Ganesh (also Ganesha or Ganapati) is a very important God in the Hindu Religion. He is the patron of intellectuals, students and authors, as well as travelers, bankers, and anyone starting a new project or adventure. You can ask Ganesh to remove obstacles on your path that are not serving your highest good.
There are many different stories about Ganesh, here is a little taste of what I’ve learned. We will start with the God Shiva, and his wife, the Goddess Parvati. Shiva had a devoted follower, a bull called Nandi. When Parvati went to take a bath one day, she asked Nandi to guard the door and not to let anyone in, especially her husband Shiva, who had a habit of barging in on her.
But, when Shiva came to call, Nandi let him right in because he was so devoted to Shiva. Parvati wanted a companion that was loyal to her above Shiva, so she decided to make one. While bathing, she used tumeric to clean her skin. She used the tumeric paste from her body to mold a baby boy, and she breathed life into the boy. She had the boy stand guard for her. When Shiva returned home for the day, he was surprised to find a boy he never met before, claiming to be Parvati’s son and refusing to let him in! He gets pretty upset about this, and he cuts the boy’s head off.
Well, Parvati was pretty outraged when she found out, and she cried to Shiva, demanding he make this right. Shiva basically replaces the head with an elephant’s head and breathes life into the boy again. There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the idea.
You’ll see Ganesh depicted with one broken tusk, and there are many stories as to how his tusk was damaged. Some say it was cut off when Shiva chopped off the elephant head. Another says he broke it off himself to use it as a writing instrument. He has a fondness for sweets; he’s often shown using his trunk to eat a hand full of modak, creamy sweet dumplings. This is why he has a bit of a belly.
Ganesh is very special. He has dominion over all classes of beings, ranging from insects, animals and humans to the subtle and celestial beings. During my tour of India, our teacher led us in a Ganesh gayatri mantra every morning on the bus. I pictured Ganesh’s big trunk moving traffic and obstacles out of our path as we drove along.
Here’s a good rendition of the mantra on youtube!
- Om Ekdantaya Vidmahe
- Vakratundaya Dheemahi
- Tanno Dantih Prachodayat
- We pray to the one with the single-tusked elephant tooth who is omnipresent.
- We meditate upon and pray for greater intellect to the Lord with the curved, elephant-shaped trunk.
- We bow before the one with the single-tusked elephant tooth to illuminate our minds with wisdom.
Traveling through India, Ganesh is everywhere you look! I picked up a small trinket of his to put on the dashboard of my car, so he can clear my way as I drive around little Rhode Island. If you want to learn more about Ganesh, I shared some sources below that you can check out. May Ganesh bring you inner peace and wisdom!
Encyclopedia Britannica: Ganesha
Ancient History Encyclopedia: Ganesha
India Today: 4 Stories About Lord Ganesha you Probably Didn’t Know
Lord Ganesha: his birth story, symbolism meaning and practice
Amma: Lord Ganesha: his birth story, symbolism meaning and practice
Ganesh Gayatri Mantra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkVlpm1mKFI