Lord Ganesh, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, is one of the most popular Gods in Hinduism. He holds a prominent place amongst all Hindu Gods as he is one of the five main Hindu deities (other than Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga) who are worshipped in the panchayatana puja.
Worshipping Ganesh is considered essential for new beginnings, removing obstacles, attaining education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Many Hindus seek blessings of Ganesh before starting any ceremonies & rituals or before venturing into a new business. Also, Ganesh is very popular among students and kids because he helps them to attain knowledge and education.
Ganesh is easily recognized because of his distinct physical features such as elephant face, big belly and broken tusk. The physical attributes are indicative of Ganesh’s various qualities because of which he is worshipped among Hindus. The elephant face signifies wisdom, understanding and a sharp intellect whereas; the big belly signifies generosity and ability to accept negative and positive experiences in life. The broken tusk indicates sacrifice as Ganesh broke his tusk to use it as pen for writing Mahabharata.
Lord Ganesh is also worshipped in different forms by many of his devotees. He has as many as 32 different forms. For example, devotees worship him in the form of Pancha Muga (five faced), Ten-armed Ganesh (seated on a lion) or Balganesh (child Ganesh).
Ganesh’s birth and entry into the Shiva Parvati family
Goddess Parvati wanted to have a son who is loyal to her. To achieve this objective, she used turmeric paste to create a boy-shaped figure and then brought the shape into life. Parvati then told Ganesh that he is her son and also instructed him to protect the entrance whenever she is taking bath.
Once, when Ganesh was protecting the entrance while Parvati was taking bath, Lord Shiva arrived. Shiva wanted to enter because he was thirsty but Ganesh didn’t allow Shiva to enter. Shiva got angry and used his Trident to behead Ganesh. Soon Parvati came out and when she saw the lifeless body of her child, she became angry and threatened to destroy the heavens and earth. Shiva then asked Nandi to get the head of any living being that is sleeping with his head facing north. Nandi went and found a baby elephant sleeping in such a position and hence brought the head of the baby elephant. As a result, Ganesh was given a new life with an Elephant’s head.
As Ganesh sprang back to life, Parvati felt elated and quickly went towards her son to embrace him. By now, Shiva too had cooled and accepted Ganesh as his son. Then Shiva announced that worshipping Ganesh before performing any rituals or religious activity is mandatory.
Ganesh and wisdom
Once, Narada gifted a mango to Shiva but told him that only one person can eat the whole fruit. Since Shiva and Parvati wanted to share the mango, they refused to eat the mango. Shiva thought of giving the mango to either Ganesh or Kartikeya however, he was unable to make a decision. Consequently, Shiva asked them to make three rounds of the world and whoever will come first will get the mango. While Kartikeya rode his peacock to make three rounds, Ganesh simply took three rounds of Shiva and Parvati (stating that the entire world is within Shiva and Parvati).
Ganesh came first and hence, was declared the winner. However, he achieved this objective because of his wisdom.
Rishi Vyas needed someone to write Mahabharat while he dictates the verses. Lord Brahma recommended Lord Ganesh for the completion of this job. Ganesh was the only one who had the ability to write as per the speed of thoughts arising from Rishi Vyas. Consequently, Rishi Vyas requested Ganesh to help him in writing the Mahabharat. Ganesh agreed to write Mahabharat however, he realized that writing such a long poem continuously will require the use of strong pen. Therefore, he broke his left tusk to write Mahabharat.