Out of the many forgotten female powers and Goddesses, “Vinayaki” is one such feminine form of Lord Sri Ganesh about whom we never discuss about. Or rather we do not know much about this Avatar of Lord Ganesh.
Also known as Ganeshani, Gajanani, Ganeshwari, Gajamukhi or Vigneshwari is the feminine form of Lord Ganesha. She is worshipped as “Vyagrapada Ganapathi” in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. An elephant headed Goddess called “Ganeshani” is worshipped in Tibet as well.
This form of Ganapati is revered in the Vana-Durga-Upanishad.
How did the Feminine form originate?
According to the Matsya Purana and Vishnu-Dharmottara Purana, the demon, Andhaka, wanted the goddess Parvati to be his wife. He tried to grab her by force so she called out to her husband, Shiva who immediately raised his trident and impaled the Asura.But the Asura had a magical power; every drop of his blood that touched the ground turned into another Andhaka. The only way to kill him was to ensure not a single drop of his blood touched the ground, while he as impaled on Shiva’s trident.
Parvati knew that every divine being is a mixture of male and female forms, the male form representing mental potential and the female form representing material resources (Shakti). Parvati therefore called out to all the Shaktis. On her request, every divine being released their female energy who could drink the blood of Andhaka before it touched the ground. Soon the battlefield was filled with the shaktis of every god imaginable.
Indra’s shakti emerged as “Indrani”, Vishnu’s shakti emerged as “Vaishavi”, Brahma’s shakti emerged as “Brahmini” and Ganapati’s shakti emerged as Vinayaki. These shaktis drank the blood of Andhaka before it touched the ground. Thus was Andhaka was destroyed.
On the blog enfolding.org, that shares information on Tantra practices and beliefs among other subjects, one of the authors writes: “The 16th century Silparatna gives a description of Vinayaki as having the head of an elephant and the body of a youthful woman. She is vermillion-coloured, a corpulent belly and beautiful hips. There are representations of her standing, seated or dancing”.
In one of the shrines of the Thanumalayam Temple in Kanyakumari district is the stone sculpture of a little-known goddess. The four armed goddess has a battle-ax in her upper-left hand and a conch in the lower left hand. In her two right hands, she carries a vase and a staff, around which she entwines her long trunk.
Evidences of Vinayaki in India and other countries..
Another representation of the goddess is found in the tantric temple Chausath Yogini in Hirapur, Odisha. Here, she is one of the 64 Yoginis, a sacred feminine force. According to Prithvi K Agrawala in the bookGoddess Vinayaki: The Female Ganesa, the figure of the goddess stands in a rare dance pose. “She is dancing in the catura pose with her legs bending inside in dance movements on the toes,” he wrote.
Though the figure has eroded over time, such that the emblems in her hands are no longer visible, the graceful posture of the pot-bellied goddess standing on a boar is discernible. Some other rare sculptures of Vinayaki have been found in temples in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
But the most commonly acknowledged version of Vinayaki’s significance, was the female form, or shakti, of Ganesha. A female form of Ganapati is known as Ganendri (Ganendree) in Bali, Indonesia, the country known to follow the Culture of Hinduism even more than Hindus in India.
Linga Purana mentions Vinayaki as a demoness deity with an elephant head( Often considered as the very first Vinayaki), which was found amidst the restored sculptures of the Causath Yogini temple in Jabalpur.
The earliest evidence of the elephant goddess was found in Rairh in Rajasthan, a damaged terracotta sculpture, dated to have been made earlier than the 5th century. The rest of the evidences appeared only after the 10th century BCE.