Ganesha’s consort Siddhi and the abnegation of the mastery paradigm

Image: Barbie Robinson

One of Ganesha’s consorts is Siddhi which in Sanskrit means ‘success’, ‘supreme achievement’ or mastery of such skill that it is miraculous. In the Yoga Sastra, the traditional text on Yoga, eight major siddhis are listed and they are attributes that are gained as one practices Yoga. These include the ability to be minutely fragemented, to be massive, to be pervasive, to procure all that one desires and to subjugate everyone at one’s will. There are various lists of siddhis in different texts and practices but they are largely in the same realm.

Siddhi’s relationship with Ganesha is sometimes portrayed, especially in Tantric contexts, as a sensuous one. The suggestion is that siddhis are ultimately embedded in desire and it is desire that drives the efforts towards gaining them. This is a complex proposition—we desire for liberation or moksha through the practice of Yoga or dance or other contemplative traditions, but that very selfsame desire is also the source of siddhis. Practice of contemplative traditions can lead to worldly success in their initial stages—this is what the notion of siddhi denotes. This is probably the most dangerous phase of the practice as we need to summon extraordinary insight and strength to maintain the practice without succumbing to the lure of siddhi. Siddhis are spaces of desire and affirmation, two fundamental drives of the chitta or our limited selfhood. Siddhi’s alliance with Ganesha and her intimacy with Him signals that where there is the Ganesha space, there is also Siddhi’s presence—tantalising and alluring.

Ganesha is also the space of liberation from fear, so He can dally with Siddhi and hold her in affection and know her allure for what it is—the ephemeral success of maya reality. Ganesha invites us to dwell in the practice not through fear or avoidance or rejection, but through a wise holding of the fullness of our nature in the earth domain. He invites surrender to the reality of our drives as a way of disengaging with the mastery paradigm which is the space of delusions of grandeur and control.

Padma Menon