Ganesha – the elephant-headed deity, who rides a mouse, has become synonymous with anything connected with Hinduism. This shows not only his importance, but also his popularity and pervasiveness among the masses.
The God of Success
Ganesha is the son of Parvati and Shiva. His countenance is elephantine, with big ears and a curved trunk. He is the remover of obstacles and evils and the God of success. He is also known as the lord of wealth, wisdom, knowledge and education. Ganesha is one of the five important Hindu deities (the others are Durga, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma).
Symbolism of Ganesha’s Form
Ganesha’s elephant head symbolizes wisdom and the soul, or Atman. His human body is a metaphor for maya or the earthly life of humans. Ganesha’s trunk denotes Om, the primordial cosmic sound. Ganesha holds a goad in his upper right hand to remove obstacles and propel man forward. In his left hand he holds a noose, to capture difficulties.
In his lower right hand, Ganesha holds a pen as a symbol of sacrifice, since he broke it while compiling the Mahabharata. In his other hand, he holds a rosary, suggesting the eternal pursuit of knowledge. The laddoo (sweetmeat) in his trunk indicates that one must show keenness in discovering the sweetness of the soul. His huge ears signify his eagerness to hear our petitions. The snake around his waist denotes energy in its various forms. And, Ganesha humbly rides the lowly mouse.
The Story of Ganesha’s Elephant Head
It is said that Parvati created a boy out her body dirt to guard the entrance, while she was bathing. When Shiva returned, he was denied access by this boy. In anger, Shiva cut off the boy’s head. Parvati was grief stricken. To console her, Shiva severed the head of an elephant and attached it to the boy Ganesha’s head.
The Destroyer of Pride
Ganesha is the vanquisher of pride, selfishness and vanity. All Hindus, heedless of sectarian belief, worship Ganesha. He is a meeting ground for all believers of Hinduism.