It’s Ganesha Visarjan! Here’s 8 facts about the elephant headed god

It’s the 11th day of Ganesha Chaturthi and Hindu’s across India are getting ready to immerse the elephant headed god in lakes, rivers and seas.  In praise of the remover of obstacles, here’s a rundown of what’s on Lord Ganesha’s CV.

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Dilliwalahs have been busy looking after Lord Ganesha at their homes and in temporary pandals (shrines) for the past 11 days.

Bathing and dressing the Lord in the finest cloth every morning and feeding him three meals a day, the time has now come for the faithful to say farewell.

The ghats along the Yamuna River in Delhi will be busy with worshipers, so head down to the river banks and immerse yourself in the festivities.  But before you go out exploring, here’s some facts about the elephant headed Hindu god that I’ve learned over the last week or so.

The big question.  How did Lord Ganesha get an elephant head?

I’ve heard a couple of stories, but the most popular one is that Ganesha’s human head was chopped off by his father, Lord Shiva, who replaced it with an elephant head.

The story goes like this.  A young Ganesha was asked by his mother, Parvati, to guard the entrance to a lake whilst she bathed.    While she was bathing Lord Shiva, her husband, returned home and demanded to see his wife.

Ganesha stood in his way.  He did not know that Lord Shiva was his father.  Shiva did not know that he had a son.

Shiva, enraged about being refused entry to see his wife, chopped off Ganesha’s human head and stormed into see Parvati.  Surprised by his unexpected entry, Parvati asked what had happened to their son.

Not surprisingly, she was not best pleased. Lord Shiva, seeking amends, found the first animal he could, took its head and used it to breathe life back into the child.  Yes, you guessed it.  Lord Shiva found an elephant first.

The story is nicely told in this children’s animation.

Lord Ganesha, like many Hindu gods, goes by many different names. 

Ganesha, Ganpati, Gajanana, Ekadanta and Aprakrita Parakramaya are just five of the names that the remover of obstacles goes by.   He’s said to have 108 different names.  Wondering what they are and what they all mean?  You can find the answers by clicking on this link.

Lord Ganesha is a prolific writer

Ganesha hand-wrote the famous Mahabharata poem, which contains over 200,000 individual verses and is about 1.8 million words long.

Vyāsa, a sage, asked Ganesha to write the poem as he dictated it word by word.  Ganesha, knowing it would be a big job, agreed to the task on condition that Vyāsa recited the Mahabharata without pausing or taking a break.

Lord Ganesha is the remover of obstacles

As the remover of obstacles, Lord Ganesha is invoked at the start of prayer.

He’s a powerful God who helps devotees avoid negative energy and offers support in the face of challenge.  Not only that, he was given the blessing of prosperity and intelligence by his parents, the mighty Lord Shiva and Parvati.   He’s got some pretty impressive powers.

Lord Ganesha’s vehicle (or vahana) is most commonly a mouse

Many statutes of Ganesha come complete with a a mouse, also known as mooshika.

Mooshika is said to represent the human mind.  Hindu’s believe that the mouse is full of desires and is selfish, much like us humans.

By riding the mouse Lord Ganesha is showing devotees that he has been able to crush negative thoughts and control by them.  Anyone who devotes himself to Lord Ganesha will be able to learn these same skills.

Sometimes Lord Ganesha is shown with a shrew, a rat, a lion, a peacock or a serpent as his vehicle.  Why? Well, it depends which of the eight incarnations of Ganesha you are looking at.  Confused? This is Hinduism, you didn’t expect it to be simple, did you?

So how did Ganesha damage his tusk?

Ganesha was guarding his father, Lord Shiva, who was in deep mediation, when Parashurama (an incarnation of Vishnu known for his bad temper) came along and demanded to see Lord Shiva. Ganesha, unable to disobey a direct order from his father, denied Parashurama entry.

Ganesha knew that this was important God who would soon be enraged, but he stood by the promise .  Parashurama threw his axe.  Ganesha, knowing that the axe was a present from his father, Lord Shiva, let it hit his tusk.   To stop it would be an insult.

The result was a broken trust, but his father remained deep in meditation.

Ganesha Chaturthi is massive in Maharastra

Mumbai is home to the biggest Ganesha pandals and parades.

In response to British curfews, freedom fighter and social reformer Bal Gangadhar Tilak (or Lokmanya Tilak) used the festival as a way to encourage Indian’s to get together in 1893.  The response from the community was huge and ever since Mumbai has been the hub of Ganesha Chaturthi.  It’s said that over 150,000 Ganesha’s are immersed in the sea every year at Chowpatty Beach.

Happy Ganesha Visarjan.  Enjoy the festivities. I know I will.

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3 thoughts on “It’s Ganesha Visarjan! Here’s 8 facts about the elephant headed god

  1. Pingback: Festivals and celebrations | Namaste New Delhi

  2. Pingback: Tell me more about Lord Shiva | Namaste New Delhi

  3. Pingback: A dozen must attend Delhi festivals and celebrations | Namaste New Delhi

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