OM Shri Ganeshaya Namaha!
Of the 330 million gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, my favorite is Ganesh, the Lord of the Ganas. He is Vighneshwara, the Remover of Obstacles. The story goes that Shiva, the great god, had challenged Ganesh and his brother Kartik to go around the universe three times. While Kartik took off in great haste on his peacock to complete the task, Ganesh walked his portly figure around his parents, Shiva and Parvati, and declared that he had accomplished the task as his parents were the totality of the universe. Shiva was quite pleased at Ganesh’s strategy and granted that Ganesh will be invoked before the invocation of any other gods when anyone embarks on any task.
Suryakotee Sama Prabha
Nirvighnam Kurumey Deva
Sarva Kaaryyeshu Sarvada
O Lord Ganesha of Large Body Curved Trunk
With the brilliance of ten million suns
Please make all my work free of obstacles
Ganesh’s elephant head requires some explanation. According to one story (and there are more than one), Parvati, his mother, wanted someone to prevent people from barging in while she was bathing. So she fashioned a little boy out of the scurf of her skin and gave him the job. The great god Shiva, Parvati’s husband, did not know this and when he was challenged by the boy at Parvati’s door, he got enraged and cut off his head. Shiva’s temper is something else. But when Parvati got on his case, he commanded that a replacement head be brought. As it happened, an elephant was handy and thus Ganesh got himself an elephant’s head. So technically, Ganesh does not have a father, although Shiva is nominally a father to Ganesh.
One of Ganesh’s tusks is shown broken. One story explains it thus: Ganesh was coming back from an evening of feasting. Guy likes to eat. Now his vehicle is a mouse. So here is this huge potbellied guy returning home on his itsy-bitsy mouse. A snake on the road frightens the mouse and Ganesh falls off. His huge belly bursts open. He quickly grabs the snake and ties it around his belly. Things are back to normal but the Moon sees this and cannot but laugh. Ganesh’s pride is hurt and he breaks off one of his tusks and hurles it at the Moon. The Moon goes out like a broken light. This astronomical disaster is a bit of a problem with the gods and they plead with Ganesh to restore the Moon. Ganesh relents but decrees that as punishment the Moon will wax and wane from then on.
Another story which explains the broken tusk goes thus. Ved Vyasa, the great sage, had composed an epic poem which foretold the events of the Mahabharata. He needed a scribe, however, to write the poem down since Ved was not interested in mundane tasks such as writing. Bramha recommended that Ved engage Ganesh. Ganesh agreed to do the job but on the condition that Mr. Vyasa would have to dictate his poem in one continuous unbroken stream and no editing of any material would be entertained. Mr. Vyasa agreed but he imposed his own condition: that Mr. Ganesh would have to fully comprehend each line in all its subtleties and intricasies and implications and import before recording it.
In short, Ganesh said, “You better be sure of whatever the heck you say, else I will not undertake the job.” And Vyasa said, “If you are thinking that this is one heck of an easy job, you have another think coming, mister. You may be the remover of obstacles but you’d have to wake up pretty early in the day to get this one done.”
They reached agreement and then Ganesh broke off one of his tusks and used as a pen it to write down the longest epic poem in the world, The Mahabharat, with more than 100,000 stanzas.
I like Ganesh because he is a laid back sort of a guy. He personifies wisdom and learning. And of course he keeps up with the times. Laid back but with the times. I am writing this with my laptop balanced on my knee, to emulate Ganesh thus:
He does get around. And moves with the times. Check out Ganesh on wheels:
Wonder where all he has been? How about Saturn’s moon Titan?
Like me, Ganesh likes gadgets. For communicating, he uses his Nokia cell phone with cool ringtones:
Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival where he is the principal diety. Here is an incantation to Him,The Remover of Obstacles:
Om maha Ganapathe namaha
Sarva vignopa shantaye
Om Ganeshaya namaha
Om, I invoke the name of Ganapathi;
Bringer of peace over all troubles,
Om, I invoke the name of Ganesh…..
[Post Script: Here is an article by Shashi Tharoor on The Many Faces of Ganesh.]