The masculine and feminine form exist in the harmonious condition in the cosmos, world and even our body (Ida and Pingala). Such importance was given to the equality and balance of the two yet with time and Manusmriti the women folk were condensed to underlings. Their contributions were minimized and almost forgotten till they were only known for their child bearing and rearing capacity. Of the many forgotten female power, Vinayaki is one such form. Vinayaki is also known Ganeshani, Gajanani, Ganeshwari Gajamukhi or Vigneshwari is the feminine form of Lord Ganesha. In Madurai, Tamil Nadu, she is worshipped as Vyagrapada Ganapathy, and in Tibet, an elephant-headed goddess called Ganeshani is worshipped.
Origin of Vinayaki
It is said that a demon, Andhaka, wanted the goddess Parvati to be his wife and tried to grab her. He thought he was saved from Shiva’s trident thanks to his boon- 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.
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 Vaishnavi and Brahma’s Shakti emerged as Brahmini. Ganesha’s Shakti also emerged – Vinayaki or Ganeshvari, according to the Matsya Purana and Vishnu-dharmottara Purana.These Shaktis drank the blood of Andhaka before it touched the ground. Thus Andhaka was destroyed.
This form of Ganapati is revered in the Vana-Durga-Upanishad.
According to J. Herbert (1930), the Ganesh Shakti is diversely represented. Sometimes, she is a twin figure, one is Buddhi (mental power and wisdom), the other is Siddhi (enlightenment) or Riddhi (perfection); these goddesses are represented with normal human bodies, but in esoteric situations, the Shakti is named Vinayaki/Ganeshânî and is represented with an elephant head and a woman body. This female form is also believed to symbolizes the duality of nature.
Gajasya Goddess who is Elephantine is one of the 9 Shaktis who protect the circles or realms that outlay like spheres the Eternal City of Shiva called Kashi in Varanasi.
Appearance of Vinayaki/Ganeshani
In one of the shrines of the Thanumalayan temple in Kanyakumari district is the stone sculpture of a little-known goddess. Seated cross-legged in Sukhasana, the slender, 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. This is the female elephant-headed goddess- Vinayaki.
Dante (Dantee, Ganesha, The Tusked One) the Male Ganapati, of course, is tusked (one is broken), while a female form would perhaps not have a tusk though even some female Asian elephants do if we use the example of elephants.
Evidence of her existence
According to mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik because Vinayaka’s history was mostly oral, and over the centuries, she was lost in time. However, some stories about her continue to exist. The Matsya Purana mentions Vinayaki as one of the two hundred celestial mothers created by Lord Shiva to kill a very dangerous demon called Andhaka.
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 Harivamsa, Vayu Purana, and Skanda Purana also describe elephant-faced Matrikas (“Mothers”), Grahas (Seizers) and Ganas, who bear names like Gajananā (“elephant-faced”), Gajamukhi (“elephant-faced”) and Gajasya (“elephantine”). However, Krishna relates these Matrikas to Jyeshtha, the goddess of misfortune who is described as elephant-faced.
She also features in a list of Shaktis in the Linga Purana.The Agni Purana (compiled in the 10th century) is the first Purana that lists the Shaktis of Ganesha; however, Vainayaki is not one of them, nor are any of them elephant-faced. Vainayaki figures in a list of sixty-four Yoginis in the same Purana.
The upapurana (lesser Purana) Devi Purana explicitly identifies Gananayika or Vinayaki as the shakti of Ganesha, characterized by her elephant head and ability to remove obstacles like Ganesha, and includes her as the ninth Matrika.
In a Buddhist text called Aryamanjusrimulakalpa, the goddess is called the Siddhi of Vinayaka. She inherits many of Ganesha’s characteristics. Like Ganesha, she is the remover of obstacles and has an elephant’s head with only one tusk. She is also called the daughter of the god Ishana, an aspect of Shiva.
The earliest representation 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 representations appeared only after the 10 century BCE.
Another representation of the goddess is found in the tantric temple Chausath Yogini in Hirapur, Odisha. 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.
The fourth day after every new moon is celebrated as Vinayaki chaturthi, a day significant for Lord Ganesha but named after his female form.
In other countries
In Bali, a Female form of Ganapati is known as Ganendri (Ganendree). There she has associated also with one of the directions, in this case, the direction presided over by Vayu.