Lord Ganesha is a very popular God all over the world, who gives intelligence, fulfils all wishes and clears all the obstacles. To show the qualities and appearance of any God, symbols are used in Hindu mythology and philosophy.

Why are Ganesha and OM the same? Why Ganesha has the head of an elephant and the body of a human? How did God Shiva's wife Parvati made a son from the excretion of her body? These questions are likely to appear in one's mind . But if one could be able to understand the thoughts behind it and the symbolic meaning behind it, then it is very easy to get the answers of all the questions. One will get a clear idea from the following information about the external appearance of Lord Ganesha and the meaning behind it.

THE FACE OF LORD GANESHA

Ganesh has taken many incarnations in the three Lokas (the heaven, the earth and the hell). According to the wish of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha took the incarnation as their son and became famous.

Story

God Shiva always did penance of some god. One day Goddess Parvati asked him that whose penance was he doing. God Shiva said that he was doing penance of Lord Ganesha. God Shiva had many followers, so Goddess Parvati felt that she must have at least one, who should also be her son. She made a boy of her excretion of her body and named him as Shaktiputra (God of all Shaktis or strengths) and told him to sit outside the house as a guard while she was taking bath. She told him not to allow anyone to enter inside. The obedient son didn't allow even God Shiva to enter inside. God Shiva got very angry. There was a big fight between the followers of Shiva and Shaktiputra. Shaktiputra defeated all the followers of God Shiva. He got angry and cut off the head of Shaktiputra with the Trishul. ( a three pointed spear) Goddess Parvati got angry when she saw this. Seeing her destructive appearance, other Gods and goddesses worshiped her and requested to be calm and forgive God Shiva. She wanted her son back. God Shiva felt very sorry about it. God Shiva asked his follower to bring the head of the first sleeping human or animal he sees. The Follower brought the head of an elephant. After joining the elephant head to the human body God Shiva tried to make Shaktiputra alive. He did many efforts along with God Brahma, God Vishnu,but it didn't work. They prayed to Lord Ganesha or Omkar and requested him to enter in Shaktiputra body. Shaktiputra became alive. From that time Lord Ganesha has the elephant head.
In one way this story is marvelous but in today's world no one will easily believe this story. In this story if one will understand the meanings of certain words then it will be interpreted.

God Shiva and Goddess Parvati's residence was on Kailas mountain in Himalayas. The place is so cold that at what extend it was possible that goddess Goddess Parvati made her son from excretion of her body. God Shiva and Goddess Parvati both are not common man and woman. They are the deities .The story is symbolic. The story from Shiva puran. Symbolically removing the dirt(excretion) from her body she removed the good qualities and virtues from her body and implanted them in the idol she had made and thus gave it life. In this story the word excretion has a different meaning. For example sugarcane alluvium of sugarcane juice or cream from the milk. The alluvium of sugarcane is sweet and the cream is the virtue or nourishing part of milk. The meaning behind the excretion or dirt of alluvium or cream is virtuous.

One can understand from the word that why Ganesh has the face of an elephant. The word is made up with two letters in Marathi language Letter 'Ga' means to go for destruction and letter 'Ja' means to take a birth. It means the word 'Gaja' means the birth and destruction of the universe. Ganesh is OM and OM is Ganesh. Lord Ganesha is the symbolic form of Om. Om is a symbol of beginning, middle, final states of universe. This way the name or the form of elephant is symbolic.
Face of Ganesh- Lord Ganesha has a human body and elephant's head. Elephant's head was joined to Ganesha. There was some special symbolic meaning behind it. Among all the animals elephant is very clever so his head was joined to Shaktiputra. It means the superior power .

An elephant is a very intelligent animal and his ears, nose, eyes are very sharp and highly sensitive. These high qualities one could not find in any other animal. To represent OM in human form ancient holy sages and philosophers might have used elephant's head and human body. The story of Lord Ganesha having a head of an elephant and human body was created before the Vedas. Because of the high qualities matching to infinite universal divine knowledge elephant's head might have been used.

THE NAME " LORD GANESHA"


The meaning of 'Gan' in Sanskrit is crowd or group. The meaning of 'Esh' is leader or chief or headman. This is how the word Ganesh was derived. OM is the basic form of Total Universal Divine Knowledge, which is converted from the basic sound or the reflection of the sound. To fulfill the common man's imagination for OM which was needful the form of an ideal human being was created by philosophers, sages and named as Ganesh, as symbol of OM or a symbol of everlasting basic Total Universal Divine Knowledge. The Total Universal Divine Knowledge is noble, strong, powerful and it is the source of all creation which is covering three aspects-creation, preservation and destruction. The qualities of any chief should be like Ganesh. Community, village chief or country chief Ganesh used symbolically. Ganesha using as a symbol philosophers and ancient holy sages tried to show all the qualities using each and every part of his body and his weapons held which helps a common man to lead himself up to a chief. Because each and every chief has to do leadership in the life. If one will try to understand the knowledge of Ganesha and symbolic meaning behind it than it will help one to become a chief. Because of all these qualities the idol of OM was named as Ganesha. The meaning of Ganesha is the leader of all the ganas in the world.

THE EARS OF LORD GANESHA

Lord Ganesha is supreme authority or Total Universal Divine Knowledge. He is a leader. The leader should have the qualities of judgement, knowing facts, importance of a thing and the power to leave out useless things. The idea behind using the elephants face or head is to show each quality symbolically, which originally a leader or finite authority should have. The ears of Lord Ganesha looks like a 'Sup'( a sift pan used to sift grains) which is used in every house. This suggests the quality that leaves extensive useless things and keep only good things.
 

THE TRUNK AND EYES OF LORD GANESHA


The trunk and eyes of Lord Ganesha also have very much important meaning. Elephant's sense organs are highly sensitive that it can see and pick up the small needle form the floor by smelling and seeing it. He can realise the presence of any animal from a long distance, by smelling with its trunk. To show the far seeing and highly sensitive qualities in leader, like Lord Ganesha, philosophers used the trunk as a symbol. The elephant has small eyes which are used to represent subtle vision and subtle under standing. Elephant lifts fruits and stones together with the trunk. It eats fruits and throws the stones. It shows one should try to accumulate good things and after scrutinising, one should throw the bad things out.

THE TEETH OF LORD GANESHA


Lord Ganesha has two teeth. One is half broken and one is complete. The complete tooth suggests faith and half tooth suggests the intelligence. To progress in the life one should have full faith and intelligence.

 

THE HANDS OF LORD GANESHA


Lord Ganesha has four hands. He has an Ankush(goad) in one hand, a Pash(share/noose) in second hand, a Modak in third hand and fourth hand is used to give blessings. The Ankush indicates one should keep control on desire and emotions. (The meaning of Ankush is to keep check on something.) The Pash indicates that a leader or a philosopher should have the power to control on sense organs, the ability to correct the followers and the ability to control on sense organs. The Modak is a stuffed sweet pastry. The stuffing is made up of coconut crush/powder, sugar, jagary, khus khus. The meaning of 'Mod' in Marathi is pleasing, entertaining or that yields joy. The Modak is a symbol of Philosophy. One could see the appearance of Philosophy outwardly like the outer covering of Modak. But the stuffing inside is sweet. If one would think and realise deeply then one could able to enjoy the pure joy and sweetness of it.

THE ABDOMEN OR STOMACH OF LORD GANESHA


Lord Ganesha is also called as 'Lambodar'. Which is Lamb + Odar. Here the meaning 'Lamb' is big and 'Odar' means stomach. The one who is having big or huge stomach. It represents symbolically the comments of the followers can be accumulated in one's own stomach like a leader.

THE LEGS OF LORD GANESHA


The legs of Lord Ganesha are short. Short legged person can not run fast. There is a symbolic meaning behind this, one should know the story of hare and tortoise. In which tortoise goes steadily and slowly with confidence to win the race. Hare was over confident. The implied meaning behind this is slow and steady wins the race. About short legs, it is a belief that the short legged person is intelligent.(This belief comes from Lord Ganesha.) An intelligent person does not run, he makes other people to run using his intelligence. One can further elaborate this as leaders should have quality to get work done through others.

THE VEHICLE OF LORD GANESHA


One must have seen the idols of Lord Ganesha in which he is sitting on a mouse or a mouse is nearby him. The mouse(or Mushaka in Sanskrit) is the vehicle(Vahana) of Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha is healthy and mouse is very small.

In Ganesh Purana 'Aakhuvahan' word is used for Lord Ganesha. The meaning of 'Aakhu' is Mushaka or Maya. The meaning of Mushaka in English is mouse. The meaning of Maya is, in puzzling and scattered state of Universe. Meaning shows that Lord Ganesha achieved victory on discrimination and knowledge.
Whenever mouse bites to someone, he puffs with mouth, so one doesn't recognise immediately it is biting. A Leader or Philosopher wants to say something to followers, he should able to say it in such a way that no one should feel bad at the same time the work should not be suffered.

An ancient tradition in Hindus is putting a small Ganesh idol or photo above the main entrance. The symbolic meaning behind this is - The entrance is where one can enter into the house. Eyes, ears and nose are the entrances through which knowledge from the outer world enters. If one could have discrimination and wisdom. Own's consciousness and action/work than one could face difficulties in day to day practical life. And even if he will have difficulties he will have develop the capacity of facing it. For making life successful one should always have discrimination.
 

The stories about Lord Ganesha and discrimination about him are not just any stories, but these stories are meaningful, have strong principles and cover the important proposition in symbolic way which stamps on one's mind. Which will definitely help to be a perfect human,being and a great leader.