Ganesha is one of yoga’s most loved deities. The image of the elephant headed god can be seen throughout southern and southeast Asia. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists alike.
Ganesha is depicted with one broken tusk. It’s said that while Ganesha was transcribing the epic poem, the Mahabharata, his feather pen broke. He then broke off his tusk in order to be able to continue writing.
Ganesha is a popular figure in Indian art. Over time, images of Ganesha have adapted and changed. He can be seen standing, dancing, fighting, sitting on an elevated seat, and even playing with his family as a boy.
There are many stories about Ganesha. From transcribing the Mahabharata, to the story of how he came to ride a mouse as his mount. But one of the most famous stories about Ganesha is that of his birth.
Our story begins with a love story between Shiva - god of destruction & one of the gods of the Trimurti, and Shakti - the divine cosmic feminine, responsible for creation & change, known for destroying demonic forces & restoring balance. In this story, Shakti takes human form - incarnated as Sati.
Sati is born to the great king Daksha. Her father wishes she would marry a great prince, but Sati refuses every suitor. She leaves her father’s kingdom to meditate in the forest - devoted to the god Shiva.
Shiva finds her meditating in the forest & falls in love with her. They are so happy together & decide to get married. But Sati’s stubborn father doesn’t approve of the blue, dreadlocked, god of destruction.
Daksha, the king, decides to hold a HUGE party for the entire kingdom - everyone is invited - except Sati & Shiva. Sati is enraged. Against Shiva’s counsel, she shows up to the party uninvited. Her father completely ignores her - which further enrages & humiliates her. She gets so angry, that in her rage she throws herself into the ceremonial fire, killing herself.
When Shiva finds out that his love is gone, he is maddened with grief. He incarnates into Virabhadra - the warrior - & shows up at the party.
Virabhadra finds Daksha. He grabs his bow, takes aim, pulls back the bow. & releases an arrow that kills him.
Shiva instantly regrets killing Daksha. It doesn’t make him feel better. It doesn’t bring back his love. His grief is overwhelming & all consuming. He leaves society, goes into the forest, sits in meditation & mourns his lost love Sati for centuries.
Sati, touched by a god, is reborn as a goddess. She incarnates into Parvati with the love of Shiva already in her heart. She is powerful, radiant, & fierce in her love & devotion.
With the help & sacrifice of Kama, the god of love and desire, Parvati is able to awaken Shiva from his meditation. When Shiva realizes who Parvati is, their love is instantly rekindled.
Shiva often leaves Parvati alone for months at a time while he dances in the forest as Nataraja. He dances universes into creation & destruction. And while that’s very exciting for him, Parvati is alone and kind of bored.
One of these times while Parvati is alone & Shiva is away, she molds some clay into the shape of a little boy. She sits and admires her artwork - he is absolutely perfect. He’s so beautiful & so lifelike that she decides to breathe life into him.
Parvati orders her new son to guard the palace door so she can relax & take a bath. He does exactly as he’s told. He does such a great job at guarding that he doesn’t let Shiva into his own home. We’ve already seen a taste of Shiva’s quick temper… but Shiva is trying really hard to be patient today.
Instead of just removing the kid himself, he orders his Ganas - fierce warriors - to remove him. But this kid was created by the hands of a goddess and he firmly stands his ground. He defeats each of the Ganas one by one without allowing anyone through the door.
Shiva loses patience. The kid is in the way - so he beheads him.
Parvati, after hearing all of the commotion from the bath, rushes out to find her beloved boy without a head. She takes one look at Shiva - and Shiva realizes his mistake.
He zooms out into the forest & searches for the first suitable head he can find to replace the boy's head & bring him back to life. It happened to be the head of an elephant.
The boy is brought back to life & given the name Ganapataye/Ganapati - leader of the Ganas. He is commonly called Ganesha. He becomes the Remover of Obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences; and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions.
Ganesha is known & loved for his childlike qualities. His energy is so light that his mount is a mouse. His belly is big - big enough to digest all of life’s problems. & though he is most widely known as remover of obstacles - he will also PLACE obstacles in your way to help you course correct.
This mild-mannered, yet powerful god is a friend for all journeys. Invoke Ganesh when you’re beginning something new, at the start of an important project to help remove obstacles, when you need a little wisdom, and when you’re taking on a creative project.
Om gam ganapataye namaha