Ganesha (Gaņeśa)
God of Obstacles




Puranic period

Stories about Ganesha often occur in the Puranic corpus. In his survey of Ganesha's rise to prominence in Sanskrit literature Ludo Rocher notes that:

Above all, one cannot help being struck by the fact that the numerous stories surrounding Gaṇeśa concentrate on an unexpectedly limited number of incidents. These incidents are mainly three: his birth and parenthood, his elephant head, and his single tusk. Other incidents are touched on in the texts, but to a far lesser extent.

Yuvraj Krishan says that the Puranic myths about the birth of Ganesha and how he came to acquire an elephant's head are to be found in the later Puranas composed from about 600 AD onwards, and that references to Ganesha in the earlier Puranas such as the Vayu and Brahmanda Puranas, are considered to be later interpolations made during the 7th to 10th centuries AD.

Ganesha's rise to prominence was codified in the 9th century AD when he was formally included as one of the five primary deities of Smartism. The "worship of the five forms" (pañcāyatana pūjā) system, which was popularized by the ninth-century philosopher Śaṅkarācārya among orthodox Brahmins of the Smārta tradition, invokes the five deities Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Devī, and Sūrya. It was instituted by Śaṅkarācārya primarily to unite the principal deities of the five major sects (Gāṇapatya, Śaiva, Vaiṣṇava, and Sūrya) on an equal status. This formalized the role of Ganesha as a complementary deity. The monistic philosophy preached by Śaṅkarācārya made it possible to choose one of these as a preferred principal deity and at the same time worship the other four deities as different forms of the same all-pervading Brahman. Once Ganesha was accepted as one of the five principal deities of Brahmanism, some brāhmaṇas chose to worship Ganesha as their principal deity, developing the Ganapatya tradition reflected in the Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana.