5 things to know about GaneshaAugust 3, 2023
Ganesha is a popular deity in Hinduism. He is depicted with an elephant’s head, his mount is a mouse, and he is very fond of sweets. He is always worshipped at the beginning of any new venture or a Pooja. This is done for success and victory in whatever endeavor one is pursuing.
Here are 5 interesting facts about Ganesha.
He has the power to remove obstacles
If the universe is likened to a cosmic machine, the various deities are its administrators. Each deity is responsible for an aspect of life.
Ganesha has another name – Vighnakarta. It means ‘remover of obstacles’. It is for this reason that many Hindus pray to him before they undertake any major endeavor like marriage, business, house construction, etc. However, he also removes obstacles that hinder the soul’s spiritual journey.
Ganesha is also the guardian of esoteric knowledge, and not many are aware that he is the presiding deity of astrology. Vedic astrologers worship him, as they believe that he knows how the planets affect a person’s karma and destiny.
People invoke him with the Mantra, om gam ganapataye namaha, which means: “I offer my obeisances to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.” Every year, Hindus celebrate his birthday, Ganesh Chaturthi, for 10 days with great fanfare and rejoicing.
He is the Son of Shiva and Parvati
Ganesha, as most people know, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. There are different stories regarding the origin of Ganesha.
In one story, the gods sought help from Shiva as the demons were troubling them. Shiva then produced a glowing child from his mind with the head of an elephant and holding a trident in one hand. Thus, Ganesha is the mind-born son of Shiva in this version of his birth story. Goddess Parvati then kept him on her lap and declared that any endeavor, be it human or divine, would achieve success only after worshipping Ganesha. Shiva then appointed him as the leader of the ganas (celestial hordes).
In another version, when Shiva created Ganesha, Parvati was a little upset that she had no part to play in his creation. So she turned Ganesha’s head into that of an elephant’s. But, when she saw the elephant-headed child, she was filled with love for him and said that any endeavor would succeed only if Ganesha were prayed to.
The most popular account of Ganesha’s birth is as follows. Parvati wanted to take a bath. Shiva was not at home, so she took a layer of oil and dust from her body and shaped it into a young lad. She gave life to the boy and told him that he was her son. Then she told him to stand guard while she took a bath.
After a while, when Shiva returned, Ganesha did not allow him to enter Parvati’s chamber. Shiva became angry and fought the boy. The fight ended with Shiva cutting off his head. When Parvati found out, she was so upset that she threatened to destroy everything. Shiva pacified Parvati by telling his ganas to go and bring the head of the first living being they found, with its head pointed towards the north, as it was the auspicious direction associated with wisdom.
The ganas came back with the head of an elephant. Shiva then placed it on the boy’s torso and restored him to life. Many interpret Ganesha’s decapitation as a symbol of transformation that one has to undergo to progress on the spiritual path.
Though the stories are contradictory, such multiple origin stories about deities in Hinduism are a way to teach some important moral lessons.
He has great wisdom and intelligence
Ganesha is the deity of wisdom and intelligence. These two traits are borne out by the story that follows.
Once, Ganesha and his brother Muruga took part in a competition to see who could go around the earth faster. Kartikeya took off on his peacock in a hurry, but Ganesha merely went round his parents instead. His reasoning was that his parents, Shiva and Parvati, were the very center of creation. Not surprisingly, Ganesha won the contest. He had the wisdom to understand his parents’ position in the universe. Also, he showed that one should respect and honor one’s parents.
He was the scribe for Sage Vyasa
When Vyasadeva decided to write the Mahabharata, he asked Ganesha, who had a sharp memory and intellect, to be his scribe. Ganesha agreed but on one condition. He wanted Vyasa to dictate the entire text without stopping even once. Vyasadeva agreed, but he had his own condition: that Ganesha should write down a stanza only after he fully grasped its meaning. Ganesha agreed and broke off his own tusk to use as a pen. When Vyasa wanted a break from dictating, he would utter a very complex clause. This meant that Ganesha had to pause to fully understand its meaning.
The Hindu gods are respected for their powers and mystical abilities, but they also remind us of the importance of spiritual growth. Hence, each deity’s physical form and accompaniments are rich in symbolism. Some feel that the union of Ganesha’s body and elephant head teaches us to live in harmony with nature. His large elephant head also represents wisdom and understanding. His round belly signifies the cosmos, and the serpent around his waist is the energy that holds the cosmos together. His mount, the mouse, represents the wandering mind that can be controlled with knowledge. He has four hands. One holds an ax to sever attachments, one holds a rope to pull a person towards the ultimate goal of Moksha, one has a sweet to reward those who uphold spiritual discipline, and one hand is held with the palm out to bless and protect his devotees.