Vakratunda Mahakaya Surya Koti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kurumeydeva Sarva Karyeshu Sarvada
Vakratunda : Lord with Curved Trunk
Mahakaya: Large Bodied
Surya Koti: Million Suns
Samaprabha: With The Brilliance Of
Nirvighnam: Free Of Obstacles
Deva: O Lord
Sarva Karyeshu: All Work
"O Lord Ganesha of Large Body,
With the Brilliance of a Million Suns,
Make All My Work
Free Of Obstacles,
Ganesha is revered as the son of the Universal parents Shiva and Parvati, and is always honored first in most worship services and rituals. All ceremonies, religious or secular, begin with an invocation to Ganesha. 'Om Shree Ganeshaya Namaha', literally meaning "Ganesha, I pray to you". Ganesha has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is also known as Vighneshvara or Vighnaharta, the Lord of Success and Destroyer of evils and obstacles. According to the Narasimha Purana, if he is not worshipped at the beginning of a ceremony, he creates obstacles for the performers. Therefore, no matter what the occasion or ceremony be, Ganesha is worshipped before all other deities. For this reason, He is called Vighneshwara, the Remover of all Obstacles. Ganesha's Vehicle (Vahana) is the Mouse, symbolic of gnawing its way through everything, thus depicting the God's ability to cut through all obstacles.
Ganesha is also worshipped as the God of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. The devotees of Ganesha are known as 'Ganapatyas', and the festival to celebrate and glorify him is called Ganesh Chaturthi. The Puranas say that the fourth day of every month, known as Chaturthi, is especially auspicious for Ganesha worship. It is believed that Ganesha was born on the chaturthi of the month of Bhadra (September), on which the festival of Ganesha Chaturthi commences and is celebrated for ten days esp. in Maharashtra (India), though in some parts of the country, this festival is also celebrated for five, seven or twenty one days.
Ganesha is also known as Ganapati, the God of wisdom, prudence and salvation. Gameans "knowledge", Na means "salvation", and Pati means "lord". Ganapati also means 'Lord of the Ganas', Shiva's multitude of Attendants. His other names areVinayaka (Prominent Leader), Gajamukha or Gajanana (Elephant-Faced),Gajadhipati (Lord of Elephants), Lambakarna (Long-Eared), Lambodara (Pendant-Bellied) and Ekadanta (Having One Tusk).
The story of the birth of this zoomorphic Elephant-God, as depicted in the Shiva Purana, goes like this: Once Goddess Parvati, while bathing, created a boy with her supernatural powers out of her sweat, scruff and turmeric paste which she prepared to cleanse her body and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her door-less bathroom. She made a beautiful boy's idol about the age of 12 years, infusing life into it, and thus Ganesha was born. For reasons of privacy and protection, Parvati stationed him at the entrance to stop anyone from entering, while she was bathing. When Parvati's Husband Shiva returned home from his mountainous Samadhi (meditation) , he was surprised to find a young boy denying him access, as he stood firm in his way and wouldn't budge.
Ganesha unaware of Shiva's identity said: "I have never seen you before and I don't recognise you. I have been instructed by my mother - Parvati - to stop anyone from entering her chamber, and I am her son Ganesha." Shiva was bewildered with shock and told him that he had no son by the name of Ganesha. He tried to push Ganesha aside several times but the child was very strong, and this enraged Shiva all the more and he with his trident, struck off the boy's head in rage.
Parvati on hearing the commotion, came out and on seeing Ganesha's lifeless body, broke down in utter grief. She angrily told her husband that having left her alone, making her suffer his absence, then to return without notice and kill their own son was unforgivable. Realizing his grave mistake, Shiva sent out his squad/troops (Gana) to fetch the head of the first sleeping being who was facing the north. A sleeping elephant was found and its severed head was brought and attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored his life and made him the Leader/Commander (Pati) of his troops, in compensation for the loss of his human head. Hence his name 'Ganapati' - Commander/Leader of Troops.
Even this revival act of Shiva did not placate Parvati, who seeing her once beautiful son look like an elephant, was all the more upset. She said to Shiva in tears: “Nobody will worship my son as a God, you have made him look like an Elephant.” Shiva declared there and then that Ganesha should be worshipped first, before any form of worship was offered to any other manifestation of divinity. And Shiva's bestowed boon holds true to this day that people worship Ganesha and invoke his name before undertaking any new venture or important task. In all auspicious religious and social ceremonies, Ganesha's holy name is first invoked, except in funeral rites.
The legends narrated about Lord Ganesha are recorded in the 'Ganesha Khanda' of the Brahma Vivartha Purana. Another story of his origin, found in the Brahma Vivartha Purana is as follows: Shiva asked Parvati to observe the Punyaka Vrata for a year to appease Vishnu in order to have a son. On completion of the Vrata by Parvati, it was announced that The Lord of Gopikas, the Lord of all Creatures - Krishna, would incarnate Himself as her son as a result of the Vrata. Accordingly, Krishna was born as a charming infant, delighting Parvati and Shiva who celebrated the event with great enthusiasm.
All the Gods and Goddesses assembled to rejoice on his birth. Lord Shani, the son of Surya (Sun-God), was also present but he refused to look at the infant. Perturbed at this behavior, Parvati asked him the reason, and Shani replied that his looking at the baby would harm the newborn. However, on Parvati's insistence when Shani eyed the baby, the child's head was severed instantly. Parvati and all the Gods assembled there including Shiva, were grief-stricken. They all started to bemoan, whereupon Vishnu mounted Garuda and rushed to the bank of river Pushpabhadra, brought back the head of a young elephant, and joined it to the baby's headless body, thus reviving it. All the Gods blessed Ganesha and wished Him power and prosperity. Shiva made Ganesha the Leader of his Troops (Gana), and also gave Him the following boon:
"All obstacles, whatever they may be, will be rooted out by worshipping Ganesha, even as diseases are cured by the worship of Surya and purity results when Vishnu is worshipped."
Ganesha is also very well known for his ready wit and sharp intellect. Another Legend goes that once there was a competition between Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya (Lord Subramanya) as to who could be the first one to circum-ambulate the whole world. Ganesha with his pot-bellied body and mouse as vehicle could never hope to compete. Kartikeya went off on his vehicle, the flying peacock to cover the whole world, while Ganesha, in loving worshipfulness, asked Shiva and Parvati to be seated down and circum-ambulated his parents. When asked why he did so, he answered that to him, his divine parents meant the whole world - the entire manifested universe. Thus, Lord Shiva settled the result in favor of Lord Ganesha and announced him victorious because of his wisdom and presence of mind.
Why Does the Moon Keep waxing and waning?
And Why isn't every night a Poornima - a full moon night ?
The Legend goes that once, Ganesha accidentally tripped and fell, breaking one of his tusks in the process (this is also said to be one of the reasons for Ganesha's half or missing tusk). Chandradev (Moon God) saw this and laughed. Ganesha, being the short-tempered one, cursed Chandradev that anyone who happens to see the moon will incur bad luck. Hearing this, Chandradev realised his folly and asked for forgiveness from Ganesha. Ganesha relented and since a curse cannot be revoked, only softened, Ganesha softened his curse such that the moon would wax and wane in size and shape every fifteen days and anyone who looks at the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi would incur bad-luck.
It is said that anyone who looks at the moon on the night of the Ganesh Chaturthi will be falsely accused of theft or crime being reminded that The Moon-God behaved unbecomingly towards Lord Ganesha. This, in reality means to avoid the company of all those who have no faith in God, who deride God and Religion.
Riddhi-Siddhi and 'Shubha-Labha'
Since Ganesha with an elephant-head was not beautiful, he had difficulty in getting married, while all the other Gods were being sought after. In his anger and frustration, He told the rats to dig up holes on any path that the Baraat (wedding-procession) of any God would go to the Bride's house, thus making many potholes and obstacles in their way. The poor Gods as Grooms got very rattled and could not go elegantly for their marriage. They all went to Brahma and complained bitterly about Ganesha and his tricks. In order to appease Ganesha, Brahma created two beautiful girls named Riddhi (material abundance) and Siddhi (intellectual and spiritual prowess), and told Ganesha he can have two wives instead of one, and Brahma with his consort Saraswati, gave away these two girls in marriage to Ganesha, thus becoming his in-laws in the process.
One who pleases Lord Ganesha is invariably blessed by his two wives Riddhi and Siddhi, with Prosperity and Progress. After his marriage, Ganesha stopped the rats from digging any more, and hence became the Vanquisher of Obstacles, adopting the Rat as his eternal Vahana (Vehicle). Ganesha and his two consorts, Riddhi and Siddhi, have two sons named: Shubha (Auspiciousness) and Labha (Profit), thus the association of the twin words Shubha-Labha. Ganesha's daughter is Santoshi (Goddess of Satisfaction), worshipped by Hindus on Fridays, with offerings of Jaggery and a taboo on sour food.
Ganesha is also believed to have been the legendary scribe who wrote down the text of the Indian Epic Mahabharata as it was recited by the sage Ved Vyasa. When the sage asked Ganesha to write down the epic, the playful learned God agreed on condition that his pen should not stop moving until the story was completed i.e. Vyasa must recite the Epic non-stop. Vyasa agreed but imposed a counter-condition that Ganesha understand each verse completely before transcribing it. So whenever Ganesha stopped to consider Vyasa's complex compositions, the sage would use the time to compose more verses. Thus the great epic of Mahabharata is said to have been written by Lord Ganesha.
Any sculpture of Ganesha with his elephantine trunk pointing to the left is used for home decoration, as symbolically it is associated with Grihasthas (Householders) and points to the direction for success in the world. Any image with Ganesha's trunk pointing to the right is used for worship and prayers, as the direction symbolizes the ultimate path of life: Moksha or Salvation through renunciation of the world. When one chooses a Ganesh sculpture that is proper for their own spiritual path, the position of the trunk is good to keep in mind.
In many homes and temples, the image of Goddess Lakshmi is often flanked by the images of Goddess Saraswati and Lord Ganesha, indicating the arrival of prosperity where there is knowledge and no obstacles. Perhaps the most ancient of Ganapati shrines in India, is the well known Karpaka Vinayakar temple in the town of Pillaiarpatti near Karaikkudi in Tamilnadu. This temple with a rock cut shrine, bearing a collossal form of Vinayakar, is over 1600 years old.
(compiled from various sources)