Year after year, Ganesh’s devotees look forward to his annual coming, “GANESH CHATURTHI”. Ganesh Chaturthi falls on September 2. Who does not know Ganesha ? Ganesh, the pot-bellied figure with rounded, childish limbs and an elephant’s head with one tusk broken, has four arms holding a goad, a noose, a broken tusk and a bowl of sweets. He is well-known deity not only because it has been ordained that before beginning any puja or worshipping any other God, one must first pray to Him. Apart from Krishna, Ganesh is the only other God in whom we find childlike innocence. A prayer in the Rig Veda invoking Ganesha shows that he has been worshipped since very ancient times. The sacred symbol “Om”, as written in Sanskrit is said to represent him. He is praised at the beginning of any ceremony or undertaking and has a thousand names, including Ganesh, Ganapati, Gajendra, Siddhadata, Vinayaka, Ekadanta, etc. all of which should recited to avert evil and ensure success and well-being.
Now let us see how Ganesh got his name (title) Ganapati ? Once Gods were to select a leader amongst themselves and for this, they had a race. They were to go round the universe thrice and in this race the God who return first would be a winner. The Gods, including Kartikeya (Ganesha’s elder brother) set out on their swift mounts and the fat Ganesha was left behind with his vehicle mouse. Ganesha went round his parents Shiva-Parvati thrice and returned to the finishing point and was declared first. All the Gods who had competed agreed that after all Ganesha had been round his universe and thus he deserved to win. Thus Ganesh became ‘GANANAYAK,” the leader of Shiva’s ‘GANAS” and it was decreed that people must offer him worship as the remover of all obstacles, before they begin any suspicious work or offer puja to any other God.
Ganesha today is worshipped with prayer and meditation but is rarely the primary deity of devotion, except in Maharashtra where puja is offered to him and colourful procession are taken out. The history of Maharashtra since the last two hundred years is recounted and eminent, Maharashtrian politicians remembered. Ganesha Chaturthi festival has provided that symbol for Hindu regeneration in Maharashtra. Ganesha lends power in the world of action and offers protection, opens doors and given success to other Gods and Goddesses.
Now let us see what Ganesha embodies within his frame and what his name signifies: “Ganesha’s potbelly or “lambda” signifies that the entire universe or “Brahma” is within Ganesh. The ever-moving trunk teaches us to be active. In his four hands”Chaturbhuja”, Ganesha carries the pasha (rope), ankusha (Curved weapon), the modaka (sweets ladoos) an offering which his devotees must make to him, if they wish to please him. His fourth hand is folded in benefiction to his devotees, assuring them of his help and protection. Now, you all might be wondering why Ganesha the all-dynamic Number One God should ride a rat. There is a reason. The rat is traditionally associated with emotions like anger, pride and selfishness. Ganesha’s riding rat means, the God keeps these feelings under control.
Symbolism and Significance of Ganesha
- BIG HEAD inspires us to think big and think profitably
- BIG EARS prompt us to listen patiently to new ideas and suggestions
- NARROW EYES point to deep concentration need to finish tasks in hand well and quickly
- LONG NOSE tells us to poke around inquisitively to learn more
- SMALL MOUTH reminds us to speak less and listen more
Today, Lord Ganesha is still with us. He stays with us for complete ten days every year, before his idol is immersed in water with the prayer, “Please come soon next year.”
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)