The symbolic meaning of the form of Lord ganesha has been very well explained in this article The image of Ganesh and its meaning
By Kishore Asthana, TNN
The Economic Times
September 3, 2008
View image here:
An elephant's trunk has the strength to uproot a tree as well as the
finesse to pick up a needle. Ganesh's trunk symbolises the fact that
the wise person has both immense strength and fine discrimination.
Ganesh has large ears. The wise person hears all. He has four hands.
In one hand he holds a lotus, the symbol of enlightenment . In the
other hand he holds a hatchet. That is, the old karma-- all your
sanskaras, the accumulated good and bad of past deeds -- get cut when
The third hand holds laddoos, the round sweet-meats. They are the
rewards of a wise life. Ganesh is never shown eating the laddus. The
wise man never partakes of the rewards of his deeds. He is not
attached to them. The fourth hand is shown blessing the people. The
wise man wishes the best for everyone.
Ganesh has only one tusk; the other is shown broken. There is an
interesting story as to how Ganesh happened to get an elephant's head
and how one tusk got broken. The symbolism of the broken tusk is that
the wise person is beyond duality.
We tend to think that we end when our bodies end in the material
world. We are the first person. All else is different. This duality
is created by the mind which creates the ego to help us survive in
this world. This 'me-other' duality is the screen keeping us from
realising our real Self, which is beyond body and mind.
Once we transcend this duality, we see the entire Universe as a
single whole and we become aware of our true Selves. The single tusk
of Ganesh symbolises this non-duality. Wisdom allows us to see all as
one and ourselves an integral part of the whole.
Ganesh is shown sitting with one foot on the ground and the other
resting on his knee, above the ground. The wise person is of this
earth, yet not entirely of this earth.
Ganesh is shown seated on a rat. The reason for saying that Ganesh
'rides' on the rat is that the rat is among the greediest of all
animals. It will keep nibbling at whatever is available, eating
everything it can.
Scientifically, too, the rat's teeth keep growing and it has to keep
chewing on something to keep these within limits. The rat is a symbol
of our senses, which are never satisfied. They crave new experiences,
new tastes. Left uncontrolled, they keep growing forever. The wise
person rides on his senses. He keeps them under control.
Ganesh is often shown seated in front of a tray of sweets. In these
images the rat is shown sitting in front of Ganesh, perhaps a bit to
one side, looking up at him. The senses of the wise person are under
his control and the rat dare not eat the sweets without the
permission of Ganesh.
Ganesh is the son of Shiv and Parvati, the God governing the life-
force and the earthmother. This symbolises the spirit and body of the
wise person. Finally, the wise person has the dignity of an elephant.
When we say "Aum Ganeshaye Namah" before starting anything what we
are saying is that "In what we are about to do, let wisdom be our
guide". In a sense, Ganesh is our most powerful god, and he is
usually remembered before starting any rituals for other deities.