Understanding Ganesh


Vedic tradition describes various forms of gods and goddesses, each one with a specific purpose. Among these, Lord Ganesh has been called as the pratham pujya, the first among worshipped, and is the closest to physical creation.

The son of Lord Shiv and Devi Parvati, Ganesh ji is known by 108 different names and is remembered on different occasions as the ‘Remover of Obstacles’; ‘God of Domestic Harmony’ and of ‘Success’. The word Ganesha means Lord of Ganas i.e. the leader of Lord Shiv’s army. That is why he is also called Ganapati or Gananayak.


One of the several verses on Lord Ganesh is:
Vakratunda Mahaakaaya Koti Surya Sama Prabha | Nirvighnam kurumey Deva Sarva kaaryeshu Sarvadaa ||
Vakratunda : curved trunk
Mahakaaya : large bodied
Koteesurya : million suns
Sama : similar
Prabha : with the brilliance of
Nirvighnam : free of obstacles
Kuru : make
Mey : my
Deva : Lord
Sarva Kaaryeshu : in all work
Sarvada : always
“O Lord Ganesh of large body, curved trunk, with the brilliance similar to a million suns, please make all my work free of obstacles, always.”

According to historic texts, once Goddess Parvati was alone in the house and wanted to take a bath. So with her power of her consciousness she created a boy and ordered him to keep a watch at the door, and not allow anybody to enter the palace without her permission. Thus instructing the boy, Mother Parvati went in to take bath. Meanwhile Lord Shiv too arrived at the scene, he saw a boy sitting at the doorway, but ignoring him he proceeded to enter the palace. At that the boy stood up and stopped Lord Shiv and said, “My mother has instructed me not to allow anybody to enter the palace without her permission. Hence, I will not let you enter the palace. First tell me, who are you?” Instead of answering, Lord Shiv asked, “Who are you? Who is your Mother?” As no one was eager to answer first, the dispute grew to the point of a fierce battle. Ultimately cutting the head of the boy, Lord Shiv entered the palace. He asked the Goddess, “Who was that boy? I have cut his head.” Hearing this, Mother Parvati began to cry and said, “He was my own son. Now you give him a new life.” Lord Shiv then ordered his ganas to go out and bring the head of any creature they saw first. It was an elephant that the ganas found first. So they cut its head and brought it to Lord Shiv. Putting the elephant head at the boy’s torso, Lord Shiv brought him back to life. Thus, Ganesh got the head of an elephant and came to be known as — Gajanana (one with an elephant head).

Each and every part of Lord Ganesh’s magnanimous form has a lesson in it.

The Big Eyes
To see everything with caution. This implies, never take the opponent for granted. Do not go by his size, observe your opponent very carefully and with caution before you chalk out your strategy.

Long Nose (Trunk)
Everywhere in the world people equate the reputation with one’s nose. Whenever anybody commits a wrong deed, people say that he has cut his nose; i.e. his reputation has gone. A worthy son keeps the nose of his ancestors raised high. The long nose also enables one ‘to smell a rat’, i.e. not take friends for granted, and always go to the depth of a relationship.

Big Ears
One of the many names for Lord Ganesh is Surpakarna (the one with big flappy ears). A flapper (surpa) is an indigenous implement to winnow the grains. It removes all the unwanted matter from the grains. So the surpakarna hears everything and like a surpa separates grain from husk — distinguishing truth from untruth.

The Peculiar Tongue
The reason for showing this type of tongue in idol of Ganesh ji is that one should introspect and reflect inwards before speaking out about others. The elephant’s tongue is pointed inwards and not outwards, unlike that of all other animals.

Teeth and Tusk
An elephant has two kinds of teeth — one to chew with and one to ward off aggressors, indicative that you should always have a reserve for your vital functions of life.

Large Body
Of the many names for Ganesh ji one is Lambodara, that is, one with a large belly. It is said of those who can keep secrets that they have a big belly and those who cannot digest even a little gossip are short bellied. Thus, Ganeshji has a large belly as well as big ears. Hence, he is capable of digesting all kinds of information and situations. One should not indulge in cross-talking and back-biting.

Mouse As Vehicle
The mouse (mooshaka) is the vehicle of Lord Ganesh. A seemingly small, insignificant animal, mouse is very enterprising despite its small size. It may not know the result of its efforts, but it does not give up. It thus teaches that one must remain in constant action.

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