Ganesh, The adorable and adaptable one, arrives
At the end of the great deluge and the dissolution of the Universe, there was total darkness, a long night that lasted for millions of years. Suddenly, there emerged the sound ‘Aum’, followed by a soft light. A new age was born, the Shwetavaraha Kalpa, and along came a new Sun. Creation is eternal. The Supreme Being called the Trinity and asked Brahma to create a new universe.
Ganesh is as ancient as our civilisation. A Harappan seal of an elephantheaded composite image; a Rig Vedic address to Brihaspati as‘Ganaanaam tvaa ganapatim havaamahe’; the Taittiriya Aranyaka Dantin with the twisted trunk, holding a sheaf of corn, sugarcane, and a club; and finally, a 1200 BCE plaque from Luristan in Iran, of an elephantheaded figure dressed as a warrior, holding a sword and snake in one hand, a quill in the other and a trident beside him, include the various attributes of Ganesh.
As Ganesh, or Ganapati, he is the leader of the ganas, with a twisted trunk, holding a sheaf of corn and sugarcane and the quill with which he wrote the Mahabharat at Vyasa’s dictation. He is the son of Shiv, bearer of the trident, and wears the snake as his belt. As Vighneshwar, he removes obstacles, just as the elephant does in the forest. As Vinayak he is the Supreme Head. As Pillaiyaar, he is the noble child of his parents Shiv and Parvati. As Ekadant, he has a single tusk. There are 32 forms and names of Ganesh, each with a combination of attributes and a unique description.
All auspicious events begin with a prayer to Ganesh, who prevents mishaps, and removes all obstacles as Vinayak.
While most Hindu icons are ruled by shastraic canons, Ganesh is the most adaptable. His images may be found beneath a tree, in a large temple, or where two roads meet at a dead-end. Sometimes his icon is beautifully carved. At Badami in Karnataka, he is a child dancing happily, but often a triangularshaped stone, or even a small pyramid of turmeric may represent Ganapati.
There is a tree near my house with a trunk-like protrusion, which has become a symbol of Ganesh. He is most adaptable, with child-like qualities which make him popular.
Ganesh Chaturthi symbolises the deity’s rebirth. According to legend, goddess Parvati created a boy from the dirt of her body and gave him life, with instructions to guard her chamber. Shiv became angry when stopped by this unknown child and cut off his head. When a furious Parvati threatened to destroy the world, Shiv fixed the head of an elephant on Ganesh’s body to appease her. Thus, Ganesh was born.
Images of Ganesh are installed in homes and public pandals to the chanting of Vedic hymns. And when these images are immersed, in the family well on the third day in South India, or in the sea on the 10th day of Ananta Chaturdashi in Maharashtra, and they get dissolved, Ganesh is said to return to his heavenly abode.
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