Ganesha: The remover of obstacles
Ganesha or Ganpati is the lord of obstacles. The elder son of Shiva and Parvati (according to most accounts), he is know by many names some of which are Vinayaka, Vignesvara, Gajānana (one having the head (= ānana) of an elephant (= gaja). Ganesha is worshipped before undertaking any task, as he has the power to remove obstacles.
Ganesha has two Shaktis or consorts, Riddhi and Siddhi (according to some accounts, she is replaced by Buddhi).
The birth of Ganesha
The are many stories that tell of the birth of Ganesha
1) Once the gods required a deity capable of removing all obstacles from their path of action. At their request, Shiva himself was born of the womb of Parvati as Gajanana.
2) One day Parvati, just for fun, prepared an image of a child, out of the unguents smeared over her body. She created the child with the head of an elephant and then threw it into the river Ganga. It came to life and both Ganga and Parvati addressed the boy as their child. Therefore, Ganesha is also known as Dvaimātura (one who has two mothers).
3) Another account states that Parvati prepared the image of a child out of the scurf from her body, gave him life, and ordered him to stand guard before her house. Shiva arrived and was prevented from entering the house by the boy who did not know who Shiva was. In anger Shiva beheaded the boy who dared debar him. When Parvati saw what had happened she was inconsolable. Eager to make amends Shiva replaced the head of the boy with the head of the first animal he came across (which happened to be the elephant). Furthermore he appointed his new son as the head of his retinues called ganas. Thus the boy came to be known as Ganapati (Pati = Lord, of the Gana = clan or group).
Interesting facts about Ganesha
Ganesha has two sons named Shubh (auspicious) and Labh (prosperity).
He tactfully won a race with his brother Skanda by circumambulating round his parents, declaring that it was equivalent to going around the worlds.
Ganesha is worshipped in various forms such as Balaganapati (Ganesha depicted as a child) and Tarunaganapti (Ganesha depicted as a young man).
An important from of Ganesha is Mahaganapati. In this form he has ten hands, each holding objects bestowed by ten deities. Among these are the fruit of the citron tree, associated with Shiva, the sugar cane bow, a gift from Kama (god of love), an arrow of a rice shoot, a gift from the earth, Varaha’s mace and Vishnu’s discus.
There is a belief amongst Hindus that it is inauspicious to see the moon on Vinayaka Chaturthi, which is believed to be the birthday of Ganesha. According to a legend, Ganesha riding on his tiny mouse, when the mouse stumbled on a snake that was lying in its path. As a result of the collision Ganesha was thrown to the ground. Upon seeing this, the moon laughed. Ganesha cursed the moon and also forbid people from seeing the moon on that day.