By now, here in the twenty-first century, almost everyone has heard of or seen an image of Ganesha, one of the oldest and most beloved universal archetypes in history (and prehistory).
Ganesha is an innocent child, with the humility and wisdom of an elephant.
He represents the Son of God, the perpetual support and joy of his Mother. No task is too big for him as his powerful nature is the very basis of the whole universe. He is the purity and spontaneity in life, guiding the atoms to form Creation. He quietly brings good fortune to those who love and respect him and the universal Mother — the innocent and benevolent (children and kind-hearted persons). His humble but all-powerful nature makes him universally endearing.
Here is the legend of his birth:
One day in heaven, the Divine Mother of Creation, Parvati, was preparing for the wedding to Her eternal husband, God Almighty, Lord Shiva. Feeling shy and worried that Lord Shiva may try to enter the bathroom, She decided to create a son to protect the door. Being the Mother Earth, She was able to remove natural fragrant pastes from Her skin, which She then modeled into the shape of a child. Her creation sprang to life with absolute love and dedication for his Mother.
He stood guard outside Her bathroom door, and after a while Lord Shiva approached, insisting to be allowed in. The boy would not let him pass, explaining that he was following his Mother’s clear instructions. As Lord Shiva tried to force entry, the boy hit him with his stick, and the Lord departed in a fury.
Lord Shiva had an army of devoted angel-like servants, the ganas. He ordered them, and other divine entities, to remove the boy. They engaged him in battle, but were all easily defeated by the stick wielding child. Lord Shiva realized that this enemy could only be conquered through deception, so he made a plan to have him distracted. As others fought with the valiant boy, drawing his attention away, Lord Shiva came up from behind and cut off his head. There was big trouble for all when Mother found out!
Mother Parvati, in a fit of rage, unleashed Her female powers of destruction upon the hosts of heaven. But before irreversible damage could be done, Her husband and his friends asked for forgiveness, promising to do anything to make amends. Parvati decided to forgive them, insisting that they should immediately go out and take the head of the first animal they found, to restore Her son to life; and that the Lord should give him the highest position of authority in the hierarchy of heaven.
They soon found a wise, innocent elephant, who willingly offered his head for the son of the Goddess. When the boy was brought back to life, he was named Ganesha (Gana-Isa), master of all the divine helpers of Lord Shiva.
On another occasion, Mother Parvati told Ganesha and his younger brother Kartikeya — a very busy fellow who could travel quickly on his peacock — to see who could go around the world faster. The winner would receive the prize of a sweet nectar, delicious Amrit, prepared specially by Her. Kartikeya set out at high speed, confident of his victory.
Round, little Ganesha stood there meditating for a few minutes, then, in innocent certainty, walked lovingly around Mother. When he explained that She is the world, as the whole of Creation resides in Her heart, in its Creator, he was given the prize. This he happily enjoyed, sitting and giggling on Her lap.
Did you know?…
~ That his four arms represent the four valencies of the carbon atom, basis of all life;
~ That this form also exists on a subtle level as the four-petalled Mooladhara (support of the root) chakra (energy center) below the base of our spines, controlling the pelvic plexus;
~ That the four-petalled swastika is actually the ancient symbol of Ganesha’s innocent powers, also representing the Mooladhara chakra;
~ That a four-leaf clover is considered lucky because it is a symbol of this indestructible root of innocence in us;
~ That this innocence, expressed potently in nature and in babies, has a special coefficient that emits a primordial, subatomic ‘vibration’ which can be felt by the human nervous system as a cool breeze (emitting from the palms of the hands and the top of the head);
~ That the rounded shapes of cartoon characters are appealing to children because of that same principal that is shown in the non-angular shapes and movements of Ganesha;
~ That magnetism, gravity, and natural fragrances are also qualities of Ganesha;
~ That he is the valuable source of honesty, kindness and childlike dynamism in us;
~ That this essence called Ganesha can lift a person out of selfishness, fear and guilt complexes;
~ That Ganesha is so light, despite his huge size, that he travels on a tiny mouse (that also represents our wayward, harmful attention, which he helps guide);
~ That, residing at the very base of existence as its support, he protects and gives guidance through the subconscious;
~ That Ganesha transcends time;
~ That he personifies auspiciousness, prosperity and joy;
~ That Ganesha’s day is Tuesday, the beginning represented by the Mooladhara chakra and the planet Mars;
~ That, in some cultures, he is invoked to bless every new undertaking, and to supply focus and intelligence for education;
~ That his color is coral red;
~ That he is famous as the Remover of Obstacles;
Lord Ganesha has a large belly, representing blissful satisfaction. His royal crown and jewelry, and sometimes flower garlands, enhance his high, divine countenance and show his love for beauty. The coil on his stomach indicates the universal, motherly power of enlightenment, Kundalini, that is meant to rise up inside every human being from the sacrum bone to the fontanelle. If he is not sitting down in deep meditation, he is dancing merrily to his Mother’s great delight. He once broke off his left tusk to destroy evil, and then used it to write down the history of Creation. In his four hands he carries a tasty, divine sweet to nourish; a goad to protect and prod wayward souls onto the path of spiritual ascent; a noose to pull worthy souls up into enlightenment; and an open palm, pouring out the cool, life-giving Breath of God.
Ganesha statues by Brigitte Saugstad