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The Alwars (also spelled Azhwars) are a group of 12 ancient Vaishnava saints who lived in Tamil Nadu and are famous for their poetry in praise of Vishnu. The 4000 verses of the Alwars were compiled by the Vaishnava Acharya Nathamuni into a book called the Naalayira Divya Prabhandam, which is considered by many to be the "Dravida Veda", or South Indian Veda. The Alwars are crucially important figures in the history of Vaishnavism; it is the principles and beliefs embodied in the Alwars' poems that Nathamuni used to found what we now call the Sri Vaishnava sect (of which I'm a member).

Now the Alwars are believed to be incarnations of various attendants and attributes of Vishnu; for instance the Alwar Nammalwar is considered an incarnation of Vishwaksena, the general of Vishnu's army. But the early Sri Vaishnava Acharyas are also considered to be incarnations of gods, as described in this website:

Gajaananar is a nityasuri in Sri Vaikuntham who is an assistant of Vishwaksenar along with Kumudan, KumudAkshar and Harivaktrar.

Gajaananar took avataaram as Nathamuni

Kumudan took avataaram as Uyyakondar

Kumudaakshar took avataaram as Manakaal Nambi and

Harivakktrar took avataaram as Yamunacharya

As you can see, Nathamuni is believed to be an incarnation of Gajanana, an elephant-headed god who is an attendant of Vishnu's general Vishwaksena. My question is, is this Gajanana the same as Shiva's son Ganesha?

In most Hindu temples, there is a statue of Ganesha in the front, because he is the remover of obstacles. But in very conservative Sri Vaishnava temples, this is replaced by a statue of Gajanana (called Tumbikkai Alwar in Tamil). Similarly, while most Hindus have Ganesha in mind when they say "Suklambharadaram Vishnum...", a lot of Sri Vaishnavas consider it to be a prayer to Vishwaksena.

So there seems to be at least some connection between Ganesha and Vishwaksena's attendant Gajanana, insofar as they play similar roles. But are there any scriptures or works by Sri Vaishnava Acharyas which say whether the two figures are the same or different?

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Even Sri Viraraghavacharya's( a Srivaishnava) commentary on that verse says that Vinayaka is Vishvaksena parshada. To explain this verse, Sri Jiva Goswami comments on this verse by citing Padma Purana: "satyAcyutAnanta durga vishvaksenam gajananam sarve pare dhamni..."

Satya, Acyuta ,Ananta, Durga(Vishnu Durga/ Yogamaya) and Gajanana all reside in the para dhama(Vaikuntha).


The relevant Bhagavata verses are:

durgam vinayakam vyasam visvaksenam gurun suran sve sve sthane tv abhimukhan pujayet proksanadibhih (~Bhagavatam(11.27.29))

Translation-With offerings such as proksana one should worship Durga, Vinayaka, Vyasa, Visvaksena, the gurus and the various devas(or nitya parshadas). All these personalities should be in their proper places facing the Deity of the Lord.

The question was whether this "Vinayakam" referred to here in this verse is Ganesha(son of Siva and Parvati),who is popularly referred to by that name or is this referring to someone else. The Pancharatragamas and the Padma Purana talk about an eternal associate of Sri Narayana in Vaikuntha who has an elephantine face and said to be one of the main generals of Sri Vishvaksena. It is to be observed that this nitya suri is not the son of Shiva and nor did he take an avatara as the son of Shiva as no such pramana is found in the shastras. The aforementioned personality is Sri Gajanana as mentioned in the Ishvara samhita and Paushkara samhita as well as in the Padma Purana verse starting with "satyAcyutAnanta" Regarding the identity of "Vinayaka" in Srimad Bhagavatam, it is not necessarily Ganesha but since this Vinayaka is mentioned with Vishvaksena Viraraghavacharya comments on this verse and says that Vinayaka here is Vishvaksena-pArshada. Regarding Jivagoswami's commentary on this verse, he quotes a verse from Padma purana explaining that Durga and Vinayaka mentioned here are not the consort and son of Shiva but nitya parshadas serving Narayana in Vaikuntha.


Here is another comment from a Srivaishnava bhakta in the internet regarding this issue:

I asked a friend of mine, who is an erudite scholar on the issue. He says that he does not have the vIrarAghava bhAshyam either, but has interpreted the sloka from his own knowledge for me as follows:

durgam vinayakam vyasam visvaksenam gurun suran sve sve sthane tv abhimukhan pujayet proksanadibhih

In this sloka, "durgam" refers to vishNu durga only. The sloka is meant for offering respects and this is part of nitya karmas. vishNu durga, who obtained a boon from Krishna, is present in many vishNu temples facing bhagavAn and hence, respect is given to her.

Now comes the part which surprised me. Vinayaka mentioned here is indeed gajanana! The relevant sloka as under, interpreted in this way by srI parAsara bhattar in his vishnu sahasranAma bhAshya:

yasya dviradavaktraadyaaH paariShadyaaH paraH shatam . vighnaM nighnanti satataM viShvakasenaM tamaashraye'

Meaning: gajAnana (the double-tusked elephant-faced nitya-sUri in vaikuntam) an hundreds of such sUris, who always remove all obstacles, form the members of the army commanded by Vishvaksena. I take resort to them.

As you can see, GajAnana is interpreted to be the remover of obstacles, in addition to Vishwaksena, and hence, Vinayaka describes Gajanana. My friend says that in all vaishnava temples, there is a deity known in tamil as "thumbikkai azhwar" (meaning: devotee (azhwar) with a trunk) on the pillar facing the sanctum of bhagavan. Indeed, I have seen this myself in Thiruvallikeni near srI narasimha sannidhi. This "thumbikkai azhwar" is Gajanana, the remover of obstacles and a part of Vishvaksena's army.

So, my earlier observation that Vinayaka is not a name of Gajanana was obviously wrong as per my friend's observation and I retract that statement.

Durga, Gajanana, Vishvaksena are all seen to surround Vishnu in his temples, that is certainly a fact I have observed for myself. In place of vyAsa, we sri vaishnavas normally consecrate srI rAmAnuja, the azhwars and achAryAs. That is more than acceptable, obviously, for us.

The revelant web page is as given below:

http://hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?12075-Adi-shankarAchArya-s-views-on-anya-devata-worship/page3

  • @Devan- Please provide the source and contents from Veeraraghavachary's work, which says Gajanana the follower of Viswaksena is Vinayaka. Coming to Jiva goswami comment, there is no reference to Gajanana being Vinayaka in verse provided by you.# Thanks – user808 Jun 2 '15 at 7:19
  • This is the relevant commentary of Viraraghavacharya. It is written in Telugu script. If you can read the script, it says that Vinayaka mentioned in the Bhagavatam is Vishvaksena parshada though there is no specific mention of an elephant faced deity: – devan Jun 2 '15 at 7:37
  • Do you have Jiva Goswami's commentary with you? Actually I was told of it by someone else. This verse is also quoted in Laghu Bhagavatamrita by Sri Rupa Goswami. It gives a description of the Lord's associates in Vaikuntha. – devan Jun 2 '15 at 7:40
  • @devan-Now, no where it says that this Vinayaka or Ganesa who is the attendant of Viswaksena is son of Parvati and Siva. Even the pancharatra texts uses the word ganesa but there is no reference to him as son of parvati and Siva. Coming to Jiva goswami's, i haven't read it nor know about it, but from whatever you are saying i dont think even that has anything to do about with Vinayaka, son of parvati and siva – user808 Jun 2 '15 at 9:29
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The Gajanana who is considered as one of the attendents of Lord Viswaksena in Vaikunta is not Vinayaka or Ganesha, son of Siva.

In book called Isvara samhita by M.A. Lakshmithathachar ( containing the sanskrit moolam and english translation), revised by V.Varadachari, having both the sanskrit verses, commentary by Sri Alasinga Bhatta it is clearly mentioned that Viswaksena, has four lieutenants viz,

  1. Gajananana, having face of an elephant, four tusks, 3 eyes, shell neck, four hands and has the radiance of full moon

  2. jayatsena has face of horse and is brilliant lime the rubies. His eyes are like molten gold.

  3. Harivaktra has his head spread over his manes. His comexion is melted gold. His face is like that of a lion.

  4. Kalaprakriti form is like a hill of collyrium. His eyes is frightful witb large teeth.

This description is given in Pauskara Samhita 20.39-51 verses.

Also, it clearly mentioned, Ganesa referred is Gajanana, is one of the four attendants of Viswaksena and NO WHERE any of the Pancharatra texts refers to Ganesa alias Gajanana as son of Siva or Parvati.

Furthet, the Isavara samhita book says, this Gajanana the lieutenant of Lord Viswaksena sprung from the anger of Lord Aniruddha as given in Pancharatra text, Padma samhita. Carya.31.5b.7a

Pradyumnasthairithi proktham kruddhassamrakthslochanaha!

Kopatasya samudbhutam samyak stambheramananaha!!

Sanjatham bhaddhanjaliputam kurvanam taha puramstitham !

Tam drustva gajavaktram provacchedam vachastadha!!

So, Vinayaka, son of parvati, has only one tusk, where as the attendent Gajananan is considered to have more than one tusk, as per Vaishnava sampradayam and Pancharatra works.

Tumbikai Alwar has no existense in Srivaishnava philosophy. It is some story cooked up by some non vaishnavas.

Now, coming to having elephant headed sculptures in Vaishnava temples, as per vaishnava agamas also, all the deities like Siva, Brahma etc. are depicted as part of the temple architecture. That doesn't mean srivaishnavas worship Siva, Brahma, Vinayaka etc.

Regarding, "Shuklam bharadaram vishnum...", there is absolutely no mention of any anthromorphic figures like vinayaka, ganesa etc. Ask any person who is sane, unbiased and has some sanskrit knowledge and he will agree that the sloka doesn't refer to Vinayaka at all. It refers to Lord Vishnu alone.

It is unfortunate that some biased people claim that the sloka refers to Vinayaka/Ganesa, which is nothing but falsehood and lies.

  • First of all, Tumbikkai Alwar is just the Tamil name for Gajanana. In any case, you should cite sources for Ganesha and Gajanana being different. "Vinayaka, son of parvati, has only one tusk, where as the attendent gajananan is considered to have more than one tusk, as per sampradayam and Pancharatra works." What Pancharatra texts are you referring to, and what Sri Vaishnava works are you referring to? – Keshav Srinivasan May 1 '15 at 13:25
  • @Keshav - Added the proof from Isvara samhita and pauskara samhita. – user808 May 1 '15 at 17:40
  • Is there an online version of that book, or is there just a physical copy? In any case, Ganesha does have a four-tusked, three-eyed form, described in Tantric texts: books.google.com/… "He is ornamented with a young elephant's head, has three eyes, four tusks, four arms, and four legs." – Keshav Srinivasan May 1 '15 at 17:49
  • By the way, are there any scriptures which say who the father of Vishwaksena's attendant Gajanana is? – Keshav Srinivasan May 1 '15 at 17:49
  • @Keshav- but attendant of viswaksena, doesn't have, four legs. SO, Gajanana is not Vinayaka of siva and parvati. Gajanana is one of the nitya suri. Sriman Narayana and Goddess Sri are Gajanana's parents. – user808 May 1 '15 at 18:39

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