GANESHA (JANMA) CHATURTHI
(DISCOURSE BY N.R.SRINIVASAN JULY 2011)
Siva was a recluse and a Sanyasi. He immersed himself in meditation and performed severe penance (Tapas) in the caves. His knowledge and energy was bottled in his body alone and was of no use to others. Parvati, the princess and daughter of Himavan attracted his attention by her enchanting beauty and extreme devotion and brought him out of his loneliness and married him. But the household of Shiva and Parvati stood divided. Shiva was not interested in a family; he came and went as he pleased and intruded in her privacy. Parvati decided to be a mother despite Shiva showing no interest. She anointed her skin with sandal-paste, scrapped off her skin with it, mixed it with clay and molded out of it a beautiful child. At her command Pancha-praanas (Life's vital forces) entered into the clay model and the outcome was a child with all the wisdom and beauty of Parvati. He at once was mature.
Parvati made her son her body-guard to keep watch over her cave and keep out all strangers. When Shiva returned to Kailasa, Parvati's son who has not seen his father failed to recognize his mother's consort and prevented him from entering the cave, while his mother was taking her bath. Troubled by the extra-ordinary strength and infuriated by the insolence of the child, Shiva cut off his head with his Trident which in the process got crushed beyond any recognition.
Parvati was struck with extreme grief and was furious seeing the headless body of her son. Yoginis came out of her tears who at once threatened to destroy the world. Even Shiva could not stop them. Shiva on the plea of Devas ordered his Ganas (attendants) to bring a head from any living creature soonest. They could only bring an elephant's head as commanded. Shiva resurrected the child by placing the elephant's head on the severed body. Parvati was not happy after seeing what happened to her beautiful son. Shiva consoled her by accepting him as his first son, named him Ganapati or Ganesha, recognizing him as the group leader for all his Ganas. Ganesha who had prevented Siva from crossing the threshold of his mother's cave became keeper of thresholds, an obstacle to all that is undesirable.
All the Gods and Devas watched this miracle birth of a divine child, Ayonija (born without a womb) on the 4th day (Chaturthi) of the bright half of Bhaadrapada (August-September). Brahma named him Vinaayaka and ordained that he should be worshipped first before anyone commenced any work. He gave a rosary and conferred immortality as his present to the child. Brihaspati, the divine Guru, invested Vinaayaka with the holy thread. Saraswati, Goddess of Learning, made Vinaayaka knowledge incarnate, Jnaanayogi and presented him with a bell. Lord Vishnu presented him with a vessel of ambrosia, nectar. Mother earth (Goddess of Earth) gave him her fast moving kid, mouse as his mount. Lord Shiva gave tiger skin and Parvati conferred longevity. Mahalakshmi endowed Vinaayaka with eightfold riches. Varuna (God of Water) gave him Paasa, noose. Vaayu (God of Wind) gave him a garland of Mandaara (bauhinia) flowers. Lord Indra gave him ankusha, a weapon. Vinayaka born of obstacles got the name Vighnewara, Lord of Obstacles though later he became popular as the "Remover of Obstacles", as he always blessed with success those who worshipped him at the beginning of any ritual or task.
We worship Ganesha with his elephant head with trunk curled gracefully over a pot-belly, four arms bearing his distinctive emblems of godhood and his portly figure mounted on a tiny mouse. This unique combination in the deity embodies the Power and the Wisdom of the elephant and the Agility of the mouse.
[This Ganesha (Janma) Chaturthi Vrata Katha is based on Shiva Puraana. May all those who read this or listen reap the blessings of Lord Ganesha on this Holy Day!]