Devi Mahatmya says that gaṇas came out of the Devi and fought for her. (Devi Mahatmya 2.52)

And the deep breaths, which Ambikā fighting in the battle breathed forth, came into real being at once as troops by hundreds and thousands. These fought with axes, with javelins, and swords and halberds, destroying the Asura bands, being invigorated by the goddess’ energy. And of these bands some raised a din with large drums, and others with conchs, and others besides with drums, in that great battle-festival.

Who are these gaṇas? Is there any detailed description available? Please refer to original sources, like Puranic verses along with verse numbers.


Sri Sri Chandi (or Devi Mahatmya)

2 Answers 2


Who are these Gaṇas?

The Rig Veda sings:

“Oh Courageous (तवेषं) band/group (गणं) of Maruts“ RV5.58.

So Maruts are called Ganas. गणं (gana) means group, and these groups and their professions are explained in detail in Śrī Rudram of Kṛṣṇa Yajur Veda Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5. The leader of these groups is called Ganapati (gana+pati), meaning lord/abode of all groups.

Is there any detailed description available?

The Rig Veda also addresses the Maruts as vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ, meaning born in knowledge, and brahmānaspathim, meaning lord/abode of knowledge RV1.38.13. Brahmānaspathim is a very unique title in the Vedas assigned to a separate class of Divinities. Sri Aurobindo defines brahmāna as the Vedic Aksharas (word) and among all Aksharas “अ/a” is considered the foremost, hence AUM begins with अ. In Śrīmad Bhagavādgita Śrī Kṛṣṇa says “Among words I am the word अ“.

Panini, the author of Sanskrit Grammar says, Maruts are Akshara of Varnamala (an eternal string of sounds), and Sukla Yajur Veda Śatarudrīya explains how Rudra and Gayatri Akshara emerged from Yagna. Sri Aurobindo includes both Brihaspati and Brahmā as brahmānaspathim. Similarly, T.V. Kapali Sastry, a renowned student of Sri Aurobindo and Vedic commentator, says Ganapati – “Lord of all Ganas/Maruts” – is that brahmānaspati. Interestingly, the Rig Veda titles Viṣṇu as Evaya Marut RV5.87, meaning the “fastest Marut” who leads the Maruts into battle. This is a very interesting linkage of titles, like puzzles that fit together. Though Rudra Ganas are mentioned along with their leader, we are yet to find a reference of one with an Elephant face. Viṣṇu being Evaya Marut also declares Himself to be ŚipiViṣṭa (शिपिविष्ट) RV7.100.6 meaning the rays which permeate, this title is given to both Viṣṇu and Rudra TS4.5.5. Aitareya Brahmāṇa 1.30 states that Viṣṇu is the leader of the Maruts and both Ashivns and Varuna who themselves being Rudras follow His lead.

Please refer to original sources, like Puranic verses along with verse numbers? There is no original source other than the Vedas, Upanishads, and Itihasas. The above and the following references are original.

तम उ नूनं तविषीमन्तम एषां सतुषे गणम मारुतं नव्यसीनाम |य आश्वश्वा अमवद वहन्त उतेशिरे अम्र्तस्य सवराजः || तवेषं गणं तवसं खादिहस्तं धुनिव्रतम मायिनं दातिवारम |मयोभुवो ये अमिता महित्वा वन्दस्व विप्र तुविराधसो नॄन ||

Indeed we praise (एषां) thy mighty (तविषी) gang (गणम) of Maruts today (नव्यसी)| Oh fierce (अमवद) racers of horses and chariots (आश्वश्वा) like the wind (वहन्त), bringing your containers filled with elixir of immortality (उतेशिरे अम्र्तस्य), you are dependent on none, self ruling (सवराजः)|| Oh courageous (तवेषं) band/group (गणं) of Maruts, adorned with bracelets/rings (खादिहस्तं), cometh with roaring sounds (धुनिव्रतम) of victory, bestower (दातिवारम) of all magical gifts (मायिनं) | We sing to the brilliance, like fire (मयोभुवो) adorned with infinite might (अमिता महित्वा). We praise and worship (वन्दस्व), oh ever willing and passionate ones (विप्र) with roaring sounds (तुविराधसो). We follow you, oh leader (नॄन). Rig Veda 5.58

The description of their power and weapons used by them, and their residence? The Vedas sing about Rudras/Maruts as infinite in numbers and immortal, free-spirited, mountain-dwelling2 (of Mūjavant/Girisha), fierce warriors, vehement and hero clan VS16.8-11. They hold the most powerful weapons VS16.14 including the famous bow called the PinakaTS4.5.5. They possessed tools, and riches, unparalleled to any3. Hymns proclaim that they are indestructible “ānirhatebhyo” KY4.5.9 and formidable who controls the army and a terrifying ruler who sits in the void of men AV18.1.40 as He is the vital force Prana BrhdUpa3.9.4, and there are none mightier than Rudras4 as they possess infinite-strength/omnipotent which the Vedas call “ananta-śuṣmāḥ” RV1.64.10. Rudras (rudrébhis or rudrésu) are the only Divinities in the Vedas to possess a multitude of precise and powerful weapons. Atharva Veda speaks of Rudra’s golden bows and weapons flying abroad like guided missiles in the direction he desires AV11.2.12. The only other Divinity who comes close to possessing multiple weapons is Indra; He too has a weapon common to Rudra, which is the lightning (Asani). These hymns define Rudras and Maruts as Earth-shaking clans feared by all lokas as they could create fires, bring rain (nourishment and lords of food RV2.1.6), hunts like predators, attack thousands, and kill in hundreds AV11.2.12 causes lightning and thunder5, and make rain in deserts RV1.38.7. Hence he is called the Tempest God, and also has the title Aśani given to Rudra in Brahmāṇa-1 of Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā

Who are the father and mother of these Ganas? Rudra is the father of Maruts “idam pitre marutām” RV1.114,2.33,1.64. And Rudra is always surrounded by Maruts who are generally denoted as Rudras themselvesRV8.63.12. These Maruts are, on occasions, said to be the children of Pṛśni “The Vedic Cow of Knowledge”. Hence, Maruts are addressed with three profound titles – “vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ” meaning “born in knowledge”, second “mahiṣāsaḥ māyinaḥ:citra-bhānavaḥ” meaning “the makers of māyā and of clear vision/light”, finally “pra-cetasaḥ viśva-vedasaḥ” meaning “conscious & omniscient” RV1.64.6-10. These three titles are not to be taken lightly. In the realm of the Vedas, Soma, Vāk, and Pṛśni are three abstract concepts that secretly control the entirety of Vedic essence. Let us take a quick glance.

गौर्धयति मरुतां श्रवस्युर्माता मघोनाम् युक्ता वह्नी रथानाम् | यस्या देवा उपस्थे॑ व्रता विश्वे धारयन्ते सूर्यामासा दृशे कम् || 8.94.1-2 The Cow (Pṛśni is the cow of knowledge, and milk/Soma is wisdom/knowledge of immortality) (गौ + र्धयति dhā+yati), with Maruts (मरुतां) as sons of a mother who deserves our highest honor (श्रवस्यु + माता) and who is rich/abundant in knowledge and wisdom ( मघोनाम् = मघ+वन्- म्), harnesses/yokes them (the vehicles) to move Creation forward (वह्नी – रथा-नाम्)| In You/Pṛśni ( यस्या 3rd person), reside/dwell (उपस्थे) all Divinities/Vedic Devas (देवा) and have their eternal (विश्वे) virtuous function (व्रता) relied upon and borne by you (धारयन्ते); the Sun (सूर्या) and the Months/Moon (मासा) witness their (दृशे) role/actions (कम्) Please note: In the Vedas (same as Śrīmad Bhagavādgita), the cow represents mother of knowledge, cow’s milk represents wisdom and essence, the bull represents might and lordship hence the title “Bablusãye bi vyadhibe”TS4.5.5, horses represent speed and momentum and energy, chariots/vehicles are the creation/body itself. वह्नी = वह् means vehicle and वह्नी -रथा means wagons attached to the chariot.

Rig Veda 8.94.1-2

Pṛśni is also the name of the wife of Prajāpati, which is also correct as Prajāpati is the Yajamana (the one performing the Yajñá), but we will soon explore the overlap of Prajāpati and Rudra. Pṛśni is also the name of the wife of one among the Saptarishi (the 7 primordial divine sages). Maruts are also said to be the children of Rodasī (consort of Rudra) and the same hymn distinctly addresses Rudra as their father RV5.57

Source 1: LINK

Source 2: LINK


The following information I could gather from Siva Purana.

Who are the Ganas?
Ganas are Lord Siva's attendants.

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Satī-khaṇḍa, Chapter 26 (Siva Purana 2.2.26)

  1. After enlightening him and also his favourite Gaṇas, Śiva returned to His abode accompanied by his Gaṇas with great delight.

Creation of Ganas
Siva himself created Ganas.

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa, Chapter 15 (Siva Purana 2.1.15)

57-58. On seeing the unborn lord Śiva, a mass of refulgence, the consort of Umā, the omniscent, the creator of everything, famous as Nīlalohita, straight in front of me I saluted him with great devotion and was highly delighted. I told the lord “Please create various subjects.”

  1. On hearing my words, the lord of lords, Rudra, created many Gaṇas identical with Himself.

How many Ganas are there?
There are crores of Ganas under different leaders.

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa, Chapter 20 (Siva Purana 2.1.20)

  1. The leaders of Gaṇas revered by the whole world and of high fortune arrived there. I shall mention to you their number. Listen attentively.
  1. The leader of the Gaṇas, Śaṅkhakarṇa came there with a crore of his Gaṇas; Kekarākṣa with ten crores and Vikṛta with eight crores.
  1. Viśākha with sixty-four crores; Pāriyātraka with nine crores, Sarvāntaka with six crores and the glorious Dunduma with eight crores.
  1. Jālaṅka, the chief leader of Gaṇas, with twelve crores; the glorious Madana and Vikṛtānana with seven crores each.
  1. Kapālin with five crores, the auspicious Sandāraka with six crores and Kaṇḍuka and Kuṇḍaka each with a crore.

15-16. Viṣṭambha and Candratāpana each with eight crores, the leader of Gaṇas Mahākeśa with a thousand crores.

  1. Kuṇḍin, Vāha and the auspicious Parvataka with twelve crores each, Kāla, Kālaka and Mahākāla each with a hundred crores.
  1. Agnika with a hundred crores, Abhimukha with a crore, Ādityamūrdhā and Dhanāvaha each with a crore.
  1. Sannāha and Kumuda with a hundred crores, Amogha, Kokila and Sumantraka each with a crore.
  1. Another (leader of Gaṇas) Kākapāda with six crores and the lord Santānaka with six crores, Mahābala, Madhupiṅga and Piṅgala each with nine crores.
  1. Nīla, Deveśa and Pūrṇabhadra each with ninety crores and the strong Caturvaktra with seven crores.
  1. The lord of all (Śiva) reached there ready to go to Kailāsa surrounded by groups of crores, thousands, hundreds and twenties.
  1. Kāṣṭhāgūḍha, Sukeśa and Vṛṣabha each with sixty-four crores. Caitra, Nakulīśa and Svayamprabhu each with seven crores.

24-25. Lokāntaka, Dīptātmā and the lord Daityāntaka, lord Bhṛṅgīriṭi and the glorious Devadevapriya, Aśani, Bhānuka and Sanātana each with sixty-four crores; Nandīśvara the supreme chief of Gaṇas, and Mahābala each with hundred crores.

Appearance of Ganas

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa, Chapter 20 (Siva Purana 2.1.20)

  1. These and other leaders of Gaṇas were all powerful and innumerable. They had thousand hands, matted hair, crown etc.
  1. They had crescent moon as their embellishing decoration; they were blue-necked, three-eyed, adorned with necklaces, earings, crowns and other ornaments.

Heroic deeds performed by Ganas
After the death of Sati, Siva was infuriated. He sent Ganas under the leadership of Virabhadra to destroy Daksha's sacrifice. Ganas went there and did exactly that.

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Satī-khaṇḍa, Chapter 32 (Siva Purana 2.2.32)

  1. After praising you, the lord asked you about Sati’s news at the sacrifice of Dakṣa and the incidents there.
  1. O dear, when you were thus asked by Śiva, you identified with Śiva and narrated to him in detail about what had happened in Dakṣa’s sacrifice.
  1. O sage, on hearing the words spoken by you, Śiva became furious in a trice, Śiva of great fury and valour.
  1. Then Rudra, the destroyer of the world, plucked out a cluster of his matted hair and struck the top of the mountain with it.
  1. O sage, the cluster of the matted hair of the lord split into two, on being struck on the mountain. A loud explosive sound was heard which was as terrific as the sound at the time of dissolution.
  1. O celestial sage, from the first half of that cluster of matted hair, rose up the powerful Vīrabhadra, the terrific leader of the Gaṇas.

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Satī-khaṇḍa, Chapter 32 (Siva Purana 2.2.32)

  1. O dear Vīrabhadra, listen to my words attentively. You must carry them out quickly. It will then delight me.
  1. Dakṣa, the wicked son of Brahmā, has made arrangement to perform a sacrifice. He is particularly inimical to me. He is unwise and conceited now.
  1. O best of Gaṇas, destroy the sacrifice with all the ancillary adjuncts and then return to my abode quickly.

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Satī-khaṇḍa, Chapter 33 (Siva Purana 2.2.33)

  1. On hearing these words of lord Śiva with great respect, Vīrabhadra was highly delighted. He bowed to Him.
  1. Receiving his command, with his head bowed down in reverence, Vīrabhadra set off immediately to the place of sacrifice.
  1. To add lustre to the campaign, Śiva sent crores of Gaṇas, very valorous and equal to the fire of dissolution.

Siva Purana, Rudra-saṃhitā, Satī-khaṇḍa, Chapter 1 (Siva Purana 2.2.1)

  1. The lord of the Gaṇas (Vīrabhadra) accompanied by his soldiers reached the place immediately after receiving the orders.
  1. They worked a great havoc there. Vīrabhadra chastised everyone and spared none.
  1. After defeating Viṣṇu and the Devas with strenuous effort, the chief of Gaṇas cut off the head of Dakṣa and consigned it to the sacrificial fire.
  1. Working great havoc he destroyed the sacrifice. Then he came back to the mountain and bowed to Lord Śiva.

Reference -
The Shiva Purana by J. L. Shastri

  • 1
    This is wrong answer. In the question, they are the ganas, created by Devi herself and not Shiva. Re-read this line: "...And the deep breaths, which Ambikā fighting in the battle breathed forth, came into real being at once as troops by hundreds and thousands...."
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Aug 22, 2023 at 13:59

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