Hinduism is the most ancient and widest religion in the world. It goes beyond all boundaries and houses everything as a religion that one could think of. There are millions of gods and goddesses in this religion. This was a tradition where people could create even their own god and worship them.
Lord Ganesha - an introduction: If you are born in a Hindu family, then certainly you don't need an introduction to Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is one of the most popular gods in Hinduism who is worshipped beyond the differences of castes and sects. He is revered not only by Hindus but by some Jainas and Buddhists as well.
Being a very popular god, Ganesha has transcended even national boundaries. He is one of the few Hindu gods whose statues and carvings are found across Java, Indonesia, Sumatra, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma. One of the earliest known statues of Ganesha is found in Afghanistan.
He is the son of Mahadev Shiva and Parvati. He is depicted as a god with the head of an elephant. He is potbellied and represented in various forms. Sometimes dancing, sometimes standing, while sometimes sitting still. He has a mouse as his vehicle. He is mainly represented as Vighnaharta, one who takes away obstacles. He is also identified with great Knowledge and wisdom.
Origin of Lord Ganesha: If we go by the time period, most scholars agree that Ganesha was not a god of the Vedic era. There are several mentions of Ganapati, a name of Ganesha in Rigveda but that is not with reference to Ganesha.
Ganesha mainly rose to prominence in the puranic era. He finds mention in several Puranas. Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana mainly talk about Lord Ganesha. Other than that, he also finds mention in Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana. He rose to become one of the central deities of Hinduism.
The origin story of Lord Ganesha: Like most other stories, the origin story of Lord Ganesha too differs significantly from text to text. According to several counts, He was found the way He is by Shiva and Parvati. According to some, He was created when Shiva laughed. However, the most popular story of the origin of lord Ganesha remains as follows:
Parvati, the consort of Shiva wanted a son but Shiva didn't agree. So, Parvati created Ganesha from the earth which She molded into the shape of a boy. Then, She ordered the boy to guard the house so that no one can enter the house. Meanwhile, Shiva came but was stopped by the boy when He tried to enter the house.
An enraged Shiva threw his Trishul and beheaded the boy. When Shiva learned that the boy was their child, He realized his mistake. Then an elephant head was installed on the human body of the boy. Thus, Ganesha got His iconic elephant head.
Lord Ganesha - a god of utmost significance: Lord Ganesha represents many aspects as a god. His representation has varied from one time period to another and from one region to another. However, the most common representation of Lord Ganesha is a lord with an elephant head, having a pot belly, four hands, and a mouse as his vehicle.
His representation of the artifacts that he holds in his hand is very inconsistent and varies greatly. In some earlier representations, he is even seen holding a broken tusk in his hand. The story goes that one of his tusks was broken by an angry Parshuram. Since then, he is also known as Ekdanta, meaning having one tusk.
Mice are perceived as a notorious animal. It eats off crop or storages in warehouses and causes various kinds of troubles. Ganesha riding mouse represents His victory over compulsions and negative aspects of life. According to stories, the mouse that Ganesha rides was an arrogant asura who was defeated by Ganesha.
Vighnaharta: If you have noticed, no matter what is the event, he is always revered first. In Hindu traditions, the first wedding invitation is given to the deity. You might also have noticed statues or pictures of Ganesha at the entrance of homes or offices.
That is not without a reason. If we go by the religion, then Ganesha is blessed by gods to always be worshiped first and before any other god. He is called Vighnaharta, meaning one who takes away obstacles. That's why he is always revered at the beginning of something precious so that no obstacles arise during the event.
The epitome of knowledge: Lord Ganesha is always associated with buddhi, which can be translated as knowledge, intelligence, or wisdom. There are many stories that are based on this aspect of Lord Ganesha. Here is one such popular story:
Once Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya indulged in a competition that whoever covers the world three times would win. While Kartikeya started off quickly, Ganesha looked quite relaxed. Instead of going on a journey, he simply circled his parents thrice. When asked why, he said that his parents are the world to him, and thus by encircling his parents, he has encircled the world three times.
One more popular story states that sage Vyasa needed a proficient writer to write Mahabharata while he narrates. Ganesha agreed to write but on the condition that Vyasa wouldn't stop until he is finished. Vyasa agreed but he too put forward a condition that Ganesha won't write any verse until he has understood it. So, whenever Vyasa had to take some rest, he would simply narrate some complex verse that would keep Ganesha puzzled for some time.
Just like that, there are many popular Stories that depict the intelligence and wisdom of lord Ganesha.
Festivals associated with Lord Ganesha: Ganesh Chaturthi is the biggest festival associated with Lord Ganesha. Although it is celebrated throughout India, Maharashtra is particularly famous for this festival where it is celebrated with huge grandeur.
Other than that, Ganesh Jayanti is also celebrated on Chaturthi of the Hindu calendar month Magha.
Summary: Ganesha is one of the few gods who have transcended religious, national, and sectoral boundaries to be revered by all. No puja or event is started before remembering Lord Ganesha. His temples could be found from north to south, and from east to west. Not only in India, but even in many adjacent countries.
Not only religiously, but Ganesha has tremendous spiritual importance as well. A whole spiritual sect built up around him, known as the Ganpatya tradition. Ultimately, if one talks about gods of Hinduism, it will always be incomplete without mention of Lord Ganesha.