Who is Ganesh?

 
 

Ganesh is one of the most worshiped gods in the Hindu religion.  He is the destroyer of vanity, selfishness, pride and is the remover of obstacles.  He also is the symbol of abundance since there is nothing stopping you between you and your ideal.  He is the personification of material universe in all its various magnificent manifestations.  Many Hindus have a statue, painting or symbol to assist in praying to Ganesh at some time in their day.  Since his main job is to remove obstacles in your life's path, he has become one of the most praised and worshiped of Hindu gods.

If you're wondering why he has the head of an elephant, there is a great story behind this.  As depicted in the ancient Hindu text called the "Shiva Purana", the goddess Parvati, while bathing, created a boy out of the dirt of her body and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom.  When Shiva, her husband returned, he was surprised to find a stranger denying him access, and struck off the boy's head in rage.  Parvati broke down in utter grief and to soothe her, Shiva sent out his people to fetch the head of any sleeping being who was facing the north.  They found a sleeping elephant and brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy.  Shiva restored its life and made him the leader of his troops, hence his original name 'Ganapati'.  Shiva also bestowed a boon that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any venture.

Ganesh is a highly symbolic deity for Hindus.  The head of Ganesh represents the Atman (the soul or ultimate reality), while his body signifies the world and earthly realm of human beings.  The elephant trunk had the symbol of OM on it, which is the primal sound and symbol of the Universal reality.  In his upper right hand Ganesh holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesh's left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties.

The broken tusk that Ganesh holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse.

 

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