First few images of our favorite Lalbaugcha Raja, sourced from various sources.
Ganesha is one of the most popular and loved of the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Everything auspicious starts with invoking his name. Here’s a selection of wonderful books that I’m sure will delight readers and storytellers of all ages, and would brighten your collection of books on Hindu mythology and Indian culture. All of them well illustrated, entertaining and promises interesting reading.
This rare collection of Hindu mythological tales for young readers features 17 stories about Ganesha – ‘Ganesha’s Head,’ ‘The Broken Tusk,’ and ‘Why Ganesha Never Married’ – including one from Mongolia, where Ganesha entered the Buddhist tradition. Full of entertaining pen-and-ink illustrations, it also includes a pronunciation guide, glossary, and a prefatory discussion on Hindu mythology.
This book makes a great gift for someone at the threshold of a change or venturing into a new territory – entering a new job, new house, new business, or kicking off a new relationship. It comes in a box, and contains tales of Ganesha’s powers as a protector, beautifully decorated with 30 illustrations, and includes mantras, prayers, sacred symbols, songs and instructions on conducting a Puja.
Author Amy Novesky retells the authentic version of how the Ganesha got his elephant head as told in the ‘Brahma Vaivarta Purana‘. Belgin K. Wedman’s lovely illustrations reminiscent of classic Indian miniatures add to the beauty of the book. The narration is direct and suitable for read-alouds to small children. This is indeed a beautiful book to possess.
Once Ravana performed a sadhana and received as reward a jyotirlinga from Shiva himself. Shiva told Ravana to carry the jyotirlinga to his land with the caveat that wherever Ravana would place it, it would remain stuck there for ever.
So Ravana carried the jyotirlinga with great care. He held back every physical urge such as eating or attending to calls of nature and walked almost 4,000 kilometres from Kailash to a place called Gokarna in Karnataka. Since he had been walking without food or rest, he felt weak and he wanted to ease himself. Unable to eat any food, he must have sustained himself on water alone and his bladder must have been bursting. But he would not keep the jyotirlinga down either. And he would not be able to make water — an unclean act — while holding the jyotirlinga with his hands.
Presently, he saw a cute and innocent-looking cowherd boy. Ravana said to the boy, “Hey you, come here.” The boy came. Ravana said, “If you hold this for five minutes, I’ll give you a pearl necklace. Just hold it, don’t keep it down. Understand?” The boy agreed. Ravana gave the jyotirlinga to the boy and turned around to ease himself. His call of nature done, he turned around to look. What did he see? The boy had kept the jyotirlinga down and, of course, it had sunk into the earth as per the caveat. Then Ravana looked up. In place of the cowherd, it was Ganapati standing there, in his true form with a grin on his face.
Ganapati did not want Ravana to take the jyotirlinga to Lanka, because if he did, he would have become superhuman. Even today if you visit Gokarna, you will see a small hole in the rock through which you have to put your finger and feel the jyotirlinga. Ravana got so furious he knocked Ganapati on the head so hard that his head was dented. That is why you will also find a Ganapati statue with a depression in his skull at Gokarna.
For these thousands of years that day of Ravana-Ganapati encounter has come down to us as Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganapati, one of the most popular gods from India, is the one who mastered all the knowledge that was in the land. Even today when a child commences his education, the first thing parents do is invoke Ganapati, the scholar-deity. He is believed to like food. Usually scholars are skinny, but Ganapati is a well-fed, smart scholar, who outwitted Ravana.
Stories relating to birth of Sri Ganapati are found in purana’s with varying details. However one story in particular, which I will try to narrate here, is vary popular. Almost everyone of us has heard this story with great enthusiasm when we were children. This narration appears in the Rudra Samhita of Shiva Purana.
Once, Parvati wanted to have guards to her private chambers. But in Kailasa all the attendants were servants of Lord Shiva. So she thought of creating a attendant of her own. She created a child out of the scurf of her body and gave it life. She called the boy as her son, since he has appeared from her body. She gave him a danda (a stick) to hold. She ordered him to guard her house and not to allow anyone inside.
Lord Shiva came soon and wanted to enter the house. The boy rudely prevented Shiva in doing so. By looking at this shivagana’s got angry and attacked boy. The boy defeated all of them and placed his danda before Lord Shiva stopping him to proceed further. At this behavior of the boy Lord Shiva got vary angry and took his fierce form of Rudra. He then with his shoola beheaded the boy. Seeing this act of her husband Parvati out of motherly affection and grief started lamenting. At the same time she got angry towards rudragana’s who attacked her little child. She created powerful shakti’s and ordered them to attack gana’s. The gana’s unable to face the powers of Durga surrendered to their Lord, Shiva.
Lord Shiva trying to console his grieving consort Parvati, asked her what to do. She demanded her husband to resurrect the child and bless him. Shiva ordered his attendants to go north and bring the head of any creature they can find at first. When Shiva beheaded the boy the head was gulped by one of his gana. They found an elephant and brought its head. The elephant head was then grafted to the body of the boy. Lord Shiva blessed the boy as his son too and made him adhipati (master) of his servant gana’s. He was thus called as Ganapati. News of this strange event spread everywhere and all devata’s, rishi’s, gandharva’s came to see Ganapati. Lord Vishnu and Brahma also blessed him. Shiva again graced Ganapati by making him always to be first honored in all activities thereafter. This is how Ganapati became first venerable (prathama vandita) by all gods and humans alike.
Similar to above story, the event of Sri Ganesha’s marriage is also wonderful. The story goes as following. Once in Kailasa Loka, an argument took place between both brothers Ganapati and Shanmukha. The argument was about who to get married first among the two. Both were able and come of age, seeing this Lord Shiva called for a competition on both. He will be married first who circumambulates the earth and return back to Kailasha. Kumara left for the task immediately riding on his vahana (vehicle) the peacock. Whereas Ganapati thought for a while and started doing pradakshina to his father and mother Shiva Paravati. Entire creation is present in Shiva and Parvati, so Ganapati didn’t bothered doing the instructed task literally. This pradakshina of his father and mother was more than circumambulating of any material object.
Both his parents Lord Shiva and mother Parvati pleased by the intellect of their son, blessed Ganapati. Soon Sri Ganesha accepted the two daughters of Viswarupa Prajapati, Siddhi and Buddhi as his consorts. Beautiful description of this marriage is given in the purana.
The variation occurring and different versions of the same event in various scriptures is due to kalpa-bedha. Similar events take place with variations in different kalpa’s. In the next post we shall see the story of Lord Ganesha from another purana.
But the Asura had a magic power; every drop of his blood that touched the ground turned into another Andhaka. The only way to kill him was to ensure not a single drop of his blood touched the ground, while he was impaled on Shiva’s trident.
Parvati knew that every divine being is a mixture of male and female forms, the male form representing mental potential and the female form representing material resources (Shakti). Parvati therefore called out to all the Shaktis. On her request, every divine being released their female energy who could drink the blood of Andhaka before it touched the ground. Soon the battlefield was filled with the shaktis of every god imaginable. Indra’s shakti emerged as Indrani, Vishnu’s shakti emerged as Vaishavi and Brahma’s shakti emerged as Brahmini. These shaktis drank the blood of Andhaka before it touched the ground. Thus was Andhaka destroyed.
Matsya Purana and Vishnu-dharmottara Purana list even Ganapati’s shakti in the list of female warrior goddesses. Her name was Vinayaki also known as Ganeshvari. This form of Ganapati is adored in the Vana-Durga-Upanishad.
Images of the female Ganesha start appearing from 16th century onwards. Some are of the opinion that these images perhaps represent Malini, the elephant-headed companion of Parvati, nursemaid to Ganesha, occasionally referred to in the Puranas.
The idea of a female elephant-headed deity whether it is the Shakti of Ganesha or the handmaid of Parvati is an integral part of Tantrik practices that preferred to see the divine in female, rather than the more dominant male form. This could be because in occult sciences, the female form was seen as the source of all generative powers: while the spark of life came from the male body, life finally was created and nourished by the female body. Or the reason could be more metaphysical. The female form was a code for material resources.
Sages in India have always had this debate between what matters more: the world of thoughts (mental potential) or the world of things (material resources). Those who veered towards intangible thoughts eventually came to be associated with Vedic practices while those who veered towards tangible things eventually came to be associated with Tantrik practices. The former coded their ideas through male forms while the latter coded their ideas through female forms. And so Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, gained popularity in Vedic circles, his female form, Vinayaki, became popular in Tantrik circles.
Were there stories associated with Vinayaki? We will never know as most of these ideas were oral. What we do know is that the fourth day after NEW moon is called Vinayaki Chaturthi. This day, which is sacred to Ganesha, is named after his female form.
Lord Ganesh is here. And this year, the Ganesh festival is bringing forth astonishing tales of people’s gracious love for the Lord of Wisdom. Meet Raj Kumar Shah. Taking worship of the Vighnaharta to a whole new level, he has virtually converted his house into a temple adorning a large number of various forms of the God. Each one as exquisite as the other, the idols number well over 2,000.
A chartered accountant by profession, Shah got his first idol way back in 2004. In the past eight years, he went on adding the idols one by one carefully selected and installed. The Lord can be seen in various poses, right from one engrossed flying a kite, in a joyous mood on a swing to a one busy with a computer or musing over a move while playing chess.
The 42-year-old CA has Ganesh everywhere in his house. His house name plate has a Ganesh itched on it; even a night lamp in his porch is shaped as the Lord.
Ask him how his craze for collecting the idols took off and he says, “I have always liked to collect things. When I was young, it was greeting cards, and in the past few years, I have drawn my attention on Ganesh idols. It’s not just plain craze, it’s a question of faith that gets me emotionally involved and motivated. As such, I have never tried to calculate the value of the collection.”
Seema, his wife, assists Shah in collecting and preserving the idols. “We have specially made cabinets in silver, other metals, marble and wood, each having several sections. These are used to place the idols,” she said.
When asked where did they find the unique idols, Seema proudly says, “It’s an on-going search, wherever we go we try to bring home at least one Ganesh idol, and each time its a different shape and form.”
Shah has spent around eight years collecting the idols. Shah’s hobby has the whole family captivated now. The children are also equally enthusiastic about their father’s hobby. Son Rajat says, “I present my father with a distinctive Ganesh idol on his birthdays and other occasions. In-fact I have developed a liking for this whole idol-collection thing.”
Shah’s younger brother Rachit, 9, makes Ganesh idols with clay. “My younger son has made some Ganesh idols with playing dough. I keep them with our idol collection.” Although most of the collection has been brought from Indore, it has idols from almost every part of the country. “We have idols from Andaman, Sikkim, Kashmir, Udaipur and Mumbai,” said Seema.
Each member of the family has its own favorite pose of Ganesh. Young Rachit likes the one in which the Lord is posing as farmer with bullock cart. “My favorite is the cricketer Ganesh,” said Rajat, while Seema’s likes the one resting on a wooden cot. Raj Kumar Shah’s favorite is the one with mother Parvati.
Some customs often go a long way in making places of religious importance very sacred. One such custom is in existence at city’s renowned Siddhi Vinayak temple situated in Sutarkhana area at Ghantaghar. Here devotees whisper their wishes in the ear of Mushak (brass made mouse) sitting outside the temple and they believe that Ganpati will surely fulfill it as the wishes would be forwarded to him by his favourite Mushaka.
Apart from this special custom, this Siddhi Vinayak temple is also famous for being one of its own kinds in the entire state.
From having religious importance, the Siddhi Vinayak temple situated in the industrial city is also having a significant role in the struggle for Indian independence.
The city’s only Ganpati temple at Ghantaghar, established by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1918 was deep-seated with the message of unity in diversity. This temple of Ganpati Deva, worshipped majorly in Maharashtra, being a hub of the independence struggle, witnessed many plans made by the city based revolutionaries inside its premises during the freedom movement.
Though this temple was firmed around some 92 years ago, yet it came into limelight after its re-establishment done by Satya Mitra, founder of Bharat Mata temple. He renovated this historical temple into a three floored big synagogue with nearly 50 different types of Ganpati placed in it.
This temple has been carved with innovative ideas and folklores. For those who believe that Ganpati only sits on mouse, they will see this deity riding peacock, lion and even Sheshnag.
Apart from the various statues, the temple also has a special statue of Ganpati as god of universe. “The statue depicted the fourth shloka of Ganpati sutra in which he claimed as god of universe.
The statue depicted the Ganpati as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and all the other important deity,” informed Khemchandra Gupta, one of the caretaker of the temple.
Gupta added that this big statue of Ganpati in nine forms was setup here in the temple by ‘Jagat Guru’, Shankaracharya.
According to the locals, this temple was established with the thought of spreading the message of national unity.
The Matsya Purana says that Ganesha (lord of the ganas or hosts) was lovingly moulded by his mother Parvati out of the scented scrapings of bath-paste and oil from her own body. The Varaha Purana has it that Ganesha sprung from the radiance of his father Shiva’s luminous gaze. A popular legend recounts how Parvati’s “baby shower” for her handsome son turned into a terrible tragedy when the malefic gaze of Shani or Saturn fell upon the child, causing its head to burst into a thousand pieces. This resulted in a unique identity for Ganesha or Ganapati as an elephant-headed, corpulent personality who loves his modaks and laddoos. The elephant is regarded as wise and mature in Indian lore, hence Ganapati’s formidable intellect continues to inspire men of letters.
The story of how Ganapati came to possess the privilege of being the foremost among the devas is variously told in the Puranas but the broad consensus is that both his powerful parents granted him this boon in different contexts.
That he should be worshipped first by all humans and celestials is a dictum followed to this day by the devout as well as the ritually casual. Commencing a pilgrimage or any new venture with an invocation of him is a time-honoured tradition handed down to us by our ancestors. The first invitee to a wedding is always Ganesha.
Modern variants involve the collection of Ganesha figurines to tastefully decorate our homes.
Inherent in these practices lies an instinctive belief in the power of Ganapati to grant kaaryasiddhi or success in our efforts. He is the Vighna-nashak or remover of obstacles and is therefore famously saluted as Jai Mangalmurti (Victory to the auspicious being). Bringing Ganesha home and keeping him in it, figuratively speaking, is to usher peace and prosperity into our homes. Great powers are attributed to this lovable deity.
A hymn venerates him as parabrahma roopam or verily the Supreme Absolute:
Ajam nirvikalpam niraakaaram ekam
Niraanandam aanandam advaita poornam
(He is the unborn, formless, unique embodiment of the supreme, the absolute, the infinite and the complete. He is bliss.)
One may offer garlands and sweets to a bejewelled, richly clad Ganesha at a large temple this Ganesh Chaturthi. Or one may dip one’s head in hasty obeisance to a vazhi pillaiyar (Tamil term for the roadside Ganesha peeping out of niches in boundary walls).
Our prayerful sentiments are beautifully captured in the celebrated hymn, Bhadram Karnebhih (from the Ganapati Atharvashirsha): May we always hear and see auspicious things; may we live our entire lifespans healthy even as we praise the lord, who guides our thoughts and deeds and protects us from evil.
Lord Ganesha is popularly known as Vighneshwara – the Lord of obstacles. For those on the spiritual path, Lord Ganesha represents a perfect wisdom who removes all obstacles that comes in the way of attaining God. But to those who need a mystical proof of God, the legends of Lord Ganesha’s eight temples in Maharashta collectively called Ashta-Vinayak temples offer much mysticism.
No Hindu ritual or auspicious act happens without invoking Lord Ganesha first. ‘Om Shri Ganeshaya Namah’ is the first mantra that is chanted before beginning meditation, prayer, starting new enterprises or undertaking any new initiative.
Seekers who have a subtle intellect invoke a formless Lord Ganesha by
“Ajam nirvikalpam nirakaramakam niranandam anandam advaitapoornam |
param nirgunam nirvishesham nireeham para-brahmaroopam ganesham bhaje-ma ||
which translates as
“O Lord, You are unborn, formless and absolute; You are beyond bliss and again bliss itself – the One and the Infinite. You are the Supreme, without attributes, differentiation and desire. You are verily the Supreme Brahman. To You, O Lord, do we offer our worship.”
But for those who need a form for invocation, Lord Ganesha’s forms are many as we can see in his sacred temples – especially the eight temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha all in the state of Maharashtra. These temples relate to various events mentioned in the ancient Puranas and other legends are collectively called Ashta-Vinayak. All the eight Ashta Vinayak temples are Swayambhu (self-originated).
In each of these eight sacred temples in Maharashtra, Lord Ganesha is called by a different name derived from a legend. Here are the names, place and legends associated with each of Lord Ganesha’s temples.
Shri Mayureshwar at Morgaon
Lord Ganesha defeated and liberated a demon called Sindhu. He fought the battle riding a peacock (Mayur is peacock in Sanskrit) and hence became known as Lord Mayureshwar or Moreshwar in Marathi. A 14th century saint called Morya Gosavi is also known to be associated with this temple.
Shri MahaGanapati at Ranjangaon
The MahaGanapati temple is said to be the most powerful representation of Lord Ganesha. This is the place where Lord Shiva invoked Lord Ganesha in a Maha Ganapati form with 20 trunks, 10 hands and vanquished the demon Tripurasur.
Shri Chintamani at Theur
The legend goes – A greedy warrior King Ganasura snatched a wish fulfilling diamond called Chintamani from Rishi Kapila. Kapila Rishi invoked Lord Ganesha who destroyed Ganasura and got back the diamond. Rishi Kapila in his devotion to Lord Ganesha requested him to stay back, completely dropping his desire for the wish fulfilling diamond. Lord Ganesha took up the name of this diamond Chintamani and remained under a Kadamba tree and came to be known as Chintamani Vinayak.
Shri Girijatmaj at Lenyadri
Once Parvati (also known as Girija) asked Lord Shiva who he was mediating on. He said he was mediating on Ganesha “the supporter of the entire universe” and initiated Parvati with “Gam” the powerful Ganesha Mantra. Desiring to have a son, Parvati underwent austerities meditating on Ganesha for twelve years at Lenyadri. Pleased by her penance, Ganesha blessed her with the boon that he will be born as her son. And so he incarnated. Shiva granted a boon that whosoever remembers Lord Ganesha before starting any tasks will successfully complete that task. For 15 years Lord Ganesha grew up at Lenyadri and since he was born to Girija came to be known as Shri Girijatmaj
Shri Vighneshwar at Ojhar
Lord Ganesha is known as Vigneshwara or the remover of all obstacles, this he achieved by vanquishing the demon Vighnasur. The place where the battle was fought was Ojhar and Lord Ganesha came to be known as Vighneshwara Vinayaka – the conqueror of Vighnasur.
Shri SiddhiVinayak at Siddhatek
According to the Mudgala Purana, Lord Vishnu invokes and gets blessings and siddhis (powers) from Lord Ganesha to fight and slay two demons Madhu and Kaitabha. Sages like Maharishi Vyaas, Morya Gosavi and Narayan Maharaj performed austerities and obtained siddhis in Siddhatek. The Lord is called Siddhi Vinayak (one who bestows Siddhis).
Shri Ballaleshwar at Pali
Among Ganesha temples, Ballaleshwar is the only name of Ganesha that is known by his devotee’s name. A merchant didn’t like his young son named Ballal worshipping Lord Ganesha neglecting his business. While in a deep state of contemplation on Lord Ganesha in the forest, Ballal was beaten, tied him to a tree in the forest by his father and went home. Lord Ganesha took form of a learned man, freed Ballal and healed all wounds. Ballal intuitively recognised the true form of Lord Ganesha and pleased by his devotion asked to what boon he wanted. Ballal requested the Lord to stay there permanently in the forest. Lord Ganesha disappeared and a black rock with Ganesha’s carved form appeared. This idol came to be known as Shri Ballaleshwar.
Shri Varad Vinayak at Mahad
Vachaknav Rishi was visited by a ruler by name Rukmangad, and during the visit the rishipatni got infatuated on the king, but he King turned her down. Indra, the king of the Devas took the form of the King Rukmangad and procreated an illegitimate son Grudsamad. The son, learning of the story of his birth got stricken by grief, and prayed to Lord Ganesha. His prayer was granted and was given a boon (var) due to which he became a renowned Rishi. Since a boon (var) was given at this place, Lord Ganesha came to be known by VaradaVinayak.
The festive season of Ganesh Chaturthi is here. All Ganesha devotees are busy celebrating the festival through the various pandals that have been set up across the city. While this is the case with most of the devotees, there is one such ardent devotee of Lord Ganesha who has been celebrating Lord Ganesha throughout the year for almost 40 years now. A special assistant at State Bank of India by profession, Hyderabad based Pabsetti Shekhar has been collecting Ganesha idols and many other forms of Ganesha since 1973. What started over a act of devotion at a juvenile age, slowly transitioned into passion. “Every child loves Lord Ganesha. It was the same with me. During the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, I used to take immense amount of interest in selecting the idol and setting it up at home,” recalls Shekhar, adding, “I would also spend a considerable amount of time sketching and making Ganesha idols using clay.”
A collector by nature — Shekhar has a collection of coins and pot-plants — the inclination towards collecting Ganesha idols began after a trip to Shiridi in 1973.
“After I saw a Plaster of Paris Ganesha idol at the Sai Baba temple, I was inspired and decided to compile a collection of different forms of Ganesha,” he shares.
Since then Shekhar has been regularly bringing home a large number Ganesha idols, posters, key chains, books and audio/video cassettes — constituting around 30,000 form of Ganesha — out of which 12,022 are Ganesha idols. And, for this, he has travelled to various places and countries across the world. “My collection is not only from India, but also other countries like — USA, Japan, China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and many others.”
Height of the idols vary from half-inch to 4.5 feet, while Shekhar has purchased some for a measly 50 paise to a whopping `50,000.
Apart from having an eclectic mix of Ganesha idols from around the world, Shekhar has also ensured that the materials used to make the idols have also been various. “The idols are made of different materials — from PoP, clay, gold and silver, to crystal, glass, marble, and many others. Apart from the ones I’ve purchased, I have also made some idols using clay, ceramic powder, m-seal, and many others,” shares Shekhar, who only believes in adding Ganesha idols to his collection, and not in the concept of immersion. “As a child, I used to get very upset when the Ganesha idol was taken to be immersed in a water body. That’s why I don’t believe in that and constantly keep adding to my collection, and not subtracting,” smiles Shekhar. His aspiration is to also keep the collection growing through the family, by involving his son in the hobby. “I wish that at least the next four generations of my family continue to follow this tradition,” he hopes.
While happy at his varied collection of his favourite deity, Shekhar has also received many laurels for his dedication and passion. His collection entered the Limca Book of Indian Records for three years — 2010, 2011 and 2012. He has also been a part of India Book of Records (2012), Unique World Records (2012), Everest World Records (2012) and Assist World Records (2012). “Now I am aiming to enter the Guinness Book of World Records,” says Shekhar confidently, who also aims to reach 1,00,000 from the almost 30,000 in his collection of idols, posters, key chains, cassettes, books and just about every other object.
Another pet project of the man is his book, titled Vishwa Vinayaka. Currently in the process of being compiled, Shekhar is on the look-out for sponsors and hopes that he can publish the book. “I have already written most of it. This book covers all the Ganesha temples in India and across the world. It also talks about the importance of Ganesha, and many other aspects of this God.” True to his devotion, he says he will use the funds generated from the sales of his book for charity.
In chasing material desires, fame and wealth, we lose connection with our inner selves.
Most of the time, we ask ourselves questions like: Am I really happy? Have I achieved all I can?
Ganesha tells you that happiness is a state of mind that is achieved when you are able to communicate with your inner self.
If you observe the Ganesha idol carefully, you will notice that while one of his feet rests on the ground, the other is neatly folded up. This symbolises a healthy balance of materialism and spirituality.
While it is impossible to let go of one’s material desires, it is important to maintain a healthy balance between one’s spiritual and material needs to lead a happy and content life.