Ganesha is the Hindu god with the body of a human and the head of an elephant. He is an extremely popular God, worshiped by many Hindu before the start of any venture. He is a god of knowledge, art, and literature. Often called "Lord of and destroyer of obstacles".

The most popular story of Ganesha is derived from the Shiva Purana. According to the story Parvati formed Ganesha of dirt from her body. She then asked him to stand guard at the door, while she took a bath.

While she was taking her bath, Shiva returned home. Ganesha refused to allow Shiva to enter the home. This angered Shiva and so Shiva cut off the boy's head and disposed of it.

When Parvati came out of her bath and found this she was very sad. She explained to Shiva who Ganesha was. Shiva then ordered his troops to go out and bring him the head of anyone found sleeping with their head pointing north. They found an elephant asleep and brought back its head.

Shiva attached the new head and revived Ganesha. He then named Ganesha commander of his troops, and proclaimed that before any undertaking, Ganesha would need to be worshiped.

Ganesa, a Hindu demigod, is pretty easy to identify - he has the head of an elephant, and a human body with a big potbelly. He is missing one tusk, a piece of which may sometimes be seen in one of his four hands. His other three hands may hold a hatchet (for cutting away illusions and false teachings), a goad like the ones used by elephant trainers (symbolizing his insistence on proper spiritual training), a noose for restraining wild animals (for the restraint of passion and lustful desires), or a plate of sweets (which he likes a lot, hence his belly). He rides upon a rat - not the most powerful of creatures, but ubiquitous.

Ganesa is the son of Siva and Parvati, though he was not born in the usual way:

  • According to one legend, Siva emits a handsome son from his body, who goes forth to become a great seducer of women. His mom, Parvati, is greatly offended by her son's exploits, and curses him to have an elephant head and a big belly, her theory being that his ugliness will doom him to a life of celibacy. However, he finds TWO wives who can see beyond his physical appearance - Buddhi (the representation of wisdom) and Siddhi (success).

  • The more popular version of his birth has Parvati growing tired of the passionate advances of her husband. She creates a son out of her perspiration and appoints him guardian of her bathing-chamber, so she can be naked in peace for once. Siva comes looking for his wife, and this fierce little boy tells him he can't go in. Siva gets mad and chops off Ganesa's head.

    Parvati, furious and heartbroken, sends forth all the demigods to find a new head for her son. They are to go north and take the head of the first living being they find. What they find is an elephant. Everyone expects Parvati to be upset about her elephant-headed son, but she is thrilled.

Ganesa is a popular hero in India, and his image is often seen painted on the walls of shops, homes, and temples. He is seen as both the creator and remover of obstacles. He stands guard at entrances, as a spiritually potent figure who can avert all evil influences. In popular Hindu lore he is thus the god to be worshiped first, before all other religious ceremonies, public and private.

He is also the lord of external wealth, and as such, his worship must be executed in a cautious manner, and for the right reasons; namely, devotees should pray to Ganesa to remove worldly obstacles which may block the path to a higher consciousness.

Sometimes spelled Ganesha.

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