Ganesha the elephant-headed god again makes an appearance on my pages for today begins the ten day festival where His devotees open their doors for the statue of ‘vighanhara’ (one who removes all obstacles) to enter their homes, their communities, their hearts. Enough has been said and written about this festival and its importance in the history of our nation. Like i mentioned earlier there are scores of myths around his every aspect but today i share two Ganesha tales…the symbolism of his various body parts and a tale from the scriptures about the origin of the festival… both shared by friends and family on this auspicious occasion.
Every part of the Ganesha icon has been interpreted to symbolise a deeper spiritual connotation.
The mouse he rides upon stands for greed and desire, so you ride the desire and keep it under control and don’t allow it to get the better of you. Ganesha’s short legs are symbolic of tolerance and power and the snake tied around His waist denotes energy in all forms. Ganesha’s large stomach represents his great capacity to digest all the good and bad in life. His four arms each stand for something, especially because of what they hold: for instance, in one hand, he holds the ‘ankush’, meaning control over one’s mind; in the second hand, he holds a modak…the rewards of ’sadhana’—spiritual bliss; in a third hand, he holds the ‘pash’, or axe, which means cutting off all bonds and attachments; and with his fourth hand, he blesses and protects his devotees on their spiritual path by making the sign of an “ashirvad mudra”. Ganesha has only one tusk, because of which he is also known as ‘ekadanta’. It signifies retaining the good and throwing away the bad. His long trunk represents high efficiency and adaptability, while His small eyes imply high power of concentration. Ganesha’s large forehead, or ‘mashtishk‘, denotes great intelligence…the same is said to be true for humans beings with large foreheads as well. And those large ears listen more, so it is customary for people to whisper their wishes into the elephant god’s ears during Chaturthi!
The second tale takes us to the ancient epic ‘Mahabharata’ that has been ascribed to the great sage Ved Vyasa. The first section of this ancient tome states that it was Ganesha who wrote down the text to Vyasa’s dictation. The story goes that Ganesha agreed to write it only if Vyasa never paused in his recitation. And so on Ganesh Chaturthi the sage began his narrative which Ganesha sat and wrote continuously for ten days. At the end of his ten day narration when Ved Vyasa opened his eyes, he found that Ganesha’s body temperature had risen alarmingly with the effort involved and the sage quickly took him and plunged him in a nearby lake to cool him down…hence the immersion at the end of the festival!
Let this day then mark the establishment of His Grace in our lives…a mentor and a protector who enriches our lives with great beginnings and removal of all obstacles…