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The word Gaṇa (Devanagari: गण), in Sanskrit, means "flock, troop, multitude, number, tribe, series, class" (Monier Williams's dictionary). It can also be used to refer to a "body of attendants" and can refer to "a company, any assemblage or association of men formed for the attainment of the same aims".[1]

In Hinduism, the Gaṇas (Devanagari: गण) are attendants of Shiva and live in Kailasa. Ganesha was chosen as their leader by Shiva, hence Ganesha's title gaṇa-īśa or gaṇa-pati, "lord of the gaṇas".[2]

The word "gana" can also refer to councils or assemblies convened to discuss matters of religion or other topics.

Ganas as Shiva's attendants

In Hinduism, the gana or bhutagana are attendants of Shiva that reside in chthonic and liminal locations such as cemeteries and charnel grounds. The bhutagana also attend to Shiva on Mount Kailash. The story of creation of Virabhadra from the Shiva's lock and destruction of Daksha by Virabhadra and his ganas is a popular myth.

Thakur Deshraj has claimed that the story arose from a clan of Jats named Shivi who had a republic ruled by democratic system of administration known as ganatantra. Kshudrakas had formed a sangha with Malavas.[3] This view is not mainstream[4]

Ganas as assemblies

Many books of Sanskrit literature have used ganas and sanghas frequently. The famous Sanskrit scholar Pāṇini of 900 BCE has mentioned in his Sanskrit grammar known as Aṣṭādhyāyī in the form of shloka as जट झट संघाते or Jata Jhata Sanghate. This means that the terms 'Jata' and 'democratic federation' are synonymous.[3]

Pāṇini in his Sanskrit grammar used gana as:

संघोद्घौ गण प्रशंसयो Sanghoddhau gaṇa praśansayo

Narada smriti in Sanskrit mentions as:

It shows that the ganatantra (republic) system of rule was prevalent in India since ancient period.

Ganas in Shanti Parva

A detailed analysis has been done about ganas in chapter 108 of Shanti Parva in which Yudhisthira asks Bhisma about the ganas that how ganas increase, how they defend themselves from the dividing-policy of enemies, what are the techniques to conquer enemies and making the ganas friends, how they hide their secret mantras being in majority. The Bhisma's answers to these questions have been recorded in the form of shlokas (verses) from 16 – 32 in Shanti Parva.,[3][5]

Ganas in Vedas

Ganas have been narrated in Vedas in the form of assemblies of warriors as is clear from the following sutras of Rigveda (RV 3-26-6):[3]

व्रातं व्रातं गणम् गणम् Vrātam Vrātam gaṇam gaṇam

Gana in brief means an assembly. Ganatantra (republic) means a state run by assemblies.

The representative members of clans were known as ganas and their assembly as sanghas, there chief as ganadhipati or Ganesha and Ganapati.

Ganas in Buddhist literature

The Buddhist literature Mahabagga mentions that:

गण पूरकोवा भविस्सामीति Gaṇa pūrkovā bhavissāmīti

It indicates that there was an officer who used to see the number of ganas and their koram in the Rajasabha (state assembly).[3]

During Buddhist period, the Buddhist books like ‘Pali-pitaka’, Majjhamnikaya, mahabagga, Avadana shataka have mentioned ganas and sanghas many times. During Buddhas period there were 116 republics or ganasanghas in India.

In Buddhist times, Gaṇas were assemblies of the Sanghas, early democratic republics known as Gaṇa-rājyas, literally "rule of the assembly", a term paralleling demo-kratia or soviet republic. The term was revived in Bhārata Gaṇarājya, the official name of the Republic of India.

See also


  1. Monier-Will scsdbfhsdbnçkazmdsahboufdshoaskmdlçasncsdhcisdjcmsdçjcbysgdciams Sanskrit-English Dictionary
  2. Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna L. Dallapiccola
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Thakur Deshraj, Jat Itihas (Hindi), Maharaja Suraj Mal Smarak Shiksha Sansthan, Delhi, 1934, 2nd edition 1992 page 87-88.
  4. Ganas: Encyclopedia of Religion, Oxford University Press
  5. Mahabharata in Sanskrit, Book-12, Ch,108

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