During my yoga class at Peak Athletic last week, I noticed a necklace that one of my regular yoginis was wearing. It was an oval silver medallion with an image on it. It first I thought that perhaps it was an image of Buddha, but as I caught a better glimpse of it, I discounted that and thought that it may be Patanjali or Ganesha. After class, she confirmed that it was indeed a representation of Ganesha. Here is some info on Ganesha
The elephant-deity riding a mouse — has become one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. This not only suggests the importance of Ganesha, but also shows how popular and pervasive this deity is in the minds of the masses. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations. Although he is known by many other attributes, Ganesha’s elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom. He is honoured at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies and invoked as Patron of Letters during writing sessions. Several texts relate mythological anacdotes associated with his birth and exploits and explain his distinct iconography.
Ganesha emerged a distinct deity in clearly recognizable form in the 4th and 5th centuries CE, during the Gupta Period , although he inherited traits from Vedic and pre-Vedic precursors. His popularity rose quickly, and he was formally included among the five primary deities of Smartism (a Hindu denomination) in the 9th century. The five prime Hindu deities include Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha and Durga.
While Ganesha is popularly considered to be the son of Shiva and Parvati, the Puranic myths relate several different versions of his birth. These include versions in which he is created by Shiva, by Parvati, by Shiva and Parvati, or in a mysterious manner that is later discovered by Shiva and Parvati.
Hindu Mythology presents many stories, which explain how Ganesha obtained his elephant head. Often, the origin of this particular attribute is to be found in the same anecdotes which tell about his birth. The stories also reveal the origins of the enormous popularity of his cult. Devotees sometimes interpret his elephant head as indicating intelligence, discriminative power, fidelity, or other attributes thought to be had by elephants. The large elephant ears are said to denote wisdom and the ability to listen to people who seek help.
Decapitation by Shiva.
The most well-known story is probably the one taken from the Shiva Purana. Once, while his mother Parvati wanted to take a bath, there were no attendants around to guard her and stop anyone from accidentally entering the house. Hence she created an image of a boy out of turmeric paste which she prepared to cleanse her body (turmeric was used for its antiseptic and cooling properties), and infused life into it, and thus Ganesha was born. Parvati ordered Ganesha not to allow anyone to enter the house, and Ganesha obediently followed his mother’s orders. After a while Shiva returned from outside, and as he tried to enter the house, Ganesha stopped him. Shiva was infuriated at this strange little boy who dared to challenge him. He told Ganesha that he was Parvati’s husband, and demanded that Ganesha let him go in. But Ganesha would not hear any person’s word other than his dear mother’s. Shiva lost his patience and had a fierce battle with Ganesha. At last he severed Ganesha’s head with his trishula (trident). When Parvati came out and saw her son’s lifeless body, she was very angry and sad. She demanded that Shiva restore Ganesha’s life at once. Unfortunately, Shiva’s trishula was so powerful that it had hurled Ganesha’s head very far off. All attempts to find the head were in vain. As a last resort, Shiva approached Brahma who suggested that he replace Ganesha’s head with the first living being that came his way which lay with its head facing north. Shiva then sent his celestial armies to find and take the head of whatever creature they happened to find asleep with its head facing north. They found a dying elephant which slept in this manner, and after its death took its head, attaching the elephant’s head to Ganesha’s body and bringing him back to life. From then on, he was called Ganapathi, head of the celestial armies, and was to be worshipped by everyone before beginning any activity.
Significance of the Ganesha Form.
He has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. Ganesha’s head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. In his upper right hand Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha’s left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties. The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse.
According to Kundalini yoga, Ganesha resides in the first chakra, called Muladhara (mūlādhāra). Mula means “original, main”; adhara means “base, foundation”. The muladhara chakra is the principle on which the manifestation or outward expansion of primordial Divine Force rests. Ganesha has a permanent abode in every being at the Muladhara. Ganesha holds, supports and guides all other chakras.
Ganesha is worshipped on many religious and secular occasions; especially at the beginning of ventures such as buying a vehicle or starting a business. K.N. Somayaji says, “there can hardly be a [Hindu] home [in India] which does not house an idol of Ganapati. Ganapati, being the most popular deity in India, is worshipped by almost all castes and in all parts of the country”. Devotees believe that if Ganesha is propitiated, he grants success, prosperity and protection against adversity.
Ganesha is a non-sectarian deity, and Hindus of all denominations invoke him at the beginning of prayers, important undertakings, and religious ceremonies. Dancers and musicians, particularly in southern India, begin performances of arts such as the Bharatnatyam dance with a prayer to Ganesha. Mantras such as Om Shri Ganeshāya Namah (Om, salutation to the Illustrious Ganesha) are often used. One of the most famous mantras associated with Ganesha is Om Gam Ganapataye Namah (Om, Gam, Salutation to the Lord of Hosts).
ganesa mantra chanted by Cheryl Hall (http://www.davesastangayoga.com)
Each yantra contains different frequencies and energy patterns. During meditation the mind gets in tune with the power resonating from the energy of a particular yantra and gets amplified. All yantras have certain basic elements like an infinite point (Bindu), triangle (Trikona), a six pointed star (Shatkona), a circle (Chakra), the square (Bhupura) and the lotus (Padma). Their different combinations are used to represent various deities. Yantras are used for various reasons for example; to possess wealth one uses Mahalaxmi Yantra, Kubera Yantra, Shri Yantra, Shubh Labh Yantra etc. To maintain good health, yantras like Mahamritunjaya, Surya, Mangal etc. are popularly used. The Ganesh Yantra is used for prosperity.
The Ganesha yantra creates internal balance. The bhupur (eight dimensional square) is in viridian green, a very balancing color. Meditation on this color produces red, bringing inspiration to the sadhaka. The eight-petaled lotus is the octave of prakriti : the 5 elements plus the 3 gunas. The sixpointed star brings balance between the male and female energies. It is placed uon an upward pointing triangle that represents the amrit. The point (bindu) in the middle is Ganesha. It is the main object of the meditation: everything around it points towards it. It must be made of a radient gold color.
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