NAMING CEREMONY OF MAN-ELEPHANT GOD
(DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN—AUGUST 2011)
Ganesha Chaturthi falls on 4th day (Chaturthi) of the bright fortnight of Hindu calendar Bhadrapada (August-september. It is customary to celebrate his birthday for ten days. It is also customary to worship a clay icon for ten days and on the last day after concluding the final worship a warm send of is given. The dieity is then immersed (Visarjana) in water. Two things need deep thinking on this day.
First of all why is his births day not called Ganesha Janma Chaturthi while we call the recently celebrated Krishna's birthday as Krishna Janma Ashtami? Both are worshiped as Bala Ganesha and Bala Krishna (Child deities). Probably his devotees claim he is much ancient to Krishna and so closer to Rama whose birthday is celebrated as Rama Navami and not Ram Janma Navami! But Puranas say Lord Ganesha is Krishna (probably reborn) Himself! One Purana says when Sani looked at Krishna in the human form at his birth, Krishna's head got separated and flew away towards devas and got grafted with an elephant's head later. If this is true this could have solved the ninth Avatara controversy too! You may recall the discourse "Is it Buddha or Bauddha or None?" Probably Saivites did not like his being an Avataar of Vishnu though they made "Suklambharadaram" sloka apply to him. May be Janma is inappropriate in his case as he was Ayonija (not womb-born) but created by the power of Parvati! But Rama was born with full maturity of ten months' development in the womb and so his birthday could have been called Janma Navami.
Everybody calls this day Ganesh Chaturthi and not Ganapati Chaturthi or Gajaanana Chaturthi. Therefore his naming ceremony should have decided on the name as Ganesha. Parvati seemed to have not decided on his name at the instance of his creation. Probably his pet name seems to be Ganapati as Maharashtrians affectionately call him "Ganapati Bappa Moria"! Probably Maharashtrians think his name Ganapati because in his Shanmatas, Sankara called the worship of this deity as Ganapatya. Probably by now you all know that Sankara lived from 509 B.C.E to 477 B.C.E. according to Jagadguru Chandrasekharanada Saraswati of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham and not 788 A.D. to 820 A.D. as we had learnt in history. So this name Ganpathi should have existed even before temple concept was developed and so ancient.
But Ganapati is still more ancient name, even prior to Sankara, nothing to do with Ganesha of modern concept. Ganapati, Vedic deity of Ganapati Brahmansopati of Rigveda got metamorphosed into the deity Gajavadana-Ganesha-Vighneswara later. Ganapati is metomorphosed from the Brihaspati-Marud Gana deities of Veda. Even Siva and Vishnu are metamorphosed forms of Rudra and Indra as we know. Durga and Uma the Vedic deities Metamorphosed to be the beautiful bride of Siva, Parvati in Puranas who is always seen with her sola-singar (16 beauty aids) in temples. She spent more time with Siva in Bengal and therefore had four kids--Ganesha, Kartikeya, Lakshmi and Sarasvati unlike in other parts of India.
Probably Gajanana should have been his Namakarana (naming) as seen from his descriptions in Ganesha Atharvaseersha ! But here again Spiritual scholars will say one can't be too materialistic? In spiritual sense Ga=gati; Ja==Jnaana. Hence Gajaanana means God from whom the worlds have come out and towards whom they are progressing to be ultimately dissolved in Him. Moudgila Purana and Ganapatya Atharvaseersha Upanishad glorify Ganesha as Brahman. Therefore Gajavadana could be his name during his namakarana as it fulfills both the aspirations of religious followers and spiritual seekers.
During 16-steps Pooja to Ganesha following Mantras are chanted from the above Upanishad; by the way our temple in Nashville calls him Ganesha.
Ganesha Gayatri in this text is:
"Eka dantaaya vidmahe vakratundaaya dheemahi | tannoe dantih prachodayaat ||
The second mantra that is chanted is:
"namoe vraatapataye namoe ganapathaye namah pramathapataye namastestu lambodaraaya ekadantaaya vighna-naasine sivasutaaya varadamoortaye namah ||
These mantras therefore aptly suggest Gajavadana is the right name from the description found before this last mantra above in Ganapaty-atharva-seershoepanishat and probably could be the appropriate name at his Namakarana ceremony. When he was brought to life after initial beheading he was Gajaanana. He was blessed to be Ganesha or Ganapati, leader of the group by Siva later to appease Parvati who would not compromise for anything less as he was her only creation after having failed to beget a son from Lord Siva. It is logical to assume that these Mantras should have been later sung when he assumed the role of Ganapati. Later Siva created Subrahmanya who was also Ayonija (not womb born). Ganesha and Ganpati were titles given to him based on the authoritative blessings given by Lord Siva while Gajanan is the name based on his description which incidentally also means Brahman. Gajanana is also the Vyahriti of Brahman as indicated in Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad which we will discuss later.