वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सूर्यकोटि समप्रभ |
निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा

“Vakra Tunda Mahakaaya Koti Surya Samaprabha
Nirvignam Kurume Deva Sarva Kaaryeshu Sarvataa”

I worship the Lord with a curved trunk and huge body with the effulgence of a core sun. Let him remove the obstacles to all my deeds and lead them to fulfillment.

Ganesha, also spelled Ganesh, also called Ganapati is also known in the west as “Elephant-Headed Hindu God of Beginnings”.  He is also popularly worshipped under different names like Sumukha, Kadanta, Kapila, Gajakarna, Lambodara, Vikath, Vidhnanashaka.

Lord Ganesha’s name means both “Lord of the People” (Gana means the common people) and “Lord of the Ganas” (Ganesha is the chief of the ganas, the goblin hosts of Shiva).

Birth of Lord Ganesh Ji

Many different stories are told about the birth of Ganesha.

One story mentions in which Mata Parvati makes her son out of a piece of cloth and asks her husband, Lord Shiva, to bring him to life.

Lord Shiva with Maa Parvaati and Ganesha

The second story which is more famous (also told as our bedtime story) also is mentioned in our scriptures. One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mount Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband Shiva’s vahana (vehicle) Bull, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Lord Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angry at this slight, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and breathing life into it, she created Ganesha, declaring him to be her own loyal son.

The next time Parvati wished to bathe; she posted his son Ganesha on guard duty at the door. In due course, Shiva came home, only to find this strange boy (Ganesha) telling him that he can’t enter the house. Shiva was astonished that he can’t enter his own house and who is stopping him, one small boy. Ah!!, This makes Lord Shiva very furious. Lord Shiva ordered his army to destroy the boy, but they all failed! Such power did Ganesha possess, being the son of Devi Parvati Herself!

Seeing the defeat of his strong army Lord Shiva took it to his surprise. He understands that he is not an ordinary boy. Lord Shiva usually peaceful by nature decided he would have to fight him, and in his divine fury severed Baby Ganesha’s head, killing him instantly. When Devi Parvati saw his beloved son killed by his own husband, she was so much enraged and insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation. Lord Brahma, being the Creator, when heard about Devi Parvati’s decision to get into the tightness, and pleaded to Maa Parvati not to go ahead with her decision. After lots of attempts, Lord Shiva was successful to cool down Maa Parvati’s anger. Maa Parvati put 2 conditions in front of Lord Shiva:

  • One, that Ganesha be brought back to life, and
  • Two, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods.

Lord Shiva realized his mistake and cave into all his wife’s conditions.

The Supreme Lord immediately sent Brahma out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature he crosses that is laying with its head facing North. Brahma soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant, which Shiva placed onto Ganesha’s body. Breathing new life into him, he declared Ganesha to be his own son as well and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods, and leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati.

Lord Ganesha

Lesson from the Lord Ganesha’s Birth

  • Shiva: Shiva is the Lord and Supreme Teacher. Ganesha here represents the ego-bound Jiva. When the Lord comes, the Jiva, surrounded as it is with the murky cloud of ego, usually doesn’t recognize Him, and maybe even ends up arguing or fighting with Him. Therefore, it is the duty of the Lord, in the form of the Guru, to cut off the head of our ego. So powerful is this ego, however, that at first, the Guru’s instructions may not work, as Shiva’s armies failed to subdue Ganesha. It often requires a tougher approach, but, eventually the compassionate Guru, in His wisdom finds a way.
  • Parvati: Parvati is a form of Devi, the Parashakti (Supreme Energy). In the human body, she resides in the Muladhara chakra as the Kundalini shakti. It is said that when we purify ourselves, ridding ourselves of the impurities that bind us, then the Lord automatically comes. This is why Shiva, the Supreme Lord, came unannounced as Parvati was bathing.

Devi Parvati threatened to destroy the whole Creation after learning of Ganesha’s demise. This indicates that when the ego dies, the liberated Jiva loses interest in its temporary physical vehicle, the body, and begins to merge into the Supreme.

  • Nandi: Nandi, Shiva’s bull, who Parvati first sent to guard the door represents the divine temperament. Nandi is so devoted to Shiva that his every thought is directed to Him, and he is able to easily recognize the Lord when He arrives. This shows that the attitude of the spiritual aspirant is what gains access to Devi’s (the kundalini shakti’s) abode.
One must first develop this attitude of the devotee before hoping to become qualified for the highest treasure of spiritual attainment, which Devi alone grants.
After Nandi permitted Shiva to enter, Parvati took the turmeric paste from Her own body, and with it created Ganesha. Yellow is the color associated with the Muladhara chakra, where the kundalini resides, and Ganesha is the deity who guards this chakra. Devi needed to create Ganesha, who represents the earthbound awareness, as a shield to protect the divine secret from unripe minds. It is when this awareness begins to turn away from things of the world, and toward the Divine, as Nandi had, that the great secret is revealed.

Shiva restoring life to Ganesha, and replacing his head with an elephant’s, means that before we can leave the body, the Lord first replaces our small ego with a “big” or universal ego. This doesn’t mean that we become more egoistic. On the contrary, we no longer identify with the limited individual self, but rather with the large universal Self. In this way, our life is renewed, becoming one that can truly benefit Creation. It is however only a functional ego like the one Krishna and Buddha kept. It is like a thin string tying the liberated Consciousness to our world, solely for our benefit.

The physical world is here represented by Devi. This impermanent and changeable creation is a form of Devi, to which this body belongs; the unchanging Absolute is Shiva, to which belongs the Soul. When the ego dies, the external world, which depends on the ego for its existence, disappears along with it. It is said that if we want to know the secrets of this world, which is a manifestation of Devi, then we must first receive the blessings of Ganesha.
Ganesha is given dominion over the Ganas, which is a general term denoting all classes of beings, ranging from insects, animals, and humans to the subtle and Devatas (celestial beings). These various beings all contribute to the government of the Creation; everything from natural forces like storms and earthquakes to the elemental qualities like fire and water, to the functioning of the body’s organs and processes. If we don’t honor the Ganas, then our every action is a form of thievery, as it is unsanctioned. Therefore, instead of propitiating each Gana in order to receive their blessings, we bow to their Lord, Sri Ganesha. By receiving His grace, we receive the grace of all. He removes any potential obstacles and enables our endeavors to succeed.

Such is the greatness of Sri Ganesha. Jai Ganesha” !!!

What Lord Ganesha Symbolizes

Lord Ganesha

Ganesha has a huge body and an elephant face. In Ganapati Atharvanasirsha Upanishad we find different shades of deep symbolic meaning come out with regard to Lord Ganesha’s form. In this Upanishad, Ganesha is identified with the supreme Brahman and the highest head of the created universe.

  • Ganesha’s Head: – The elephant head is the symbol of Gyan. The large elephant head of Lord Ganesha symbolizes wisdom, understanding, and a discriminating intellect that one must possess to attain perfection in life. Not to mention that elephants are always the path makers in forests. When an elephant passes through thick woods, away is created for the other animals to follow. Lord Ganesh is worshiped first before starting anything new. Lord Ganesha clears the obstacles and paves the way for us to move forward in life.
  • Ganesha’s Mouth: – The wide mouth represents the natural human desire to enjoy life in the world.
  • Ganesha’s Ears: – The large ears signify that a perfect person is one who possesses a great capacity to listen to others and assimilate ideas. Ganesha being the ruler of the world possesses large ears to keenly listen to the prayers and needs of all his subjects.
  • Ganesha’s Trunk: – The trunk can hold anything and everything existent in this universe. Likewise, individuals should possess qualities of high adaptability and efficiency in life. This in other words can make them attune to any circumstances of life. It also represents OM the sound symbol of cosmic reality.
  • Ganesha’s Tusks: – The two tusks denote the two aspects of the human personality, wisdom, and emotion. The right tusk represents wisdom and the left tusk represents emotion. The broken left tusk conveys the idea that one must conquer emotions with wisdom to attain perfection.
  • Ganesha’s Eyes: – The Ganesha eyes are said to possess natural deceptiveness that allows them to perceive objects to be bigger than what they really are. Thus, it indicates to surrender one’s pride and attain humility.
  • Ganesha’s Arms: – The four arms of Lord Ganesha represent the four inner attributes of the subtle body, that is: mind (Manas), intellect (Buddhi), ego (Ahamkara), and conditioned conscience (Chitta).

Lord Ganesha represents the pure consciousness – the Atman – which enables these four attributes to function in us.

  • First, the hand waving an axe is a symbol of the retrenchment of all desires, bearers of pain and suffering. With an axe, Lord Ganesha can both strike and repel obstacles. The ax is also to prod the man to the path of righteousness and truth;
  • The second-hand holds a whip, a symbol of the force that ties the devout person to the eternal beatitude of God. The whip conveys that worldly attachments and desires should be rid of;
  • The third hand, turned towards the devotee, is in a pose of blessing, refuge, and protection (Abhaya);
  • The fourth hand holds a lotus flower (Padma), and it symbolizes the highest goal of human evolution, the sweetness of the realized inner self.
  • Ganesha’s Heart: – Ganesha’s body like the human body also possesses a heart, which is a symbol of kindness and compassion toward all.
  • Ganesha’s Foot: – The right foot dangling over the left foot illustrates that in order to live a successful life one should utilize knowledge and reason to overcome emotions.
  • Ganesha’s Belly: – Ganesha’s huge belly symbolizes the created universe. His belly represents the whole cosmos, the seven realms above and below and the seven oceans are inside Ganesha’s cosmic belly. These are held together by the cosmic energy (kundalini) symbolized by the huge snake around him. The snake that runs around his waist represents energy in all forms. The big belly signifies that a person should face all pleasant and unpleasant experiences during his life span with patience and calmness.
  • Ganesha’s Weapon: – The Trishul (weapon of Shiva, similar to Trident) over the forehead symbolizes time (past, present, and future) and Lord Ganesha’s mastery over it.
  • Ganesha’s Clothes: -Lord Ganesha is usually portrayed wearing red and yellow clothes. Yellow symbolizes purity, peace, auspiciousness, a sense of control, and truthfulness. Red symbolizes the activity in the world. Thus, an individual should perform all duties in the world, with purity, peace, and truthfulness.
  • Ganesha’s Vahana (Vehicle): – Ganesha’s Vahana is a mouse. The mouse represents ego. Lord Ganesha’s using the mouse represents the need to control ego and so it’s said that one who controls his ego has Ganesha consciousness.

Our holy Scriptures mention Ganesh’s vehicle mouse with equality in humankind. The king must be accessible to all the subjects equally. Ganesh with a huge body and elephant head is close to the mouse which is a tiny creature. This indicates all lives are equal and it is the duty of every human to take care of the humble lives around.

Moreover, “Mouse also symbolizes uncontrolled desires and ego that can nibble all that is good and noble in a person. A mouse sitting near the feet of Lord Ganesha and gazing at the Laddus denotes that with purified or controlled desires one can live in the world without being affected by worldly temptations” [1].

Lord Shiva with his wife Maa Parvati and sons Kartikeya & Ganesha

What Lord Ganesha Teaches to Humans

Hindu scriptures mention that one day, Ganesh had to race his brother, Kartikeya, to see who would be chosen to take care of people on Earth. They had to race around the universe, and the first one back would win. Kartikeya thought there was no way he could lose. He had a speedy peacock mount and Ganesh had only a mouse as their respective vahana (Vehicles). Kartikeya took off as soon as the race began, but Ganesh slowly circled his parents, Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati. When he was finished, he said he’d ended the race. All the gods looking on didn’t understand what Little Ganesha said. So, Ganesh explained that “He respected and loved his parents so much that when he circled them, he circled his entire universe”. The gods decided Ganesh had shown wisdom and loyalty, so he should be the one to take care of people on Earth.

Lord Ganesha by this teaches us to respect and love our parents as they are above all in this universe.
Lord Ganesha with Ved Vyas Ji

Scriptures mentioned that Lord Ganesha wrote the Mahabharata, as it was recited to him by sage Vyasa (Veda Vyasa). The writing was done on one condition that Vyasa would not stop while reciting the epic and that Ganesha would not stop while writing. Also, it was decided that besides the condition that Ganesha would not merely write it, but also understand every verse of it. As Ganesha was writing the poem, his pen broke. As Ganesha had agreed to write the poem without stopping, so he broke off his tusk and used that to continue writing. This is one explanation of why Ganesh is always shown with a broken tusk. It is being said that it took both of them three years of continuous speaking and writing to complete the epic.

Here Lord Ganesha teaches us to stick to the commitment once done and do whatever it takes to fulfill it.

Ganesh Chaturthi 

There are lots of Hindu gods and goddesses, but always the images or idols of Ganesh are found in every Hindu home, establishment, and vehicle. This is because Hindus believe Ganesh is the “remover of all obstacles,” so they pray to him before any ritual or new event because his blessing will make things go smoothly.

Ganesha is traditionally worshipped before any major enterprise and is always the patron of intellectuals, bankers, scribes, players, authors, and precisely every Hindu in this whole Universe.

Ganesh Chaturthi (say “GAN-esh CHA-tur-tee”) means it’s the Hindu god Ganesh’s birthday. Many Hindus around the world celebrate by praying, singing, and dancing.

In the Gregorian calendar, Ganesh Chaturthi falls between 22 August and 20 September every year.

The festival is celebrated as the arrival of Lord Ganesha to earth from Kailash Parvat with his mother Goddess Parvati. The festival is marked with the installation of Lord Ganesh’s clay murtis privately in homes and publicly. It is marked that Lord Ganesha is “The God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles as well as the God of wisdom and intelligence”.

It is observed throughout India, especially in the states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Goa, West Bengal, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu. Ganesh Chaturthi is also observed in Nepal. It is also celebrated by the Hindu diaspora elsewhere such as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname other parts of the Caribbean, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, United States, and many parts of Europe.

History of Ganesh Chaturthi 

Although it is unknown when (or how) Ganesh Chaturthi was first observed, the festival has been publicly celebrated in Pune since the era of Shivaji (1630–1680, founder of the Maratha Empire). The Peshwa rulers in the 18th century were devotees of Ganesh and started as a public Ganesh festival in their capital city of Pune during the month of Bhadrapada.

However, after the start of the British Raj, after 1870 out of fear of seditious assemblies, Britisher had passed a series of ordinances that banned public assembly for social and political purposes of more than 20 people in British India but exempted religious assembly for “Friday Mosque prayers under pressure from the Indian Muslim community“. Many Freedom fighters like Bhausaheb Laxman Javale, Tilak believed that this effectively blocked the public assembly of Hindus whose religion did not mandate daily prayers or weekly gatherings.

As in the British Raj, the Ganesh festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration in Maharashtra so freedom fighters leveraged this religious exemption to make Ganesh Chaturthi circumvent the British colonial law on large public assembly.

Lord Ganesha

The festival became a public event when in 1892 when Bhausaheb Laxman Javale (also known as Bhau Rangari), installed the first sarvajanik (Public) Ganesh idol in Pune until its complete revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak. He championed it as a means to circumvent the colonial British government ban on Hindu gatherings through its anti-public assembly legislation in 1892. It was started by him in Pune in the year 1893 on elaborate pandals also called temporary stages.

Tilak recognized Ganesha’s appeal as “The God For Everybody”, and according to Robert Brown, he chose Ganesha as the god that bridged “the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins“, thereby building a grassroots unity across created by British colonial rule policy of “Divide and Rule”.

I followed with the greatest curiosity crowds who carried in procession an infinite number of idols of the god Ganesh. Each little quarter of the town, each family with its adherents, each little street corner I may almost say, organizes a procession of its own, and the poorest may be seen carrying on a simple plank their little idol or of paper mâché… A crowd, more or less numerous, accompanies the idol, clapping hands and raises cries of joy, while a little orchestra generally precedes the idol.
– Angelo de Gubernatis, Bombay Gazette (1886)

Ganesh Chatuthi celebration in Mumbai

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebration

Lots of celebrations which include chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as, prayers and fasting (vrata) are observed during this festival. Offerings and Prasad from the daily prayers, that are distributed from the pandal to the community, include sweets such as modaka as it is believed to be a favorite of Lord Ganesh. At public venues, along with the reading of texts and group feasting, athletic and martial arts competitions are also held.

The festival ends on the tenth day after the start, when the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting, then immersed in a nearby body of water such as a river or sea, called visarjan.

In Mumbai alone, around 150,000 statues are immersed annually Thereafter the clay idol dissolves and Ganesh is believed to return to Mount Kailash to Parvati and Shiva. 

During the Ganesha processions, proceeding the immersion, devotees chant 

गणपती बाप्पा मोरया पुढचा वर्षी लवकर |
गणपति बप्पा मोरया, मंगल मूर्ति मोरया…|

Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya Warshi Lavkar Ya
Ganpati Bappa Morya, Mangal Murti Morya!..

The first half chant – “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya Warshi Lavkar Ya” indicates that devotees are referring to Ganesha as the Lord of all (Ganpati) and a father (Bappa), who was worshipped by Morya Gosavi. They are praying to Him that He should return soon (Lavkar) next (Pudhcha) year (Warshi).

The second half – “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Mangal Murti Morya!” means that our Ganpati is the bestower of serenity and one who makes things ‘auspicious’ or ‘pure’ (Mangal). ‘Murti’ means an ‘idol’ or ‘form’. So, we can say ‘Purity in its ultimate form’ is our Ganpati. 

Ganesh Chaturthi Is Not Just Praying, Singing, Dancing, and Eating But Also An Understanding Of Wisdom, Purity, Peace, Auspiciousness, Sense Control, and Truthfulness Which Lord Ganesh Symbolizes. Moreover, Lord Ganesh Also Teaches us “How To Control Our Ego and How to Face All Pleasant and Unpleasant Experiences During Our Life Span With Patience & Calmness”.

[1] Lord Ganesha – Symbolic description of Lord Ganesha | – Times of India (indiatimes.com)

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