one Tooth), Heramba (Protector of the Weak), Lambodara (One with a Big Belly), Surpakarna (One with Winnow-like Ears), Gajanana (Elephant-headed One), Guhagraja (Older Brother of Guha or Kartikeya) and Vinayaka[ii]. As Vinayaka, he shares a special affiliation with the sacred city of Varanasi and anyone who wishes to set foot in this hallowed land must first propitiate the rotund deity[iii].
According to Bhavishyat-purana, Ganesha is called Vinayaka as he guides the devout in the path of righteousness while Vamana-purana explains that he was called so as he was born of Parvati, without a nayaka or father[iv].Yajnavalkya smriti suggests that the word Vinayaka stems from viniyukta, ‘one who is appointed as the head of a distinct class of men’[v]. Vinayaka is one of the oldest names for the deity[vi]; first mentioned in the Vinayaka kalpa of the Manava Grhya sutras[vii], albeit without specifying the physical characteristics. The four Vinayakas mentioned therein are Usmita, Devayajana, Salakatankata and Kusmanda-Rajaputra[viii]. The early Vinayakas were however, inimical and much feared creatures that bore little semblance to the cherubic charm of the later Ganesha.
The iconographic features that we are familiar with today, appeared in late Kushana and early Gupta period. The earliest prototype of a therianthropic Ganesha with elephantine features, is perhaps the elephant-headed yaksa seen in a frieze from Mathura[ix].The squat, corpulent yaksha figures were plausibly a source for the development of the pot-bellied Ganesha image. By late Gupta period, the cult of Ganesha was firmly established[x]and around the 7th century, the deity was incorporated into the Shaiva pantheon.
Lord Ganesha is one among the three hundred and thirty million gods that have made Kashi their home[xi]. As narrated in the Kashi Khanda[xii]of the Skanda purana[xiii] [xiv], Mount Mandara undertook severe penance to fulfill his desire that the Great Lord Mahadev take up abode on his icy peaks. Pleased, Shiva decided to grant him the boon and was thus forced to leave the sacred precincts of Kashi for Mount Mandara. Following him, all the other gods too left Kashi and took up residence on the mountain. On Brahma’s request, King Divodasa made Kashi his capital and established peace and order on Earth again[xv]. With each passing year, Shiva and Parvati grew more nostalgic. Unable to displace Divodasa who ruled with utmost righteousness, Shiva took recourse to subtle machinations. He sent sixty-four yoginis to Kashi in order to lead the noble king astray. Ashamed at having failed in their mission, the yoginis did not dare face Shiva again and stayed back at Kashi. Next Shiva sent Surya Dev, Brahma and all his ganas who also could not shake the good king from the path of dharma. Next was Ganesha’s turn who disguised himself as a wise old brahmin who could foresee the future. He was able to impress Queen Lilavati who urged her husband, King Divodasa to meet the old brahmin. The king confided in him and confessed that he was getting increasingly disillusioned with life. The brahmin told him that in eighteen days, another wise man from the North will arrive in Kashi and that if he followed his advice, all will be well again. On the eighteenth day, Vishnu arrived in the guise of a wise sage and counseled that the sin of banishing the great God, Vishwanath from his beloved city could only be absolved by the installation of a Shiva linga. The king was assured that on the seventh day, a celestial chariot would arrive and carry him to heaven. And thus, the Divodasesvara Linga was established after which king Divodasa departed for heaven. Kashi was then rebuilt by the celestial architect, Vishwakarman himself[xvi]. The whole city celebrated as Shiva returned home victoriously to Kashipur. Shiva showered praises on his son for successfully completing his mission, saying that he was able to enter the auspicious city solely due to his exertions, adding that if a dweller of Kashi supplicates Ganesha and then Shiva himself, he will whisper the Taraka mantra into his ear thereby granting him freedom from the cycle of rebirth[xvii].
The ancient city of Varanasi is designed like a divine cosmogram or mandala. Shiva resides at the heart of this holy circle, enshrined in the Vishwanath temple and protected by concentric bands of divine guardians. The entire pantheon of Hindu gods and all holy men live in this hallowed mandala[xviii].
It is said that Ganesha as Dhundiraja[xix], multiplied himself and took on various forms in order to remove the many obstacles faced by devotees in Kashi[xx]. He re-established the sites that he had formerly been associated with, before the rule of Divodasa[xxi] and became the protector of the sacred site. And so, it came to be that in Varanasi, Ganesha is seen in fifty-six different forms known as Chhappan Vinayakas. The earliest textual reference to these forms is in the Kashi khanda of the Skanda purana[xxii].
Such an extensive organization of Vinayakas is unique to the city of Varanasi. Elsewhere in India are relatively small groupings such as the Ashta vinayakas in Maharashtra, six Vinayakas of Ujjain and five Vinayakas of Puri[xxiii].
Dhundhiraja or Dhundhi Vinayaka is the principal Vinayaka-Ganesha who stands guard at a small shrine at the entrance of the Kashi-Vishvanath temple[xxiv] His name stems from the word Dhundh[xxv]meaning ‘to find or search’ as he finds and grants the purusharthas, the ultimate goals of man[xxvi]and all else desired by his devotees. An octet of Vinayakas are arranged in each of the four cardinal directions and in four intermediate directions in seven avaranas or concentric circles with their center at Kashi-Vishwanath temple and Dhundhiraja. The seven avaranas may be taken to represent the seven lokas[xxvii]of Hindu cosmology that Shiva protects with the help of Vinayakas[xxviii].The Kashi Khanda states that one can gain supernatural powers by reciting the eulogy of Dhundhi[xxix]and can attain heartfelt desires by repeating his many names. It lists the names of the fifty- six Vinayakas[xxx]. On the periphery of Kashi, stands the first circle, comprising Arka, Durga, Bhimacanda, Dehali, Uddanda, Pasapani, Kharva and Siddhi Vinayakas. The second circle is composed of Lambodara, Kutadanta, Salkatankata, Kusmanda, Mundavinayaka, Vikatadvija, Rajaputra and Pranava. The third protective circle has Vakratunda, Ekdanta, Trimukha, Pancasya, Heramba, Vighnaraja, Varada and Modakapriya. The fourth has Abhayada, Simhatunda, Kunitaksha, Ksipraprasadana, Chintamani, Dantahasta, Picandila and Uddandamunda; the fifth- Sthuladanta, Kalipriya, Chaturdanta, Dvitunda, Jyeshtha, Gajavinayaka, Kalavinayaka and Nagesha; the sixth comprises Manikarna, Asavinayaka, Srstiganesa, Yakshavighnesa, Gajakarna, Chitraghanta, Sthulajangha and Mitravinayaka. The group in the seventh and innermost circle, worshipped at the start and on completion of pilgrimage, are a group of five called the Moda Vinayakas (Moda, Pramoda, Sumukha, Durmukha and Gananatha Vinayakas) and three others called Jnanavinayaka, Dvaravighnesa and Avimuktavinayaka.
The location of the fifty-six Vinayakas is mentioned in Pandit Kubernath Sukul’s Varanasi Vaibhav and Kedarnath Vyas’ Pancakrosatmaka Jyotirlinga Kasimahatmya[xxxi].Apart from Dhundhiraja and the Chappan Vinayakas, Kashi Khand assures us that there are thousands more forms of Ganesha in Kashi that protect and bestow riches upon devotees[xxxii].
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s herculean project of redeveloping the Kashi-Vishwanath temple area has brought to light several shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha that were previously thought to be lost. Shrines to Pramoda, Durmukha and Jau Vinayaka were some that were recently discovered. These shrines may be small but are of some import as they are an integral part of Vedic lore and tradition.
Pramoda Vinayaka, the Vinayaka of Great Joy, is one of the five Moda Vinayakas who along with Jnana Vinayaka, Dvara Vighnesa and Avimukta Vinayaka, begird Dhundhiraja and the Kashi-Vishwanath temple in the elite innermost circle. Unlike the other Vinayakas who are arranged in a circle, the Moda Vinayakas stand along a straight line. The Moda Vinayakas had their antecedents in the Pancha-Vinayaka worship prevalent in 9th century mentioned in Bhatta Lakshmidhara’s 12th century text, the krtyakalpataru[xxxiii].
Till recently the idol of Pramoda Vinayaka was located at the back of a sweet shop in the Nepali Khapra at number CK 31/16, near the Moda Vinayaka statue[xxxiv].With the development of the Kashi-Vishwanath Temple Corridor, encroachments in the area were removed and more than sixty temples and shrines have resurfaced[xxxv].
The idol of Pramoda Vinayaka is fifty centimeters tall and is housed in a bangla-roofed niche. It is coated with several layers of vermilion and has considerably worn down with time. The iconographic features are indiscernible as only the vestiges of the trunk, ears and arms remain; nevertheless, the image still holds sanctity for the people of Kashi, judging by the numerous fresh flower garlands that adorn Pramoda Vinayaka.
Durmukha Vinayaka or the Vinayaka of the Unpleasant Face was located in house number CK 35/7, with a decorative chhatri placed reverentially over it. Due to its unrefined style and coarse modelling, scholar Isabelle Bermijn dates it to the eighteenth century[xxxvi].The idol is a meter tall and wears a mukuta of the south Indian type. The trunk turns sharply at a right-angle and touches a bowl of sweets. The upper right hand holds a pomegranate fruit while the lower left clutches an akshamala or rosary. A nagayajnopavita can be seen across his waist[xxxvii].
Jau or Java Vinayaka is a significant part of the ritual landscape of Varanasi although it is not part of the ensemble of Chhappan Vinayakas. Located within the antargriha zone in the seventh avarana on the way to Manikarnika Ghat, Jau Vinayaka is linked with the ritual pilgrimage of the Panchakrosi Yatra that commences with an offering of jau or barley at this shrine and continues with the tossing of grains along the route to Kharva and Saptavarana Vinayakas to make similar offerings of jau[xxxviii].The image of Jau Vinayaka is crudely modelled and little can be said of its attributes covered as it is with layers of vermilion paste. On the forehead are three horizontal lines, the sacred mark of Shiva, the Tripundra which represent the three worlds that Shiva destroyed[xxxix]. Based on a stylistic analysis, the image of Jau Vinayaka can be dated to the 18th century.
Bibliography and References
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Eck, Diana L. Banaras City of Light. New Delhi: Penguin India, 2015.
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[i] Rao, Elements of Hindu Iconography, Vol 1 Part 1, P46
[ii] Ibid, P46
[iii] Vedvyas, Sankshipt Skand-Purana (Geeta Press Gorakhpur, 2016). P846
[iv] Rao, Elements of Hindu Iconography, Vol 1 Part 1, P47
[v] Isabelle Bermijn, “An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins” (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P50
[vi] Ibid. P50
[vii] Sacred Hindu texts dated to circa 6th to 2nd century BCE which elaborate on rituals performed by householders (grhyas).
[viii] M. K. Dhavalikar, “ORIGIN OF GAṆEŚA,” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute Vol. 71, no. No 1/4 (1990): 1–24.
[ix] Isabelle Bermijn, “An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins” (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P58
[x] Wayan Redig, Ganesa Images from India and Indonesia (Delhi: Sandeep Prakashan, 1996) P5
[xi] Diana L. Eck, Banaras City of Light (New Delhi: Penguin India, 2015). P146
[xii] The chapter was an interpolation to the Skanda purana in the middle of the Fifteenth century [Bermijn, P113]
[xiii] Vedvyas, Sankshipt Skand-Puran (Geeta Press Gorakhpur, 2016). P826
[xiv] Earlier texts like Brahmand, Vayu and Harivamsa Puranas vary in their version of the story [Bermijn, P84]
[xv] Diana L. Eck, Banaras City of Light (New Delhi: Penguin India, 2015). P148
[xvi] GV Tagare, Skanda-Purana, Part 11, ed. G. P. Bhatt, 1st Edition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997). P 46
[xvii] Ibid. P51
[xviii] Diana L. Eck, Banaras City of Light (New Delhi: Penguin India, 2015). P147
[xix] Isabelle Bermijn, ‘An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins’ (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P47
[xx] GV Tagare, Skanda-Purana, Part 11, ed. G. P. Bhatt, 1st Edition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997).P51
[xxi] Vedvyas, Sankshipt Skand-Puran (Geeta Press Gorakhpur, 2016). P845
[xxii] Isabelle Bermijn, ‘An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins’ (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P37
[xxiii] Ibid. P89
[xxiv] Ibid. P27
[xxv] GV Tagare, Skanda-Purana, Part 11, ed. G. P. Bhatt, 1st Edition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997). P 47
[xxvi] Vedvyas, SankshiptSkand-Puran (Geeta Press Gorakhpur, 2016). P846
[xxvii] The seven lokas are Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka, Swargloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapaloka and Brahmaloka.
[xxviii] Isabelle Bermijn, ‘An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins’ (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P186
[xxix] GV Tagare, Skanda-Purana, Part 11, ed. G. P. Bhatt, 1st Edition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997). P58
[xxxi] Isabelle Bermijn, ‘An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins’ (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P117
[xxxii] GV Tagare, Skanda-Purana, Part 11, ed. G. P. Bhatt, 1st Edition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997). P 58
[xxxiii] Isabelle Bermijn, ‘An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins’ (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P96
[xxxvi]Isabelle Bermijn, ‘An Investigation into the Fifty-Six Vinayakas in Banaras and Their Origins’ (Doctoral Thesis, University of London, 1999). P98
[xxxvii] Ibid, P98
[xxxviii] Singh, Rana PB and Rana, Pravin S “Kashi and Cosmos: Spatial Manifestation and the Five Pilgrimage Journeys of Banaras,” International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage: Vol 4: Iss 6, Article 5. 2016. https://doi.org/10.21427/D75Q7N.
[xxxix] Devdutt Pattanaik, 7 Secrets of Shiva (Westland, 2016). P203