Vakratunda (Lord of the Twisted Trunk)
As Vakratunda, Ganesha embodies the formless spirit of the Universe or Brahman. In this avatar, He defeated the demon, Matsaryasura (Envy), who came into being when Indra, king of the Gods, once lapsed into absent-mindedness. Performing austere penances to Shiva won Matsaryasura the boon of fearlessness. He soon brought all the gods, including mighty Shiva, to their knees. Dattatreya, the unified form of the Holy Trinity, advised them to invoke Vaktratunda and divulged to them, the powerful seed mantra ‘Gam’. Their penance bore fruit – Vakratunda appeared seated on a lion and defeated Matsaryasura.
In the long run, there is nothing that envy cannot overcome; it can only be defeated by the purely abstract form of the divine, here symbolized by Ganesha’s trunk.
Avatar in Sanskrit means “descent”; in Hindu mythology, a deity descends from heaven to earth for a specific purpose. Sacred texts like the Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana state that Ganesha assumed eight avatars, each manifesting in a different epoch and descriptive of a single attribute. All the avatars had one purpose – to slay a demon.