My Favourite Diety

My favourite diety is Ganesha, the much beloved elephant god of India. He is the son of Shiva, Lord of the Brahmacharis (celibates), remover of obstacles, and the Lord of Success. He is the god of wisdom whose image has become an iconic symbol for Hinduism around the world. He is the god of education with an elephant head, large ears, a curved trunk atop a huge pot-bellied human body. Followers look to him for help with wealth and knowledge. They worship him at the start of a ritual or beginning of a journey. He is the guardian deity of Hinduism.

Ganesha is recognized by his elephant head, symbolic of auspiciousness, strength and intellectual prowess. The largest and strongest animal of India, the elephant is gentle, affectionate and loyal; These are also the qualities of Ganesha. Although he is a powerful god, he is known as a loving, forgiving deity. Ganesha’s large head is symbolic of the wisdom of the elephant. His large ears allow him to hear everything yet able to separate good from bad, reality from the unreal.   His trunk, always bent, is a symbol of discrimination. Ganesha uses it to remove obstacles to achieve religious ends. According to the strict rules of Hindu iconography, Ganesha figures with only two hands are taboo so he is primarily shown with four arms.

Ganesha’s vehicle is the mouse or rat. It is symbolic of a rat’s ability to creep through small holes, to slip unobserved into places not thought possible, a representation of wandering, wayward minds. Idols of Ganesha show the rat or mouse as subservient to the elephant god; an implication that the powers of Ganesha’s discrimination have tamed the rodent.  How unconventional!

Multiple tales tell of slightly different origins for Ganesha. The most popular story ( in the most basic form) tells us that Mother Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva, once wanted to take a bath. She created a boy from the dirt of her own body, asking him to stand as a guard outside while she bathed. As this transpired Lord Shiva returned home to find a stranger at his door. As instructed by his mother, the boy prevented Lord Shiva entrance. In anger, Shiva cut off the boy’s head, upon which Parvati was stricken with great grief. In an act to console her, Shiva sent out his troops with instructions to obtain the head of the first living being encountered. They found an elephant sleeping and thus brought back its head. Shiva then attached the elephantine head to the body of the boy and revived him. He named the boy Ganapati or commander of his troops, and granted him a boon that anyone would have to worship him (Ganesha) before beginning any undertaking.