Ganah in Sanskrit means 'multitude' and Isa means 'Lord'. Ganesha therefore literally means the 'Lord of all beings.'
Ganesha is the God of success and overcoming obstacles, but is also associated with wisdom, learning, prudence, and power. As the god of success, his names are chanted at the start of any important venture. As the remover of obstacles, he is invoked at the start of every journey, marriage, religious rite, house construction, the writing of a book or even a letter.
Every element of the body of Ganesha has its own value and its own significance:
The elephant head indicates fidelity, intelligence and discriminative power;
The fact that he has a single tusk (the other being broken off) indicates Ganesha’s ability to overcome all forms of dualism;
The wide ears denote wisdom, ability to listen to people who seek help and to reflect on spiritual truths. They signify the importance of listening in order to assimilate ideas. Ears are used to gain knowledge. The large ears indicate that when God is known, all knowledge is known;
the curved trunk indicates the intellectual potentialities which manifest themselves in the faculty of discrimination between real and unreal;
on the forehead, the Trishula (weapon of Shiva, similar to Trident) is depicted, symbolising time (past, present and future) and Ganesha's mastery over it;
Ganesha’s pot belly contains infinite universes. It signifies the bounty of nature and equanimity, the ability of Ganesha to swallow the sorrows of the Universe and protect the world;
The position of his legs (one resting on the ground and one raised) indicate the importance of living and participating in the material world as well as in the spiritual world, the ability to live in the world without being of the world.
The four arms of Ganesha represent the four inner attributes of the subtle body, that is: mind (Manas), intellect (Buddhi), ego (Ahamkara), and conditioned conscience (Chitta). Lord Ganesha represents the pure consciousness - the Atman - which enables these four attributes to function in us;
The hand waving an axe, is a symbol of the retrenchment of all desires, bearers of pain and suffering. With this axe Ganesha can both strike and repel obstacles. The axe is also to prod man to the path of righteousness and truth;
The second hand holds a whip, symbol of the force that ties the devout person to the eternal beatitude of God. The whip conveys that worldly attachments and desires should be rid of;
The third hand, turned towards the devotee, is in a pose of blessing, refuge and protection (abhaya);
the fourth hand holds a lotus flower (padma), and it symbolizes the highest goal of human evolution, the sweetness of the realised inner self.
32 Forms of Ganesh in Scriptures
1: Baala Ganapati - Red colored image of a four armed Ganesha.
2: Dharuna Vinayak: Red colored image of an eight armed Ganesha.
3: Bhakti Vinayak: Grey colored image of four armed Ganesha.
4: Veera Vinayak: Red colored image of 16 armed Ganapati.
5: Shakti Ganapati: Red colored image of 4 armed Ganapati, seated with his consort to his left.
6: Dwija Vinayak: White colored image of four faced Ganesha with 4 arms.
7: Siddhi Vinayak: Golden colored image of four armed Ganapati.
8: Ucchishta Ganapati: Blue colored image of six armed Ganapati with his consort.
9: Vigna Vinayak: Gold colored image of eight armed Ganapati.
10: Kshipra Ganapati: Red colored image of four armed Ganesha bearing a ratna kumbham.
11: Heramba Vinayak: Black colored image of ten armed Ganesha with five faces, seated on a lion.
12: Lakshmi Vinayak: White colored image of eight armed Ganesha with two consorts.
13: Makara Vinayak: Red colored image of Ganesha with a third eye, 10 arms, bearing a ratna kumbham, with his consort.
14: Vijaya Vinayak: Red colored image of 4 armed Ganesha on the mooshika mount.
15: Nritta Vinayak: Gold colored image of Ganesha in a dance posture.
16: Urdhva Vinayak: Gold colored image of six armed Ganesha with his consort.
17: Ekakshara Vinayak: Red colored image of Ganesha with a third eye, seated on a lotus.
18: Vara Vinayak: Red colored image of 4 armed Vinayaka with a third eye.
19: Dhryakshara Vinayaka: Gold colored image of four armed Vinayak, decorated with Chaamara ear rings.
20: Kshipraprasaada Vinayak: Red colored image of six armed Ganapati.
21: Haridra Vinayak: Yellow colored image of four armed Ganapati.
22: Ekadhanta Vinayak: Blue colored image of four armed Ganapati.
23: Srishti Vinayak: Red colored image of four armed Ganapati seated on his mooshika mount.
24: Utthanda Vinayak: Red colored image of 10 armed Ganesha with his consort to his left.
25: Ranamochana Vinayaka: Crystal image of four armed Vinayak.
26: Dundi Vinayak: Four armed image of Ganesha bearing a tusk, a garland, an axe and a gem studded vessel.
27: Dwimukha Vinayak: Red colored image of Ganesha with two faces and four arms.
28: Trimukha Vinayak: Red colored image of Ganesha with three faces and six arms seated on a golden lotus.
29: Simha Vinayak: White colored image of Ganesha with eight arms (with an arm bearing a lions face).
30: Yoga Vinayak: Red colored image of Ganesha in the posture of a yogi.
31: Durga Vinayak: Red colored image of Ganesha with eight arms.
32: Sankatahara Vinayak: Red colored image of four armed Ganesha clothed in blue, seated on a lotus peetham with his consort to his left.
Om Sri Maha Ganapataye Namah
The mantra of Lord Ganesha. A remover of obstacles and bestower of success.
Read Ganesha Mantras, the songs or shlokas for worshipping Shri Ganesha.
You can also read about Ganesh Chaturthi-the birthday of Lord Ganesha.