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Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular and beloved gods in the Hindu mythology. Ganesha is a combination of two Sanskrit words, Gana and Ish. Ish means a deity or god in Sanskrit language and Gana means a community or a group. Thus Lord Ganesha is considered to be the leader of the clan or the masses. He symbolically represents success and prosperity. Known by many divine names like – Vigneshwar, Lambodhara, Vinayaka,Gajanana, ModakaPriya etc. he also represents supreme spiritualism.
Each of his physical traits is symbolic of something worthy and holds great significance in the modern day scenario. His elephant head represents wisdom and intelligence as elephants are known to be very intelligent creatures. His large flappy ears mean that a person should hear all. As we all know that the trunk of an elephant has the ability to pick up a needle and even cause the greatest destruction. This means that a person should understand the importance of balance in life and should channelize their strength in a proper direction so that it yields fruitful results and does not get wasted. His eyes are typical elephant eyes. They perceive each object bigger than it usually is. This is a symbolic representation that we all should look at our fellow beings with humility and respect and never consider anyone less able.Ganesha has four hands and in each one he holds something, in one hand he holds a lotus flower which is the epitome of enlightenment, in the other he holds an axe or a hatchet. An axe represents the dact that the accumulated good and bad deeds, our karma and all other bonds of attachment and suffering are cut away when there is enlightenment in our lives. The third hand is always in the ashirwad position which means that Lord Ganesha is always blessing and taking care of his devotees and followers. In his fourth hand he holds modaks (his favourite sweet). Although Lord Ganesha holds modaks he never eats them himself, and as we say that a tree never consumes its own fruits. It is a symbol of sharing.
Out of the two tusks, one of his tusks is broken which leaves him with only one tusk, that’s why the name – Ekdanta. Different legends behind it. One of them states that once the moon was mocking at lord Ganesha, he got very angry, broke one of his tusks and threw it at the moon. In all his pictures he is seen holding the broken tusk as a pen which represents sacrifice of the greatest order. Religious experts say that Lord Ganesha broke one of his tusks to write the epic scripture – the Mahabharata. Ganesha’s vehicle is the rat which represents speed and has the ability to reach each and every corner of the world. But we all know that rats also represent greed because they keep chewing and nibbling whatever is available to them and their teeth also keep growing throughout. In today’s world our senses/ needs are compared to the rat because like the rat the human needs are also never satisfied. Lord Ganesha rides the rat and controls it, in the same way a wise person has the ability to ride on his own senses and knows how to keep them under control. In another sense we can see the great contrast in the size of Lord Ganesha and his vahana, which depicts that he being a god is humble enough to ride a teeny – weeny rat.
Lord Ganesha the son of Lord Shiva (the epitome of force and power) and goddess Parvati (the mother of the entire universe), strikes a perfect balance between body and spirit/ soul.
Be it his elephant head, his pot belly or his trunk, he is proud of his physical appearance. This reflects that it is the inner beauty that matters in life and not the physical appearance of an individual. If your heart and soul are clean you surely would look beautiful. His humility is something that should be learnt by one and all today. Never be proud of your beauty or brain, instead be thankful to god for bestowing his blessings upon you. Om Ganeshaya Namaha itself means that in whatever we do let your wisdom be our guiding light that leads us on to the path of truth and prosperity.
A vahana is vehicle or a carrier. In Hindu mythology all gods and goddess’ have vahanas which are usually animals or even birds. Every god has a different vahana and it should be noted that all vahanas have specific symbolism. Most of the times they become a part of the identity of the god, thus they hold a great importance.
Lord Ganesha’s vahana is the teeny – weeny mouse/rat. The elephant head god symbolizes success and prosperity and destroys all negativity and obstacles. In contrast his vahana, the mouse is very small in size and even then it carries Lord Ganesha with full care and respect. Elephants are considered to be powerful and this comparison is often made with Lord Ganesha. He is known to be chubby, his pot belly, big flappy ears and trunk are all a part of his identity. But mice are supposed to be fast, can find their way through nooks and crannies and most importantly have the ability to gnaw their way through most things.It represents that Lord Ganesha would destroy all the obstacles and worries in the devotees lives. Lord Ganesha and is vahana are the two extremes in case of size and even then they are a perfect match.
There are various stories on how Lord Ganesha got his vahana.
Once while Lord Ganesha was still a naughty child, a big mouse started troubling him and all his friends. The brave heart Ganesha trapped the big mouse with his lasso and mounted on him. But it is believed that the mushika (Lord Ganesha’s mouse) was originally a celestial musician. He absent-mindedly walked over a saint’s feet and in that fit of anger the saint cursed him to be transformed to a mouse. Slowly the saint’s anger receded and he promised the mouse that one fine day the gods would themselves bow down before him. The saint’s promise saw light when the mouse crossed Lord Ganesha’s path. Since then Lord Ganesha and rats are closely connected and in all his pictures, The Lord is seen with his vahana.
The next legend also talks about how Lord Ganesha’s got his vahana. We all know that when Ganesha was a child he was very naughty and was always up to some or the other mischief. His mischiefs would drive his mother, goddess Parvati crazy. Ganesha would often be seen running around the mountains or chasing his friends but Lord Kartikeya (his brother) was just the opposite. He was rather quiet and calm and that’s one reason that he would take their father’s messages to all other gods. Lord Kartikeya would mount on his vahana, the peacock and would take his father’s messages far and wide throughout the kingdom. Seeing this, Lord Ganesha said to his mother that even he needs a vahana like his brother. Goddess Parvati explained it to him that keeping a vahana is not an easy job since you have to take care of the animal. She thought that if Ganesha got a vahana it would be an added duty for her to handle the vahana as well, so she tried to convince Ganesha to drop the idea of having a vahana. But as we all know once Ganesha decides to get something then it is impossible for him to not think about it. He started crying and thumping his feet in anger. Lord Shiva was meditating nearby and due to all the noise and chaos his meditation got disturbed. He opened his eyes with anger and looked around. Parvati ji trembled by looking at the anger in her husband’s eyes and started praying that he does not do something destructive. Lord Shiva smiled and asked Lord Ganesha to come near him. He held his son and said that son I know the perfect vahana for you. He got the rat that had been troubling him during his meditation since the past many days and told his son that from today your vahana would be this rat. Lord Shiva knew that the two naughty lovable brats would love each other’s company and would play around the entire day. And since the new friends would be busy with each other, Lord Ganesha would not trouble Parvati as well which solved her problem as well. And as expected, Lord Ganesha became a close friend of his companion ever since.
In modern day scenario it is elephant like power and wisdom (symbolic of Lord Ganesha) and mouse like hard work and persistence (symbolic of the rat) that would lead to success and a fruitful future.The society at large would prosper only when the leaders would be wise and the masses would appreciate that wisdom and put in their best efforts to make sure that the leader’s wisdom does not go waste. There needs to be a harmonious coexistence and without mutual respect nothing would be possible. The relationship of Lord Ganesha and his vahana is an example for all; it goes beyond size and is based purely on faith and love. If the same principle is followed in the society it would lead to kindness and companionship.