Lord Ganesha

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Member since: Sep 03
Posts: 2962
Location: Montreal

Post ID: #PID Posted on: 19-11-04 17:26:34

I dont know about you guys but a lot of non-desis have asked me about the elephant god. Lord Ganesha seems to evoke a lot of curiosity mostly because physically he seems to be almost an antithesis of the western image of a god.

Inspired by this topic, I am making a small edumation(educational animation) about the origins of Lord Ganesh for the western audience. I wonder if any of you in India or Canada can provide some help in my research.

The story that I am using is the one where Godess Parvati makes Ganesh out of sandle wood paste and asks him to guard her abode and Lord Shiv returns....you know the rest.

What I am actually looking for is how your child(4-10 age group) reacts to the story. There is some violence involved, how do you explain it to your child and what are their questions and how do you answer the same?

Send me an email if you would rather do that. Any comments/aprovals/dissaprovals are also solicited online or offline. I want to make sure that I do justice to all sensibilities.

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Member since: Sep 03
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Location: Montreal

Post ID: #PID Posted on: 19-11-04 20:46:01

An those that do not have kids can give their interpretations of answers to the following questions

1) How can a god not recognise his own son?

2) How can a god commint such an apparently dastardly deed(decapitation of his son)? Was his reaction justified?

3) What are the lessons that are contained in the story?

4) Was it fair to the elephant who lost his head?

5)How come Lord Shiva didn't try to attach original head of Ganesha? Was it lost?

Note: I am not looking for a debate. I am interested in your interpretation. I also recognise that each individual may have a different interpretation of the story. Any other questions and views are also welcome.

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Pramod Chopra   
Member since: Sep 03
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Location: Pickering, ON

Post ID: #PID Posted on: 21-11-04 00:33:19

Orginally posted by jake3d

An those that do not have kids can give their interpretations of answers to the following questions

1) How can a god not recognise his own son?

2) How can a god commint such an apparently dastardly deed(decapitation of his son)? Was his reaction justified?

3) What are the lessons that are contained in the story?

4) Was it fair to the elephant who lost his head?

Note: I am not looking for a debate. I am interested in your interpretation. I also recognise that each individual may have a different interpretation of the story. Any other questions and views are also welcome.

Hi Jake3D,

Your question about Lord Ganesha made me thinking and I googled various sources and I found that the form of Lord Ganesh signifies very deep meaning but in order to simplify people over time develop different stories which I am posting here as various legends. However, the true meaning and significance of his special form and structure is given after the legends and I hope you have the patience to go through it and concur that this is what Lord Ganesh symbolizes.

First there are these legends which have become popular over a long period of time and hence people believe them to be true.


Lord Ganesh is the virtual son of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvathi.

When Lord Shiva, was away fighting for the gods, the lady of the house, goddess Parvathi was alone at home.

On one occasion, she needed someone to guard the house when she was going for a bath. Unable to think of an alternative, she used her powers to create a son, Ganesh. She instructed Ganesh to keep strict vigil on the entrance to the house and not to allow anyone into the house. Ganesh agreed and stayed on the strictest of strict vigils.

In the meantime Lord Shiva returned happy after a glorious victory for the gods, only to be stopped at the entrance by Ganesh. Ganesh, acting on Parvathi's orders verbatim, did not allow Shiva to enter the house.

Lord Shiva became enraged beyond control and in a fit of rage slashed the head of Ganesh.

Paravti came out from her bath and was aghast at the scene. She was very very angry at her lordship for what had happened and explained him the situation.

Lord Shiva wanted to make it up to Parvathi and agreed to put life back into Ganesha by putting the head of the first sleeping living creature that came in sight which was sleeping with its head to the north. He sent his soldiers to go in search of the creature. The first creature which came in sight was an elephant.

So Lord Shiva re-created his son with the head of the elephant. Hence the trunk of Lord Ganesha.

Parvathi was still not totally happy so Shiva granted Ganesha a boon that before beginning of any undertaking or task people would worship Lord Ganesh. Thus the reason for worship of Ganesha before start of any work.

Legend 2:

There was a monster called Gajasura. He was all powerful and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He underwent penance for many years to receive special boons from Shiva. Lord Shiva, the god, who is easily pleased by prayers, was deeply moved by Gajasura's devotion. He blessed the monster and offered him a boon (reward). But the devotee is not as innocent as Shiva. He pleaded with Shiva to reside in his belly. Left with no option but to grant the boon, Shiva gets into Gajasura's stomach.

Meanwhile on Mount Kailash, Parvati - Shiva's wife, becomes anxious not knowing the whereabouts of her husband after a long period of time. She searches through the whole universe but to no avail.

Finally she approaches Lord Vishnu - the preserver of the world. Vishnu disguises himself in the form of a street player along with Nandi - the sacred bull of Shiva and sets out in search Shiva.

They go to Gajasura's kingdom and Nandi performs a dance to please the monster. The monster is delighted to see the bull dancing in his honor and wishes to reward the bull. The bull asks for Shiva as a reward. Hearing this, the monster realizes that the entertainer is none but Lord Vishnu himself. He also realizes that Shiva cannot be made to live in his stomach forever because he has his role to play in the world. He lets Shiva out of his stomach.

He prays to him, that he be made immortal in the memories of people. To fulfill this wish, Shiva severs Gajasura's head and frees him from the cycle of birth and death. He carries the head along with him. On Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas, Parvati comes to know of Vishnu's victory and is very happy. She makes arrangements to receive her Lord and goes to bedeck herself. She wants somebody to stand guard.

She creates a doll out of the dough that she uses in her bath. She calls him Vinayak - the one who puts off all obstacles.

This boy having never seen Shiva, prevents his entry into the palace. In a fit of fury Shiva beheads the boy and enters the palace. Parvati is unaware of the happenings and receives Shiva with warmth, for he had returned after a long period. During the course of their conversation, Shiva mentions the incident at the palace gates and tells her about severing the child's head.

Parvati is shocked to hear the news and pleads with Shiva to bring the child back to life for he is like a son to her.

Shiva who has with him the head of Gajasura, immediately puts it on the torso of the dead child. Thus the child comes back to life.

That day is Bhadrapad Chaturthi. Shiva blesses him with a boon that the entire world would worship him on that day and also would propitiate him before any auspicious event.

At the same time, all the Gods approach Shiva and request for a leader.

Shiva and Parvati have a son called Kumarswami or Kartik. To select the best one of them as a leader of all the Gods, Shiva conducts a test between the two. He says that whoever makes three rounds of the earth sooner than the other, will be made the Ganaadhipati. Kumarswami seated on a peacock, his vahanam (vehicle), starts off for the test.

Vinayak is given a rat which moves swiftly. Vinayak realizes that the test is not so easy but he cannot disobey his father. He reverently pays obeisance to his parents and goes around them three times and completes the test before Kumarswami. He says, ' my parents pervade the whole universe and going around them, is more than going round the earth'. Everybody is pleasantly surprised to hear Vinayak's logic and intelligence. Meanwhile, Kartik is amazed to see Ganesh completing the holy bath at each river that he reached at and ready for another round of the universe.

When he comes back to Kailas, Shiva had already declared Vinayak as the winner. He is blessed as the Supreme God of the universe. After this, Vinayak is called as Ganaadhish, Ganapati and Ganesh.

All the gods worship him.

Legend 3

How Ganesha Got His Head

Lord Shiva asked Parvati to observe the punyaka vrata for a year to appease Vishnu in order to have a son. When a son was born to her, all the gods and goddesses assembled to rejoice on its birth. Lord Shani, the son of Surya (Sun-God), was also present but he refused to look at the infant. Perturbed at this behaviour, Parvati asked him the reason, and Shani replied that his looking at baby would harm the newborn. However, on Parvati's insistence when Shani eyed the baby, the child's head was severed instantly. All the gods started to bemoan, whereupon Vishnu hurried to the bank of river Pushpabhadra and brought back the head of a young elephant, and joined it to the baby's body, thus reviving it.


GANAH in Sanskrit means 'multitude'. Isa means 'Lord'. Lord Ganesh therefore literally means the 'Lord of all beings'. Lord Ganesh is the first son of Lord Siva. Siva represents the supreme Reality. The son of Siva symbolises one who has realised the Reality. One who has discovered the godhood in him. Such a man is said to be the Lord of all beings.

Lord Ganesh is known by other names as well. Ganapati, Gajanana, Vinayaka, Vighneshwara. Ganapati has the same literal meaning as Lord Ganesh. Gajanana means 'elephant-faced'. Gaja=elephant, anana=ia.ce. Vinayaka means the supreme leader, literally one who has no leader himself. Vighneshwara is the Lord of all obstacles, worshipped in the initiation of Hindu rituals and ceremonies. As his name suggests Vighneshwara removes all obstacles, overcomes all challenges of life. There is a belief that no undertaking will meet with failure if the grace of Vighneshwara is invoked.

In Hindu mythological literature Lord Ganesh is described as having a human form with an elephant's head. One of the tusks in his head is broken. He has a conspicuously large stomach. He sits with one leg folded in. At his feet a variety of food is spread. A rat sits near the food and looks up at him as if it were asking him for sanction to eat the food. This mystical form of Lord Lord Ganesh represents not only the supreme state of human perfection but the practical path to reach that state. The details of his description suggest deep philosophical significance which can guide you to reach that ultimate state.

The first step of spiritual education is sravana which means listening to the eternal truths of Vedanta. The second step is manana which is independent reflection upon those truths. The large ears and head of Lord Ganesh indicate that he had gained previous wisdom through sravana and manana. An elephant's head on a human body in Lord Ganesh is meant to represent supreme wisdom.

The trunk which springs from his head represents the intellect, the faculty of discrimination which necessarily arises out of wisdom. Intellect is the discriminating faculty, the discerning ability or the judging capacity in man. Man's intellect is of two distinct types, namely the gross and the subtle. Gross intellect is that aspect of his discrimination which is applicable to the realm of the terrestrial world, that part of the intellect which distinguishes between the pairs of opposites existing in this world, distinguishes between day and night, black and white, joy and sorrow etc. Subtle intellect is the other aspect of his discrimination which distinguishes between the infinite and the finite, the real and the unreal, the transcendental and the terrestrial. A man of realisation like Lord Ganesh is one who has fully developed both his gross and subtle intellects. He has perfect understanding and knowledge of the terrestrial as well as transcendental.

The trunk of an elephant has the unique capacity of performing both gross and subtle activities. A trunk can uproot a tree. It can pick up a needle from the ground. One rarely finds gross and subtle operations being performed by a single instrument. A spanner which is used for fitting a locomotive is useless for repairing a wrist-watch. The elephant's trunk is an exception to this rule. It serves both ways. So does Lord Ganesh's intellect penetrate the realms of the material and spiritual worlds. That is the state which man must aspire to reach. A man of Perfection is thus rooted in the supreme wisdom. He is not victimised by likes (raaga) and dislikes (dwesha). He is not swayed by agreeable and disagreeable circumstances, pleasant and unpleasant happenings, good and bad environment. In other words, he is not victimised by the pairs of opposites existing in this world. Heat and cold, joy and sorrow, honour and .dishonour do not affect him, influence him or harass him. He has transcended the limitations of opposites in the world. He is dwandwa-ateetha, beyond opposites. This idea is well represented in Lord Ganesh by having one of his tusks broken. The common man is tossed between the two opposites (tusks). He should endeavour to overcome the influence of the pairs of opposites in him. Man ought not to act merely by his likes and dislikes, these are his worst enemies he has to control and conquer. When he has completely mastered the influence of these pairs in him, he becomes a Lord Ganesh.

Lord Ganesh's large belly is meant to convey that a man of Perfection can consume and digest whatever experiences he undergoes. Heat or cold, war or peace, birth or death and other such trials and tribulations do not toss him up and down. He maintains an unaffected grace in and through all these fluctuations of the world. Figuratively, he is represented as being able to stomach and digest all types of experiences.In Hindu mythology, Kubera, the god of wealth offered a dinner to Lord Ganesh in his palace. Lord Ganesh ate all the food that was prepared for the entire gathering of guests. Thereafter still dissatisfied, he started eating the festive decorations that were used for the occasion. At this juncture his father Lord Siva approached him and offered him a handful of roasted rice. Lord Ganesh consumed the roasted rice and his hunger was satisfied immediately. This story is a directive to mankind that man can never be satisfied with the joys provided by the world of objects represented by Kubera's feast. Material pursuits can never give peace, contentment or happiness to mankind. The only way to attain absolute fulfilment or peace is by consuming your own vasanas which are the unmanifest desires in you. The destruction of vasanas is represented by the consumption of roasted rice. When rice is roasted it loses its capacity to germinate. The consumption of roasted rice indicates the destruction of vasanas or desires in you. Thereafter you remain in a state of absolute peace and bliss.

Lord Ganesh sits with one leg folded up and the other leg resting on the ground. The leg on the ground indicates that one aspect of his personality is dealing with the world while the other is ever-rooted in single-pointed concentration upon the supreme Reality. Such a man lives in the world like anyone else, but his concentration and meditation are ever- rooted in the Atman within himself. This idea is symbolised in the above posture. At the feet of the Lord is spread abundance of food. Food represents material wealth, power and prosperity. When a man follows the high principles of living indicated above he achieves these material gains. He has them always at his command though he has an attitude of indifference towards them. Beside the food is a tiny rat looking up towards Lord Ganesh. The rat does not touch the food but waits for the master's sanction as it were for consuming it. The rat represents desire. A rat has a small mouth and tiny sharp teeth. But it is the greediest of all animals. Its greed and acquisitiveness are so great that it steals more than it can eat and hoards more than it can remember, often abandoning burrows full of hoarded grains through forgetfulness. This predominant trait in a rat justifies amply its symbolism as desire. One little desire entering man's mind can destroy all his material and spiritual wealth earned for many long years. The rat looking up therefore denotes that the desires in a perfect man are absolutely under control. The activities of such a man are motivated by his clear discrimination and judgement rather than by an emotional craving to enjoy the variety of sense objects of the world.

There is a belief amongst the Hindus that it is inauspicious to see the moon on the Vinayaka Chaturthi day, that is, the birthday of Lord Ganesh. The Puranic story says that the moon saw Lord Ganesh riding on his tiny rat and laughed at the ludicrous scene. For this reason the moon is condemned and people are forbidden to see it on this day. Lord Ganesh riding on his rat indicates a man of Perfection trying to use his limited body, mind and intellect to convey the illimitable Truth. The body, mind and intellect are finite. They cannot express the infinite Atman. A man of Realisation finds it almost impossible to convey his infinite experience through his finite equipments. Hence we find the words and deeds of all spiritual masters are peculiar and incomprehensible. The common man's intellect cannot comprehend the Truth. The moon is the presiding deity of the mind. The moon laughing at Ganapati riding on the rat indicates the ignorant scoffing at the man of Realisation's attempt to convey the Truth. This attitude of scoffing at spiritual preceptors and precepts is detrimental to humanity. The generations are therefore warned not to laugh or scoff at the spiritual messages. If they do, they meet with degradation and disaster.

Lord Ganesh has four arms. The four arms represent the four inner equipments of the subtle body, namely mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), ego (aharnkar) and conditionedconsciousness {chitta). Lord Ganesh represents the pure Consciousness, the Atman which enables these four equipments to function in you. In one hand he holds an axe and in another a rope. The axe symbolises the destruction of all desires and attachments and their consequent agitations and sorrows. The rope is meant to pull the seeker out of his worldly entanglements and bind him to the everlasting and enduring bliss of his own Self. In the third hand he holds a rice ball {modaka). Modaka represents the joyous rewards of spiritual seeking. A seeker gains the joy of satisfaction and contentment as he progresses on the path of spiritual evolution. In the fourth hand he holds a lotus (padma). The lotus represents the supreme goal of human evolution. By holding the lotus in his hand he draws the attention of all seekers to that supreme state that each one of them can aspire for and reach through proper spiritual practices. He blesses all his devotees to reach the supreme state of Reality. Thus by indicating to mankind the goal of human evolution and the path to reach the same. Lord Lord Ganesh occupies a place of distinction in the Hindu pantheon. May he give us all the strength and courage to pursue the path which he has led and may we gain that supreme goal which he has reached.


Pramod Chopra
Senior Mortgage Consultant
Mortgage Alliance Company of Canada

Member since: Sep 03
Posts: 2962
Location: Montreal

Post ID: #PID Posted on: 21-11-04 10:59:06

Thanks a lot for your info. In my research I did come across the information you have posted. However, others now have a chance to go through the same due to your efforts.

I found that the first legend(which itself has different interpretations) is the one that is most popular and apparently(from many sources) the oldest according to the scriptures.
Inorder to present this story in an audio-visual and entertaining+informative form, I need to be able to explain some of the questions that will come up. I want to incorporate the answers into the story telling process(without making it sound like a sermon ofcourse...very tricky to do). These questions are the ones I have posted.

I do have researched answers about these questions but I wanted to find out what the 'word on the street' (so to say) was about these questions. So if you have a few answers please feel free to send them across(privately or otherwise). Thank you so much for your time.

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Post ID: #PID Posted on: 22-11-04 12:17:53

How come Lord Shiva didn't tried to attach original head of Ganesha? Was it lost?

According to me, it is a childish story. Hindu mythologis are many times symbolic. In this case- by having head of Elephant, it might have been suggesting a god with charactertics of an elephant.

Few more facts about Lord Ganesh-

Ganesha was very fast writer, highly literate and scolar.
He was ultimate war strategist and planner.

Hurat Honani Murat!

Member since: Sep 03
Posts: 2962
Location: Montreal

Post ID: #PID Posted on: 22-11-04 12:27:01

Orginally posted by Surti

How come Lord Shiva didn't tried to attach original head of Ganesha? Was it lost?

Nice question! I'll add it to the list of questions. Yes the myths can be considered symbolic. I'd like to hear more opinions. Thanks

A helpful tip...if any of you need one...is to ask yourself how you would explain the story to a child who asked these questions.

What would be your answer if your child(5-10) asked you the above questions.?

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Post ID: #PID Posted on: 22-11-04 18:30:03

I will try to answer few of your questions

Orginally posted by jake3d

An those that do not have kids can give their interpretations of answers to the following questions

1) How can a god not recognise his own son?

-- he was away fighting for his people. Day and night for months and years together he was figting with demon (bad guys) to protect innocent people. Like Police


2) How can a god commint such an apparently dastardly deed(decapitation of his son)? Was his reaction justified?

--- After a long battle he was tired and hungry. So, he just lost his temper which was not good. Then after beheading a innocent child he felt very very bad


3) What are the lessons that are contained in the story?

----Don't irritate your dad when he returns from work. Don't ask too many question for couple of minutes on his return from office...

4) Was it fair to the elephant who lost his head?

---very difficult to explain that. What I heard is that Shiva told his men to search for a child whose mother is sleeping away from her child. As elephants are huge and cannot sleep in arms of their mother they decide to bring elephant head.

5)How come Lord Shiva didn't try to attach original head of Ganesha? Was it lost?

----- Because it was created by Parvati and it was only her who could do it. She was very angry with Shiva and to teach him lesson she wont correct his mistake....does that make sense?

Try overtaking child's imagination

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