On the eve of the ten day Ganesha festival, I found that I have written quite a bit in my earlier blogs on Ganesha and different stories related to him. That left me with very little on write on him, till I came across and interesting aspect of Ganesha, i.e. the female Ganesha, variously referred to as Vinayaki, Ganeshani, Vighneshwari, etc. all taken from the male names of Ganesha.
There are different versions to this and let us try to understand them and the concept behind it.
A simplistic explanation of this could be from the goddess Malini, the elephant headed goddess. According to some versions, Malini had drunk the bathwater of Parvati, and given birth to a five-headed elephant child, which was claimed by Parvati to be her child. Later, Shiva intervened and severed four heads to make it Ganapati and declared the child to be that of Parvati. Some versions say that though given birth by Parvati, Ganesha was nursed by Malini, and thus the female version is none but a more deified version of Malini.
Another interesting version says that once an asura named Andhaka, tried to take Parvati by force to make her his wife. When Parvati cried for help, Shiva appeared and struck him with his trident. However, Andhaka had a boon that from every drop of blood spilt on the ground another Andhaka would be created. Parvati then invoked all the forms of shakti of all the gods. So, on her calling, Indrani (of Indra), Vaishnavi (of Vishnu), Brahmani (of Brahma) etc. turned up and absorbed all the blood before it touched the ground. Finally, it was left on Vinayaki (the shakti of Ganesha) to drink up the entire blood, which killed Andhaka. This act is acknowledged in the form of Vinayaki Chaturthi, celebrated on the fourth day after the new moon, i.e. Shukla Paksha, of every month as per the Hindu calendar.
The principle of shakti is one of the most common explanation given for the female form of Ganesha. This however should not be seen as his wife/s, as is prevalent in the other forms of shakti of the other gods, as Ganesha’s wives all go with different names (for more, read http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2010/09/ganesh-marriage.html ; http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2013/10/kala-bou-or-banana-bride.html ;).
This female form seems to have gained prominence with the rise of the tantric sect around the 16th century. This sect believed that the female form represented the reproductive powers which enabled the perpetuation and nurturing of life, while the male form was responsible for implanting of the life only. Thus according to these followers, the power to generate was more venerable and thus they worshiped the female avatar of Ganesha as against the more popular male version.
Another theory says that Vinayaki is part of the 64 Yoginis, (Chausath Yogini) or a part of the sapta-matrika, the seven-mothers. The presence of such sculptures in the Yogini temples of Bhedaghat (Madhya Pradesh), Giryek (Bihar), Ranipur Jharial (Orissa), and some such temples in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and even Sri Lanka, only lends credence to the female form being a part of the Yogini cult.
The representation of Vinayaki or Ganeshi is similar to the popular forms of Ganesha, however the presence of breasts and the lack of tusks are the major differentiators. A few are also shown her wearing a red saree, giving it a distinct female look.
Next, we will look at another unusual form/representation of Ganesha! Till then, keep reading…….