What is the Significance of Ganesha’s Names and Forms?

Lord Ganapati
The great message of Ganapati Knowledge of the seer and the seen is the great message of Ganapati, whose advent we are celebrating today. ‘Ga’ means Buddhi (intelligence). 'Na' means Vijnana (wisdom). 'Pati' means master. So, Ganapati is the master of all knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. There is also another significant meaning for the word, that He is the Leader of all the Ganaas who are celestial. He is also called Vinayaka, which term means that he is one who has no master above Him. He is the Supreme master. He is beyond the mindless stare. One who has stilled the mind cannot have any master. 

Without understanding this truth, we think of the physical form of Vinayaka with the elephant head and human body. Whenever people want to commence any undertaking or start learning music or the fine arts or any branch of knowledge, they first offer worship to Vinayaka. 

He is also called Lambodara, which means Guardian of Wealth - Lakshmi Svarupa. Here Lakshmi represents all wealth and prosperity and not only Dhanam (money) for which there is a separate deity called Dhanalakshmi, one of the eight Lakshmis. Here wealth means Sukha and Ananda (pleasure and bliss). What is the use of having all other things when one has no pleasure or bliss? 

Ganapati endows us with supreme intelligence 

Ganapati is one who gives us spiritual potency and endows us with supreme intelligence. These two are termed as Siddhi and Buddhi respectively. Siddhi and Buddhi are described as his two consorts. As He is the Adhipati (master) of Siddhi and Buddhi, he is regarded as their husband in mundane terms. Vinayaka has no desire and hence there is no need for Him to have wife and children. He is worshipped by people in this country since very ancient times. There is historic evidence that the worship of Vinayaka has been in vogue even in other countries such as Thailand, Japan, Germany and U.K. 

Adoration of Vinayaka as Prathama Vandana (First deity to be saluted) has been mentioned in the Vedas. Ganapati Tatva finds a place in the Vedas and Upanishads. Reference to Him is made in the Gayatri also. He is one who instils purity in body, and fearlessness in the mind. It is said, ‘Tanno Dantih Prachodayaat’, giving importance to his tusk. Some people, out of ignorance, comment upon the big animal form of this Primal Deity and question how one with such a huge form can ride on a small Mushika (mouse) which is depicted as His vehicle. Mushika is symbolic of the darkness of ignorance, while Ganesha signifies the effulgence of Wisdom that dispels the darkness of ignorance. 

Significance of steam-cooked offering 

Even the offering that is made to Ganesha has great significance because it is prepared with gram flour and jaggery or pepper and enclosed in an outer covering made form flour paste and then cooked in steam without using oil. This is supposed to be a healthy and delicious food item according to the Ayurvedic system. Modern doctors also recognise the importance of such steam-cooked idlis (rice cakes) which they recommend as post-operative diet for patients as it is easily digestible. Jaggery too has the property of controlling gas formation and this food item gives relief from eye troubles and prevents gastric disorders. 

In the ancient traditional mode of observing these festivals, great emphasis was laid on good health as the pre-requisite for spiritual pursuits with a healthy mind. For achieving the four goals of human life – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha (Righteousness, Wealth, Desire and Liberation), one should have basically a healthy body. If you want to earn wealth by righteous means and cherish desires which lead to liberation, you should have sound health. 

Vinayaka is also called Vighneshvara as He removes all obstacles coming in the way of devotees who pray to Him sincerely. He is worshipped by students with books so that all that is contained in the books may get into their heads. Now-a-days people are only after Dhanam (money). Whatever scholarship one may attain, whatever power and position one may enjoy, one cannot be happy without the peace of mind that is got by pure devotion. One may have immense physical strength, one may pursue the path of meditation and penance, one may acquire profound knowledge, but all these attainments will be of no avail unless one acquires knowledge of the eternal – Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahma. 

Symbolic significance of elephant head 

The symbolic significance of Ganesha's elephant head has to be properly understood. The elephant has profound intelligence. For example, yesterday Sai Geeta, (Bhagavan's elephant) came running when it heard the sound of Swami's car approaching. Though many cars were following Swami's car, Sai Geeta could unmistakably identify Swami's car from an uncanny recognition of the sound of the car. That is why it is termed Gaja Thelivi (elephant intelligence). One having a sharp brain is described as having the intelligence of an elephant. It has Medha Shakti. Moreover, the elephant has large ears and it can hear even minute sounds. Shravanam (hearing the glory of the Lord) is the first step in spiritual Sadhana for which ears should be sharp. After hearing one has to ruminate over this and put it into practice which are termed as Shravana, Manana and Nidhidhyasana. The elephant takes the Dushana and Bhushana (praise and blame) equally. When it hears something bad, it moves its body this way and that way and shakes off the unwanted things while it retains goods things quietly. Only Vinayaka reaches the lessons that are essential for mankind. You should not stop with installing the idol and doing Puja for a few days. You should make efforts to become a Nayaka or Master over yourself. You have the nine-fold path of devotion. Shravanam (hearing), Keertanam (singing His glory), Vishnu Smaranam (thinking of and chanting the name), Paada Sevanam (serving at His feet), Vandanam (obeisance), Archanam (worship), Dasyam (serving Him as a servant serves the Master), Sakhyam (befriending God), Atma Nivedanam (surrendering body, mind and soul). The elephant signifies combining of the first and the last, that is Shravanam and Atma Nivedanam, so that all the other paths in between are covered fully. 

When a man is born he does not have round his neck any necklace of pearls or gems or any possessions. But he is endowed by Brahma with the garland of the effects of his past actions, good or bad, which hangs invisibly around his neck. If you do good you will enjoy good results and if you are bad you will not escape suffering the consequences thereof. 

The lessons of sacrifice that Vinayaka taught 
Lord Ganapati writing the Mahabharata as Sage Vyasa dictates
The teaching of Vinayaka is one of sacrifice. You may not heed the contents of the Puranas, but you should not miss the vital principles which they convey to mankind. When Vinayaka was writing the Mahabharata to the dictation of Sage Vyasa, the latter laid down the condition that Vinayaka should go on writing non-stop whatever Vyasa said. But Vinayaka also stipulated a condition that Vyasa should never stop his dictation but should go on without a break. While he was writing, Vinayaka's pen broke and he did not hesitate to break one of his tusks to use it as a pen. That is why he is called Ekadanta or one with a single tusk. This is a shining example of the spirit of sacrifice that Vinayaka exhibited for the welfare of humanity. That is why the Vedas proclaim that it is only by sacrifice one can attain immortality. 


Source: Divine Discourse on September 9, 1994, Prasanthi Nilayam

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