Symbolism of Lord Ganesha
Lord Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. He is called in many other names such as Ganapati, Vinayaka etc.He is regarded as the lord of prosperity, fortune, success. He is also worshipped as wisdom, knowledge and wealth. He is also depicted as the destroyer of obstacles. He is loved by all irrespective of age and he is one of the most worshiped god in India. He is one of the five chief Gods along with Vishnu, Shiva, Devi and Surya, which is primarily used in Panchayatana Puja.
The literal meaning of Ganapati is master or leader of a group (Gana = masses, group and pati = Master, Lord). The universe is also a group of atoms. Ganesha is the lord of all these atoms. He is the force that binds all these atoms together. If these atoms gets separated, the universe will be in chaos. The image of Ganapati is depicted with elephant headed with one tusk, big belly, large ears, small eyes, with four arms (sometimes six to eight arms). He is accompanied with a mouse as his vehicle.
Birth of Lord Ganesha
There are many versions for the birth of Lord Ganesh. One day Goddess Parvati was preparing for a bath at home. She wanted somebody to guard the door. So She took out some sweat from the body along turmeric paste and created Ganesh. Then she ordered him to guard the door. By then Lord Shiva came and obviously wanted to enter his home. But Ganesh stopped him and resisted him in entering. Lord Shiva got angry and chopped off Ganesha’s head. When Parvati realized the situation, she was so enraged that she decided to destroy the creation. Shiva tried to pacify Parvati and promised to bring back life on Ganesha. He attached elephant head to Ganesha’s body and restored life.
By hearing this story, it’s natural that lot of questions arise in the mind. Are Gods like human mortals? How can Lord Shiva get angry? Why Shiva replaced elephant head to Ganesha?
There is a very deep spiritual meaning beneath the story. The story is symbolic and it teaches very deep lesson. Shiva is symbolic of the Purusha/Energy and Parvathi symbolises as Shakti/Prakriti. Ganesha was created only by Prakriti without the seed of Purusha. This is against the rule of creation. Since he was created only with Prakriti, he was full of rajasik energy and ego without wisdom. Here dirt in the story means rajasic energy or ignorance.
When Ganesha with full of ego and ignorance cannot recognize Shiva who represents wisdom and knowledge. Ganesha obstructing Shiva means ignorance will obstruct the path of knowledge. It applies to our life too. Because of our ignorance we often forget our true path. Head is the seat of all ego. Shiva in the form of a Guru sees the ego of Ganesha, so he cuts off his head symbolising destroying of ego. But Shiva being compassionate, decided to restore life when Parvati requested. He replaced elephant head. Elephant represents wisdom and effortlessness. The big head also represents about thinking big. Elephant symbolises immense strength yet very calm and gentle. Thus Shiva completes what Shakti has been created. Shiva being a transformer, transformed Ganesha from ignorant to be full of wisdom. It is also a lesson for us; Eventually knowledge has to overcome ignorance.
Also the natural question arises how can anyone create something from sweat. In Hinduism, Vedas says there are many types of birth. Birth can happen in one of the following 6 ways:
1. Andaja: One born out of eggs – E.g. Birds
2. Swedaja(Svedaja): One born out of sweat. E.g. Lice
3. Udbija: Born out of sprouting or born from earth. E.g. trees, ants etc
4. Yonija: One born from genital organs.
5. Jarayuja: Born out of womb. E.g. Human beings
6. Ayonija: Not born from any genital organs but from the command of the mind of Brahma who are called as Brahma manasa putras.
Therefore, Ganesha born out of sweat is nothing amusing.
Ganapati has always been very close to human beings. We can easily relate with Ganesha. He is not born with intellect and wisdom but transformed later. Likewise, we all wants to transform ourselves. Hence he is the guiding principle for transformation. Everyone will search for a Guru, like Shiva who can destroy ignorance and replace it with knowledge.
The Other Symbolisms Behind the Image of Ganesha
Single Tusk – Ganesha has one tusk and broken the other tusk. It represents single-pointedness and detachment of duality. It also signifies retaining only good and throwing away bad.
Big Belly – It represents total acceptance and abundance wherein one has to digest all good and bad in life.
Large Ears and Small mouth – It symbolizes wise people will listen more. People in the spiritual path should listen to his Guru and talk less or argue less.
Small Eyes – It remembers the the importance of concentration and determination.
Mooshak – His pet vehicle is mouse, which represents the desires of the mind. Rats generally are greediest of all animals. It always moves here and there and keep nibbling on everything. Because its teeth are ever growing and it needs to bite something or the other every time in order to control its growth further. Similarly the human beings also behave. The desires are unstoppable and it needs nourishment.The mind always on a move to nourish the desires of a man. It needs to be controlled. Therefore Ganapati sitting on a mouse is symbolic that we should keep our desires under firm control in order to reach spiritual goal.
We can see that Ganesha has elephant head with vehicle as mouse. Elephant represents highest form of animal and rat represents lowest form of animal. The concept represents controlling of duality. It also means that one needs to control on smaller things and always think big in life.