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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. 


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 forest.

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 cosmic reality.

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 and whole!


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