Ganesh, the elephant headed son of
Lord Shiva and Parvati is the first and foremost deity
in the Hindu pantheon whom devotees worship, prior to
any important undertakings. Whatever the devotee’s
desires, whatever he wishes to venture into, the
blessings of Lord Ganesha are first sought.
GANESHA ACQUIRES AN ELEPHANT HEAD
Legend has it that once when
Parvati wanted to take a leisurely bath and requested
her son Ganesha to mind the entrance to her chamber and
prevent anyone from entering the chamber. The obedient
Ganesha did as he was told. Soon, Lord Shiva himself
walked in, but was stopped by young Ganesha. This
enraged Shiva who in a fit of temper, cut off
Ganesha’s head! When Parvati learnt of her husband’s
wrath and misdeeds, she was overcome with grief and
lamented her son’s plight. Shiva realized his
foolhardiness and ordered his attendants to bring the
head of the first living creature they found in the
The attendants gleaned through the
forest and the first creature they saw was an elephant,
whose head they severed and brought to Shiva. Shiva
fixed the head on Ganesha and lo and behold, Ganesha
sprang back to life!
When Parvati lamented about the
funny sight Ganesha would take on- the head of an
elephant and body of a man, Shiva consoled her saying
that despite his awkward looks, Ganesha would gain
prominence over all other deities, including Shiva
himself! And to this day, whether it’s a marriage, a
house-warming ceremony, educational pursuit et al, it is
Ganesha who is worshipped first. As Ganesha, he is the
leader of Shiva’s attendants-‘Ganas’.
The entire icon has a wealth of
meaning. As a God who prevents obstacles, he is known as
Vigneshwar- the remover of obstacles. Thus, he is
worshipped before commencing anything auspicious.
Let’s see how Ganesha does it all!
The huge fan like elephant ears are
ever ready listening to devotee’s supplications. His
enormous, spherical belly embodies the universe and the
serpent around the belly signifies cosmic energy. His
trunk that curves symbolizes AUM the sound symbol of
Like all the Gods of the Hindu
pantheon, Ganesha too has four hands. In one hand, he
holds the noose, to pull the wayward and put him on
track! On another hand, he has the hook to goad forward
the one lagging behind. Yet, on his third hand, he holds
the sacred rosary indicates that the accumulation of
knowledge and wisdom is a continuous process. In his
fourth hand he holds the broken tusk with which he wrote
the famous Indian epic-The Mahabharata. Legend has it
that when Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata, he chose Lord
Ganesha. However, he was perplexed as he didn’t know
with what he would take down the notes. But, without any
hesitation, Ganesha broke his tusk, held it as a pen in
one hand and wrote the Mahabharata. His promptness in
breaking the tusk and using it as a pen, only goes to
prove that in the path of intellectual progress, beauty
is not a costly price to pay!
Entwined in his trunk, is the Modak
or sweet that has an outer layer shaped into a round
ball made of rice powder and is tasteless. But, inside
is the core made of coconut and jaggery. The tasteless
rice powder represents our gross body, inside which is
encrusted the soul. The inside sweet core is what man
should truly try to discover.
How is he worshipped?
Hindus traditionally break coconuts
in front of the idol, which symbolizes the breaking of
our ego that is necessary, meaning that in order to seek
the blessings, grace and love of the divine, we must be
vulnerable, shedding our ego. The hard ego does prevent
one from hiding our vulnerabilities. Complete submission
to a higher power ensures that trust that power.
Ganesha is also worshipped with the
humble dhruva grass that grows on any patch of field.
This indicates that even the lowliest and most humble of
creations like a blade of grass if presented to God with
utmost reverence will ensure His grace! At the
kindergarten level, you may find young children gifting
their teachers with whatever pretty they can find.
Children strive to make their teachers happy with
whatever they can gift her with. And the teacher’s day
is done. That’s the case with Ganesha too.
There’s another peculiar manner
the Hindus worship of Ganesha. After circumambulating
the idol thrice, devotees usually rap their temples of
the head with their knuckles and pull at their
ear-lobes. This is done with the left hand pulling the
right ear-lobes and the right hand pulling the left
ear-lobes. According to the science of acupressure, the
ear-lobes contain a spot that alerts the human mind.
All Gods in the Hindu pantheon have
a vehicle to carry them swiftly across the universe and
Ganesha has but a mere mouse as his vehicle! This only
explains the soul is as vast as gigantic and vast as the
elephant and also as tiny as the mouse. Also, the mouse
regardless of its tiny form, can create havoc when found
in the field. This mouse is akin to the numerous desires
we nurture, which prevents us from seeking truth.
Ganesha mounting the mouse is symbolic of subduing of
desires that brings man nearer to salvation.
The legend that narrates how
Ganesha got his elephant head can be an eye-opener to
many parents who are aggressive, short-tempered and try
to prove their worth through their children. Looks,
stature, etc do not matter, when the spirit is intact