Meaning of the owls in Hinduism, what happens

Ganesha: wisdom, prudence and a new beginning

Who is Ganesha?

Even if you are not particularly familiar with the Indian religions, you have come across Ganesha at some point. Perhaps not necessarily under this name, but most people are sure to be familiar with “the elephant god”. Ganesha is the god most loved and revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jaina and is unmistakable by his large elephant head, which is also responsible for his nickname.

He is considered the son of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva is one of the main gods in Hinduism and embodies the principle of destruction. Parvati, in turn, is worshiped as the mother goddess and is also considered the goddess of food.

Aside from an elephant's head, Ganesha has a man's body, a fat belly, and a child's legs. In addition, a broken tusk can be seen and he wears a snake around his huge belly. His eyes are small and penetrating. In the hands of his four arms he carries an ax, a rope, a candy and a lotus flower.

In artistic representations, however, its appearance is often interpreted freely, which is why they often differ from one another. So it happens that one free hand takes a sacred position, while the other three hands hold the ax, the lotus flower and a bowl of sweets. Ganesha is accompanied by a rat or mouse, which he uses as a mount.

What alternative names is Ganesha known by?

As already mentioned, Ganesha also bears the name "elephant god" or "elephant-headed god" due to its distinctive external appearance.

Further names supplemented by their respective meanings are:

  • “Ekadanta”: the one with the big tusk
  • “Ganapati”: Lord of the multitudes
  • “Vinavaka”: remover of obstacles
  • “Vighnesha”: Lord of Obstacles
  • “Varada”: the benefactor
  • “Siddhita”: the one who gives success at work

Meaning and symbolism of Ganesha

Ganesha is considered the god of the beginning, so he is often worshiped at the beginning of numerous rituals or ceremonies. It is said that no prayer, no start-up, no celebration can be crowned with success without first praying to Ganesha. On the one hand, this can remove any obstacles that may arise, but on the other hand it can also create new problems if it is not taken into account for important occasions. Marriage also represents a new beginning, so Ganesha is called at weddings to bless the new union. Most Hindu wedding invitations also show Ganesha as a small emblem.

The different parts of Ganesha's body each have their own symbolism and each represent a spiritual principle:

So his big ears and the huge head reveal his wisdom, which is acquired through hearing and thinking. So if the head of an elephant is on the body of a person, this speaks for the highest wisdom. Ganesha's trunk stands for the power of distinction and thus for his intellect, which is a consequence of his wisdom. Two tusks represent general opposites, such as joy and sorrow or day and night. However, Ganesha only has one tusk, which means that he has overcome duality. His large belly represents perfection, he is able to consume and absorb all experiences. The snake around his belly gives him strength and energy. Ganesha's small but clear and penetrating eyes can examine every object completely and in detail and also see the Spirit of God in everything that comes into their field of vision.

The four arms of Ganesha each have their own meaning and symbolize the four aspects of the subtle body:

  • ghost
  • intellect
  • ego
  • awareness

The objects that Ganesha holds in his hands represent the following:

  • The ax stands for the destruction of all desires and ties.
  • The catch rope serves to pull the seeker out of his worldly problems and to connect him with eternal happiness.
  • The candy represents the reward of the spiritual quest.
  • The lotus flower symbolizes enlightenment, which is the greatest goal of human evolution.

The often depicted holy position of a free hand grants the believer protection and blessing.

Ganesha is accompanied by a small mouse or rat. This embodies egoism as well as worldly desires and thus the cause of all suffering. The mouse or rat spends its life in the dark and steals. This can be compared to our consciousness, which lives in ignorance and is permanently preoccupied with material gains, which prevents us from achieving eternal peace.

However, by fully controlling his mount, Ganesha has overcome selfishness and worldly desires. He thus symbolizes the perfect human being. He uses his limited body as well as his feelings and thoughts, which in this case is represented by the mount, to convey the limitless truth which is embodied by Ganesha himself.

The origin of Ganesha and the reason for his elephant head

The Rig Veda, one of the oldest Hindu scriptures, begins with a greeting to Ganesha. This fact shows that he has been worshiped for over 7,000 years. Kundalini Yoga teaches that Ganesha is closely linked to the root chakra, which in turn represents the connection to the spiritual and divine power.

Different stories tell of Ganesha's birth. The most widespread belief is that his mother Parvati was alone for a long period of time because her husband Shiva had withdrawn into meditation. Parvati then decided to see to it that she had a son herself. While taking her daily bath, she formed Ganesha out of the dirt on her body with ointments, oils and water. It was then Ganesha's job to keep watch in front of the bathroom door. At that time he still had a human head.

However, when Shiva wanted to visit Parvati, the unknown Ganesha blocked his way. Shiva cut off his head out of anger. Parvati's grief over Ganesha's death was so great that Shiva promised her to bring the boy back to life and to put the head of the first living being he met on him. This was an elephant, which Shiva then cut off the head and attached it to Ganesha's body. Thus, Shiva not only brought Ganesha back to life, but was also viewed by him as a father from that point on.

Shiva appointed Ganesha to be the supreme leader of his armies and informed all the gods present that it will always be Ganesha who should be worshiped first and to be worshiped by all people in their great deeds.

The brother of Ganesha is Kartikeva, the god of war. It is not precisely determined whether he is older or younger.

In southern India, Ganesha is seen and revered as unmarried and living in celibacy. In northern India, however, people believe that he has two wives by his side. These are buddhi and siddhi, which represent knowledge and wealth. In some regions of India, however, buddhi is replaced by riddhi, which in turn means success.

The symbolism of the consorts says that by worshiping Ganesha one not only attains spiritual enlightenment, but also knowledge and prosperity or success.

Ganesha and the "milk miracle"

On September 21, 1995, milk was offered as an offering to a statue of the elephant god Ganesha in a suburb of the Indian capital Delhi during a ceremony. Eyewitnesses reported that the milk suddenly dissolved into nothing.

The news of this “miracle” quickly spread in India as well as within Indian communities around the world and people began to make pilgrimages to the Hindu temples by the thousands. There they discovered that the same thing happened everywhere: the milk offered to the Ganesha statues simply dissolved. It is the first time in history that the same “miracle” can be recorded around the world at the same time.

India was in a state of emergency. Public life stood still and the police tried desperately to control the crowds in front of the temples. The Indian government even closed its offices for a few hours, and stock exchange trading came to a complete standstill. In addition, numerous milk stores were bought empty within a few hours.

It was reported that the milk was neither poured out nor simply spilled, but rather could be seen as it was gently drawn from the container by an unknown force.

Journalists persistently tried to uncover an existing deception and began filming and photographing the phenomenon. Science behaved similarly, trying to explain the “miracle” with mass hysteria. The scientists tried to find a simple explanation for the incidents using the laws of physics, such as a runoff due to surface tension, an existing suction sponge effect or even capillary absorption.

It was amazing, however, that these events never happened again, either before or after. While most of the Ganesha statues did not show any unusual occurrences after just one day, with others the offered milk disappeared after a few days or even months. It was difficult to believe that the mass hysteria would gradually subside.

Various Hindu priests spoke out to the public, questioning that such a large number of people could be mistaken or would not notice if the milk merely leaked. Even the well-known television station CNN broadcast worldwide how several statues each “drank” a spoonful of milk within a few seconds without it being spilled.

The reporters were perplexed and found no logical explanation for the phenomenon. Possible mass hysteria also seemed to be a rather unsatisfactory theory.

Many Hindus explain the unusual incidents as a sign of the birth of a great teacher such as Jesus Christ or Lord Krishna. According to Hindu mythology, such miracles happen when a great soul enters the world. It is narrated that such a soul comes down to loosen the fetters of evil so that good may reign again.

What is its meaning in the Indian tradition?

Ganesha is still very popular with the Indian population, so he can be counted among the most important Hindu deities. His elephant head symbolizes the soul, the highest human reality, wisdom. His human body stands for the earthly existence of man. In one of his hands (he is usually depicted with four arms) he holds a sting with which he drives people on the eternal, obstacle-rich path. With the help of the noose in another hand, he grasps all difficulties and clears them away. Thanks to his large ears he can listen to people well, the snake he has tied around gives him energy. His love for desserts is shown in many depictions in the form of a bowl or bowl.

Ganesa writes the Mahabharat

The rat, which is considered a sacred animal in India, is the mount of Ganesha. As a faithful companion, she once again underlines the wisdom and skill of the Hindu god.

One of the oldest Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda, begins with an appeal and a greeting to Ganesha. This shows that his worship began at least 7,000 years ago.

According to the teaching of Kundalini Yoga, Ganesha is closely linked to the root chakra (Muladhara), which symbolizes the connection to the spiritual and to divine power.

What does the god Ganesha have to do with yoga?

The importance of Ganesha in yoga can be better understood with the help of a traditional story:

Ganesha was both an avid dancer and a complete yoga professional. Ganesha also loved sweets. However, he found it difficult to find a balance and, if necessary, to practice renunciation. When he was brought back many desserts as a gesture of admiration, he ate them up immediately. Then he went home with his mount. However, when his mount was suddenly startled by a snake, Ganesha threw it off, who then fell onto the road. His overflowing stomach jumped up and all the candy fell out. Ganesha quickly put it back and tied the snake around his stomach to close it.

Nobody saw this spectacle. However, the moon had to laugh so loudly at Ganesha that he became angry and uttered a curse, which said that the moon should never appear in the sky again.

The moon then apologized. The good-natured Ganesha realized that without the moon it would be too dark in the night and weakened the curse that had previously been uttered. From then on, the moon was only allowed to appear in its full size for a single day per cycle. Then it should slowly decrease and then increase again.

What Ganesha had to experience also becomes clear to us in yoga: All energy and everything in the world has two halves that are interdependent and balanced. Without the moon, the balance between day and night is lost, there is no light in the night that gives energy and gentleness.

This is exactly what the Crescent Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) is all about:

If you look carefully upwards, a good balance is crucial here, a balance between the body parts.

The lesson for yogis from this story is this:

Energy as well as all worldly things have two halves, which are dependent on each other and keep each other in balance. The moon gives energy and gentleness at night, without it there is no balance between day and night.

The Ganesha festival

Ganesh Charturthi is celebrated in August / September every year. This is the Ganesha festival, during which Hindus all over the world, but especially in Mumbai, make large Ganesha statues out of clay and symbolically feed them with coconuts, bananas or sweets and worship them with music. At the end of the Ganesha festival, these statues are carried to the sea or to a river in a solemn ceremony and sunk there. This also applies to the small Ganesha figures, which have their place in the house all year round on a plinth, above the door beam or in a corner of the room. By sinking the statues and figures, the figure of Ganesha, who came out of the earth, symbolically returns to the cycle of nature.

The Ganesh Charturthi is one of the most important Hindu festivals in which the believers invite a priest to their home so that he can hold a Ganesh Puja, a worship service. Also, people visit each other to wish each other good luck. Especially in rural areas, the children make little Ganesha figures at this time, which are set up in their own homes as well as on streets or public places and sunk with the other statues at the end of the festival.

In Germany the Ganesh Charturthi is called the birthday of the god Ganesha. It is followed by numerous other festivals in which autumn is celebrated with religious chants, but also modern music.

Ganesha mantras to listen to

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Robin Pratap

Robin is co-founder of ASANAYOGA.DE and writes regularly on topics that move the yoga community. With his Indian background, he came into contact with yoga at an early age. After studying Sustainable Development in India and England, his goal is to create an innovative platform for the exchange of knowledge for yogis.