The image of an elephant also fits the expansion of consciousness that is an aspect of the process of kundalini awakening. The popular Hindu god Ganesha can tell us all about this. According to the myths, he did not always have an elephant head. There are different versions of this story, but it usually comes down to this: the goddess Parvati (a personification of the kundalini shakti) while bathing makes her son Ganesha out of clay (or soap) and puts him on guard while she takes her bath. When her husband Shiva comes home and is stopped at the door by Ganesha, he becomes furious and beheads the boy with his trident. Then, when he finds out that he has killed his own son, he places an elephant’s head on his shoulders and brings him back to life.
Shiva and Parvati here represent the masculine and feminine energies in man that must merge in order to experience the oneness of the divine (samadhi). During this sacred marriage the ego ‘dies’. This is what the myth tells us in beautiful symbolism.
The bath of Parvati symbolizes the purifying effect of the kundalini energy. Parvati makes Ganesha out of clay while bathing: Ganesha represents the new human being that is formed through the purification process. Upon returning home, Shiva is not allowed to meet his wife (read: he cannot ‘unite’ with her) and therefore kills Ganesha. This symbolizes the ego that must die in order for the sacred marriage to take place.
The head is the seat of the ego. Decapitation is a classic metaphor for discarding the ego. The trident (trishula) with which the beheading of Ganesha takes place, represents the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening: the ida, pingala and sushumna nadi. In iconography, a trident is often depicted on Ganesha’s forehead or trunk.
Read more about the symbolism of decapitation in the article: “The spiritual process of losing the ego”