This week we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu deity who many of us will know or at least recognise as the beloved pot-bellied elephant-headed boy. This festival always falls around the end of August, beginning of September and has that ‘end of Summer’, ‘back to school’ feeling. Energies which align quite nicely with Ganesh as the ‘Lord of New Beginnings,’ the ‘Remover of Obstacles’ and the ‘Gatekeeper’ … which I’ll share more about shortly.
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves how the Hindu gods and goddesses are so much more than colourful beautiful mythical creatures to be worshipped. Each deity represents different aspects of consciousness and the different qualities of both light and shadow within each god or goddess are reflections of our own vast psyches and potential. Furthermore, the magic and mystery told in the myths and stories is woven with esoteric meaning and layered with ideas to help us explore the complexities of our lives and of reality.
Before we hear a favourite story from Ganesh’s life let’s explore some of the meaning and power that Ganesha carries…
Ganesh is, perhaps most famously, celebrated as the bearer of auspicious new beginnings and is traditionally invoked, at the start of puja ceremony, ritual, festivals and new endeavours, to receive blessings. His title as the ‘Remover of Obstacles’ carries a tantric twist in that we can’t call upon Lord Ganesha and simply expect him to remove the obstacles that we meet. Ganesh wants us to grow and yoga, tantra, and the ancient wisdom traditions and paths of spirituality, they also want us to grow. So Ganesh doesn’t just clear the path, he teaches us that when a challenge or obstacle arises it is also an opportunity to learn, to listen, to understand and to grow through the challenge – to discover the wisdom, strength and grace we carry within ourselves.
With his huge ears Ganesh hears the prayers of his devotees, but he won’t always give them what they ask for, rather he might actually place the obstacles needed for their greatest spiritual progress.
As the ‘Gatekeeper’, Ganesh is often seen sitting above the threshold or doorway of the entrance to a home for protection, however, he is not only the gatekeeper to the home. Esoterically, Ganesh is the energy which guards the altar of the goddess and is the gatekeeper of our root chakra, protecting where kundalini, our spiriutal energy, lies sleeping. Ganesh and the root chakra are also associated with the earth element and they connect us to steadiness, stability and the ground. In our body, the earth element is our bones and tissues and in that way Ganesh is also the body of the yogi. There is also a form of Ganesh with five heads which represent the 5 layers, or koshas, of the body. The physical body, the breath or energy body, the mental body, the wisdom body and the bliss body.
From the Tantric perspective our body is our temple and it is through the relationship and mastery of our body and our senses (Ganesh is also Lord of the senses or ganas) that we evolve and grow to our fullest potential.
We can work with the energy of Ganesh to cleanse and balance the root chakra and awaken Kundalini inside our body temple, and similarly when you arrive at the Hindu temples the first thing you also do is honour Ganesh. There is an ancient tradition to practice a gesture or mudra where you knock on your temples with your fists, cross your wrists, tug your ears and gently bend your knees three times. This is symbolic of the willingness to crack open of our ego and connect deeply within to hear the wisdom of our Soul and creating space for the goddess to bloom inside of us.
Now you know a few of the secrets of how Ganesh is woven of magic and mystery … let’s hear one short story about him and his brother Skanda that shares a little more of the depth of his pure Love and Wisdom ….
A RACE AROUND THE WORLD
Once upon a time, a very long long time ago, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati had been given a single divine golden mango fruit from the Gods. They were told that whoever ate the fruit will receive supreme knowledge and immortality. Shiva and Parvati’s two sons, Ganesh and Skanda, argued over who should have this fruit so Shiva stepped in with a solution and said that whoever could circle the world three times and come back first will get the fruit. Now Skanda, as the god of war and with a peacock as his vehicle, was a true warrior and took off immediately on the mission to be sure he would win. Ganesha, although he was the god of wisdom, learning and removing obstacles, knew that he was no match to Kartikeya in this race. With his huge belly and a slow moving mouse for his vehicle he couldn’t defeat his elder brother Skanda.
So Ganesha listened deeply inside and he applied his intuitive wisdom and intelligence to the situation and started circling his parents three times.
Shiva and Parvati asked him what he was doing and he replied that for him, his parents were the whole world and that the whole universe was within them so, he was circling the world. He was not using any logic to win the race, he really loved his parents and meant it, his world revolved around his parents and the other world which Skanda was circling was superficial to him.
Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were pleased with Ganesh’s argument and he received the blessings of his parents and won the divine fruit.
HARNESS THE ENERGY OF GANESH
What threshold are you at in your life?
We can call upon the energy of Ganesh to support our growth and to harness strength, steadiness and grace as we navigate obstacles and discover our potential.
Wear red to connect to the energy of the muladhara (root) chakra
Find a place in nature, amongst the elements
Light a candle and / or incense
Set a clear intention of what threshold you are ready to breakthrough
Chant the mantra ‘Om Maha Ganapataye Namaha’ 11 times
Sit quietly for some time with your attention resting gently on the breath.