Ganesha, the zoomorphic deity with the head of an elephant and the body of a human, is one of the most popular of India’s many deities. Lord of Success and Destroyer of Obstacles both material and spiritual, Ganesha is the god of Everyman. It’s no surprise that his image is found in the poorest of huts to the richest of palaces. As the god associated with scholarship and commerce, Ganesha is revered throughout Asia and in Indian communities around the world.
Looking for a tattoo design that offers strength at a project’s commencement? Ganesha may your god. He’s also a touchstone for students entering exams.
The snake figures prominently in depictions of Ganesha, sometimes wrapped around his neck or his waist, or curled at his ankles or held in his hand. The serpent, symbol of our most primal urges, is synonymous with the transformation of energies rising through the body’s energy hierarchy, from sex to super-consciousness. Ganesha is associated with an energy centre (chakra) in the solar plexus, a vortex of transformation, a place from which the divine force expands.
Due partly to his frequent appearance in Indian mythology, Ganesha has been highly popular in Hindu art, his outlandish persona portrayed in paintings and sculptures going back more than a thousand years. He is shown in many different poses, sometimes sitting, sometimes dancing or challenging demons, and at times playing with his family. In his hands – sometimes two of them, sometimes four – he holds a rosary representing the continuance of the pursuit of knowledge. In another hand he holds a goad (prod) or axe for removing obstacles and for pushing man forward along the spiritual path. The noose he holds is for catching difficulties along the way. If sweets appear in depictions of Ganesha, they represent the sweetness of the soul (Atman). Ganesha’s elephant head is the symbol of Atman and of wisdom, while his trunk suggests the eternal vibration of the Cosmos – OM. His human body symbolizes maya, the material world of illusion. But the big belly depicted in popular renditions of the elephant god is said to contain the ‘cosmic eggs’ of past, present and future.
How Ganesha came to have the head of an elephant is explained (variously) in numerous versions of Indian mythology. One tale tells of the infant son of Shiva and Parvati suffering a life-threatening injury to his head. The first animal to appear was an elephant. In the subsequent transaction, the elephant lost his head, and the infant lived.
Hindu mythology tells of Ganesha being asked by the sage, Vyasa, to transcribe the sacred text known as the Mahabharata. Before taking dictation, Ganesha insisted on understanding the true meaning of the teachings, and so he was revered as a god of education He also became the symbol of the conscientious work ethic. As god also of prudence and wisdom, Ganesha is important in the market place. His blessings are sought by those involved in business deals, and his fan-like ears are symbols of his willingness to listen to petitions from his devotees. He is honoured at the beginning of rituals and before commencing work involving writing and scholarship. Not only does Ganesha remove obstacles, but he also creates them, should the need arise to put the brakes on activities that might prove harmful.
Lord Ganesha is also revered as the destroyer of pride, vanity and selfishness. He is associated with the colour red and the perfume of sandalwood.
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