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About Hindu God Ganapati – Mahaganapati, The First To Be Worshipped

This article is written by Dr. A V Srinivasan on the auspicious occasion of Ganapati festival. Ganapati or Ganesha is the remover obstacles in Hinduism and everything begins after offering prayers to him. 
There isn’t a Hindu who does not recognize instantly the most revered God Mahaaganapati. Irrespective of the region of India, irrespective of one’s special affiliation to any aspect of Hindu religion, Hindus offer their first prayer by invoking and worshipping Mahaaganapati, the Lord of obstacles, before any auspicious tasks are undertaken. Even westerners who have little exposure to Hinduism know the “elephant-headed” God. It is a common Hindu belief that the first prayers must be offered to Mahaaganapati seeking His blessings to proceed so that the rest of the mission may proceed smoothly and without incident. For example, most concerts of Indian classical music begin with a composition in praise of Mahaaganapati. Lord Ganapati occupies a very special place in the hearts of Hindus and it is rare indeed to find a Hindu household that does not have a picture or statue of this Godhead.
 There are some interesting stories that give us a glimpse of Ganapati in Hindu mythology. Once His mother Parvati asked Ganapati to guard the entrance to her apartments and admit no one while she took a bath. As it happens, Shiva, Ganapati’s father, showed up and proceeded to enter the house and the son would not allow even Shiva to come in as he was following orders from his mother. No amount of persuasion or threats helped and a furious Shiva cut off Ganapati’s head. A grief-stricken Parvati demands that Shiva find a way to restore the life of the young man who was after all obeying a mother’s orders. This led Shiva to instruct his staff to find anyone, human or animal, sleeping with the head in the southern direction, and to bring that head. As it happened an elephant was found and its head was duly severed and brought to Shiva. Shiva in turn positioned the elephant’s head on to the body of Ganapati and lo and behold the boy came alive and became the handsome elephant-headed God. A pleased Shiva appointed Ganapati head of the army and thus the name Ganaadhipati came about. 
 Another story pertains to a boon Shiva offered to grant to anyone of his two sons who would travel the three worlds and return first. Ganapati’s younger brother Skanda proceeded promptly to journey the three worlds while Ganapati, with folded hands and head bent in reverence, simply circumambulated Shiva three times, and declared to the utter delight of Maheshwara, that this circumambulation was in fact the equivalent of traveling the three worlds! 
 Who can ever forget the amusing way in which the great epic Mahabharata begins? It appears that the author Vyasa was looking for someone to act as a stenographer and write down the story as Vyasa recited the poem. He sought Brahma’s assistance in the matter who in turn suggested that Vyasa meditate on Ganapati. Ganapati appeared and put a condition that the poet must never stop until the end once the recital begins. Vyasa countered by asking Ganapati to make sure he understood the meaning of the shlokas composed before he wrote them down! This matching of wits between the two great personalities produced the nectar Mahabharata. 
 The majestic form of Ganapati with his handsome head, portly belly and a generous posture invokes enormous bhakti among Hindus. Every September a special festival is held throughout the Hindu world to make images of Ganapati in clay, color them in gold, yellow, pink and red, worship the same for ten days and at the end perform a visarjan by immersing the image in a body of water. The festival is especially popular in Maharashtra in the tradition begun by Lokamanya Balgangadhar Tilak. To this day, the festival takes place in grand style attracting millions to Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai. This religious fervor unites Hindus everywhere like no other festival has. 
 Worship of Mahaaganapati is a must for each Hindu household as it provides peace of mind by assuring that any worthwhile undertaking by the family is blessed to proceed without any obstacles.

Dr. Srinivasan’s latest publications include Hinduism for Dummies (Wiley, 2011), Hindu Weddings: The Guide (The White River Press, 2010), Vedic Weddings: Origins, Tradition and Practice (Periplus Line LLC, 2006) and Yaksha Prashna (Perilus Line LLC, 2000, released by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore). You can find more details about the author here at  www.avsrinivasan.com and www.indianweddings.us.com.