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This excerpt from the Narada Purana describes a certain mantra called the Ganesha Nyasa, a hymn to Ganesha. Here's the preamble to that mantra:

The matrikas of Ganesha have Ganaka as its sage, the meter is nivrit gayatri, the lord is Shakti Ganeshwara.

My question is, who is this sage Ganaka who heard the Ganesha Nyasa from the gods? This isn't the only Ganesha mantra heard by Ganaka. Here is what the Ganapati Atharvashirsha Upanishad, which I discuss here, says about the famous Mahaganapati mantra:

  1. Ga is the first syllable, after that the first letter, beyond that m, then the half-moon all together. Joined with m, this is the mantra form.
  2. The letter ga is the first form, letter a the middle form, m the last form. bindu the higher form, nada the joining together, samhita the junction. This is the vidya of Lord Ganesha.
  3. Ganaka is the seer, nricad-gayatri the metre, Shri Mahaganapati the devata.

So who is this sage Ganaka who heard these mantras to Ganesha from the gods?

Considering the similarity of their names, I suspect Ganaka is an incarnation of Ganesha himself. This isn't without precedent; Vishnu's incarnation sage Narayana heard the Purusha Sukta, a famous hymn to Vishnu which I discuss here. Similarly, Shiva's incarnation sage Dakshinamurthy heard a Shiva mantra called the Shiva Nyasa, as I discuss here. So is it possible that Ganesha took an incarnation as a sage and heard mantras about himself?

Are there any other scriptures that describe the identity of the sage the sage Ganaka? Was he the seer of any Vedic mantras? References to Ganesha in ancient Hindu scripture are few and far between, because he only rose to popularity later, so it may be hard to find.

  • I am inclined to go with incarnation, it fits the pattern of others that you point out. – Adi Dec 7 '16 at 7:19
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The only reference I found to Sage Ganaka is on Kamakoti Website which ascribes the verses to Ganesha Yamala Tantra. (Which I wasn't able to find anywhere on the internet. If anyone has this Tantra available it would be good if they could reference the verses...)

Sri Mahaganapati, the primordial puruSha known as brahmaNaspati, created four kinds of universe and initiated Mahadeva, Mahavishnu and Brahma with fourteen gANapatya Mahavidyas. [...]

Sri mahAgaNapati assumed the form of gaNaka and initiated Sri Shiva into the royal path of gAnApatya.

In satya yuga, 1000 gANapatya tantras were revealed by Mahadeva to Vishnu and Shiva.

[...]

This worship of 116 mUrtis of brahmaNaspati is called mahA yAga in the vainAyaka tantra. Remembering these mUrtis of Bhagavan mahAgaNesha grants one the merit of visiting every tIrtha and kShetra on earth [gaNesha yAmala, 8-96]

  • Thanks for your answer. Assuming no one else posts an answer with more information, I'll give you the bounty. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 16 '17 at 15:29
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Thanks! References to Ganaka are few in many scriptures so this was a rare find. – Arya Oct 17 '17 at 10:53
  • OK, I'm giving you the bounty. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 22 '17 at 1:15
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Well found this piece about Ganesh Vidya, which has different analysis & meaning for the term 'Ganaka':

The following shlokas reveal the secret of the Ganesha Mantra, “Gam”:

“Ganadeen purva mucharya varnadeen stadantaram Anusvaraha parataraha ardhendu lasitam tarena ruddham etattava manu svarupam Gakarah purva rupam akaro madhyama rupam Anusvaraschantya rupam binduruttara rupam Nadassandhanam samhita sandhihi nysha ganesha vidya ganaka rishihi nricchad gayatri chandaha Sri Maha Ganapatirdevata Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha”!

First come the ganas or metered syllables. Then come the Sanskrit alphabets beginning with “a” and ending with “ksha.” Then, anusvara or the nasal sound, “m,” and later the beautiful sound of half moon or half circle. After all of these comes the primordial sound, “Om”!

Therefore, first the form of the Ganesha Mantra begins with the syllable “g”. Then, you add to it in the middle the syllable “a”, and later at the end you add the syllable “m.” Thus, when you go through the process of “g+a+m”, you obtain the seed syllable “Gam”. Then when you add “Om” in front, you have “Om Gam”, which is verily the subtle form of Sri Ganesha. Thus, “Om Gam” is the subtle form of the Ganesha Mantra. This subtle form of the Ganesha Mantra is subtlest of the subtle and its effulgence is also in a subtle form. The effulgence of the “Gam” mantra is most wondrous and brilliant. When you chant the “Gam” mantra, your heart and your whole body is filled with effulgence and brightness. As your heart radiates with effulgence, the six enemies in your heart are burnt away and you are filled with supreme peace in your heart.

The rishi, sage of this Ganesha vidya or knowledge, is Ganaka.

The chandas, meter, is Ncchrud Gayatri.

The devata, presiding deity, is Maha Ganapati. Read more here

  • This doesn't answer who this sage Ganaka is. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 16 '17 at 19:21
  • "The rishi, sage of this Ganesha vidya or knowledge, is Ganaka"....so any sage who has that knowledge is to be referred as Ganaka, this is what I get out of this analysis. Just like teachers knowing maths are referred as mathematicians. – Just_Do_It Oct 16 '17 at 19:24
  • No, I don't think anyone who has that knowledge would be referred to as Ganaka. This is a standard formulation: stating the Devata, the Rishi, the Chandas, etc. When such a formulation is given, the Rishi refers to a very specific individual. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 16 '17 at 19:27
  • Well even the 1st answer doesn't satisfy what or who exactly was Sage Ganaka. Ganapatya is a denomination of Hinduism that worships Ganesha (also called Ganapati) as the Saguna Brahman. – Just_Do_It Oct 16 '17 at 19:29
  • The first answer does answer the question. It says that sage Ganaka was an incarnation of Ganesha who taught Shiva about Ganapatya. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 16 '17 at 19:37

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