Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. He is worshipped first. His Names are repeated first before any auspicious work is begun, before beginning any kind of worship.  He is the eldest son of Lord Siva, and the elder brother of Skanda or Kartikeya. He rides on the Vahana, the small mouse. We will see why he has an elephant head and rides on a mouse and why he is worshipped before beginning any work.

Symbolism : Energy when it begins at the primordial level, will have highest density and will be formless. This primordial Energy (Mool Aadhara) nature is represented  as Ganesha. This is the real reason to be worshipped. In other words he is the seed of Energy, but has all the potential to manifest the gigantic  forms, he uis represented as elephant. Like at a gigantic banyan tree, it comes from a tiny seed. All the information of the gigantic tree is in the tiny seed, representing the symbolism of Ganesha.

The Elephant-Head

You are familiar with the story that Shiva cut the head of the boy born to Parvati , because the boy refused to let inside the house.  If you take the story literally, then how can you worship a God like  Shiva whose acts are even worse than a common man.  Only if we understand the symbolism behind the story one can appreciate the great wisdom in these Puranic stories. Now let us see the story narrated about Lord Ganesha’s birth and his having the head of an elephant.

    Once upon a time, at bathing time, the Goddess Gauri (Parvati), the spouse of Shiva, created Ganapati as a Suddha, or pure white being, out of the essence of her body, and placed Him at the entrance of the house. She told Him not to allow anybody inside and went for a bath. Lord Siva Himself returned home  and was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. Siva got angry and cut off Ganesha’s head, taking Him for an outsider. Gauri came to know of this and grieved much. Vishnu went to bring the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head northwards. The head of the Iravat (The elephant of Indira)  was cut off and joined the head of the elephant to the body of Ganapati.

      Lord Siva made Ganapati worthy of worship by men at the beginning of all their undertakings—marriages, journey, expedition, study, etc. He ordained that the annual worship of Ganesha, should take place on the fourth day of the bright half of Bhadrapada (August-September). ( Story adopted from Ganesh Chaturthi by Swami Sivananda).

Symbolism of Ganesha’s story:

Our body is the essence  of the Universal Energy or Sakthi. This is symbolized by Gauri  creating Ganesha from her own energy. The boy was ignorant of his dad Shiva and so did not allow him entry.  We are like this boy not aware of the  Awareness which is Shiva. Like Ganesha fighting with Shiva, we ignore our Awareness. This leads to suffering and our Ego head gets chopped off. But without Ego the energy in us cannot function. This is represented by Parvati geting angry. Then Vishnu, cosmic the intelligence, chops the head of Iravat , the elephant of Indra. Indra represents Senses and cutting off Iravat's head represents the head who has control over the senses, indriyas or Indra.

But this overcoming Ego can only happen with the help of knowledge as symbolized by Vishnu.

    Once we are aware of the awareness, then we function in this world without the head of Ego, but with Awareness, the perfect human being. This is what the elephant head of Ganesha represents. The elephant head represents a man fully aware of Awareness and without Ego.  

   Such a Self realized state is represented by ganesha, who then becomes the master (pati or Esha) of the thoughts (gana). Hence he is Ganapathi or Ganesha.  Gana means  form or thought. Pati or esha means leader or Lord. Ganapati or Ganesha means the lord /master/leader of forms/thoughts.

Why Ganesha rides on a mouse?:     The huge body of Ganesha represents the great potential energy in us. This is why he is deity of Muladhara chakra. This big elephant headed energy but rides on a tiny mouse. Each and every cell of our body has tremendous energy, like an atom bomb harboring energy. Similarly the Enormous Ganesha like energy is present in us and lying dormant and we waste our life not knowing it.

   "Tragedy of life is not death, but not knowing one's own potential while living is the greatest tragedy of life" - Mata Amritananda mayi Devi.

Ganesha riding on a tiny mouse shows reminds us that we are not  a tiny creature, but the very manifestation of the divine and can realize this truth using this body, by being aware of Awareness (click here to know what Awareness is).

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