Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ganesha - Etymology and other names

Ganesha has many other titles and epithets, including Ganapati and Vigneshvara. The Hindu title of respect Shri (Sanskrit: श्री; śrī, also spelled Sri or Shree) is often added before his name. One popular way Ganesha is worshipped is by chanting a Ganesha Sahasranama, a litany of "a thousand names of Ganesha". Each name in the sahasranama conveys a different meaning and symbolises a different aspect of Ganesha. At least two different versions of the Ganesha Sahasranama exist; one version is drawn from the Ganesha Purana, a Hindu scripture venerating Ganesha.

The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words gana (Sanskrit: गण; gaa), meaning a group, multitude, or categorical system and isha (Sanskrit: ईश; īśa), meaning lord or master. The word gaņa when associated with Ganesha is often taken to refer to the gaņas, a troop of semi-divine beings that form part of the retinue of Shiva (IAST: Śiva). The term more generally means a category, class, community, association, or corporation. Some commentators interpret the name "Lord of the Gaņas" to mean "Lord of Hosts" or "Lord of created categories", such as the elements. Ganapati (Sanskrit: गणपति; gaapati), a synonym for Ganesha, is a compound composed of gaa, meaning "group", and pati, meaning "ruler" or "lord". The Amarakosha, an early Sanskrit lexicon, lists eight synonyms of Ganesha : Vinayaka, Vighnarāja (equivalent to Vignesha), Dvaimātura (one who has two mothers), Gaādhipa (equivalent to Ganapati and Ganesha), Ekadanta (one who has one tusk), Heramba, Lambodara (one who has a pot belly, or, literally, one who has a hanging belly), and Gajanana (IAST: gajānana) ; having the face of an elephant).

Vinayaka (Sanskrit: विनायक; vināyaka) is a common name for Ganesha that appears in the Purāas and in Buddhist Tantras. This name is reflected in the naming of the eight famous Ganesha temples in Maharashtra known as the Ashtavinayak (aṣṭavināyaka). The names Vignesha (Sanskrit: विघ्नेश; vighneśa) and Vigneshvara (Sanskrit: विघ्नेश्वर; vighneśvara) (Lord of Obstacles) refers to his primary function in Hindu mythology as the creator and remover of obstacles (vighna).

A prominent name for Ganesha in the Tamil language is Pille or Pillaiyar (Little Child). A. K. Narain differentiates these terms by saying that pille means a "child" while pillaiyar means a "noble child". He adds that the words pallu, pella, and pell in the Dravidian family of languages signify "tooth or tusk of an elephant", but more generally "elephant". Anita Raina Thapan notes that the root word pille in the name Pillaiyar might have originally meant "the young of the elephant", because the Pali word pillaka means "a young elephant".


No comments: