Many of us are well aware of the story of Lord Ganesha - notably His transcendence from a boy to an elephant-headed cutie.
The Purana illustrates as to how Mother Parvati created a boy as Her guardian,who did not permit Lord Shiva for entry.Lord Shiva then beheads the boy after a series of events.Then an elephant's head was unionised with the body of the boy - who became Ganesha !
Interestingly,there is a temple in Poonthotam near Kumbakonam , India where the main deity - Lord Ganapati is in the form of a boy with a human head - denoting the form He had prior to His elephantine majesty.
Pic : Adi Vinayaka Temple, Poonthotham
So why Did Lord Shiva behead Ganesha - His own son after all ?
Puranic stories cannot be perceived just by the logical mind.They are not mere stories or fairytales.They are very profound and expound various messages,insights and inspirations.
Puranas convey the truths of the cosmos through a story - such that even a layman can grasp it.This does not mean that puranas are 'created' by a sage to convey some form of a moral message in parallel to Aesop's Fables ( ok that just got me into a feel trip to my childhood.. I used to read Aesop's Fables ) ..Coming back... these are true events as well.They are both symbolic and a reality.This is the intelligence of the creation.
So what is the insight conveyed here ?
As we know,the boy was created out of Mother Parvathi.It is exemplified as
' Mother Parvati creating an idol of a boy out of Her body's dirt and breathing life into it '.
This is how the boy was born.
We must understand that Mother Parvathi is Shakti.Shakti is the play and maya of the existence.Without Shakti - there is no movement or action.Shakti plays the game of the universe with the five elements.If you notice,the entire creation and all that you observe is merely consisting of the five elements - fire,water,air,ether and earth. These five elements are also represented by the Panchakshari mantra - ' Na , Ma , Si , Va ,Ya '.
Shiva is the absolute consciousness.Shiva is nothingness from which something is created.Shiva does not merely denote a deity or a being.That is only one dimension of what we call as ' Shiva'. Shiva is the 'observer' - The consciousness which exists in everything.With Shakti,Shiva can be expressed into action and movement.
This is symbolically shown in the picture below
Mother Kali - the ferocious expression of Shakti is seen stepping on Shiva, who lies below her feet. This is an ingenious way of depicting the state of Shiva as Shava ( corpse ) without Shakti. Only when Shakti acts ( stepping ) on Shiva ( consciousness ) - can live sustain or creation play it's game.
In Ganapati Upanishad from Atharva Veda, also known as Ganapati Atharva Shirsam, Lord Ganesha is related to Prakriti ( creation - Shakti ) and Purusha ( the masculine aspect of God ).
Aavirbhuutam Ca Srshtyadau Prakrteh Purussaat-Param
: He manifested during the beginning of Creation (Sristhi Aadi) within the manifested Nature (Prakriti), (He manifested) from the Supreme Purusha (Purusha Param)
So when the boy was created, He existed as only a Shakti aspect- as He was wholly created from Mother Parvathi. Lord Shiva's trisulam ( trident ) chopping of His head - denotes the infusion of Shiva aspect into the boy - making Him a complete Ganesha with both Shiva and Shakti aspect - well balanced.
Lord Muruga - the brother of Ganesha also expresses Shiva-Shakti in another unique way. Muruga was created from Shiva's third eye. When Lord Muruga was preparing to go for a war with the demon Tarakasura , Mother Parvathi gifted Him the 'vel'.
The vel is from Mother Parvathi and resembles 'Shakti'. So even Muruga had His Shiva aspect equalised by the Shakti aspect.
This is why in some cultures,Lord Muruga is seen as the same as Lord Shiva.In Nepal,Lord Muruga is worshipped as ' 6-headed Shiva'. They are in real the one and the same - just different expressions.
This is the yantra ( machine portraying the geometrical aspect of the deity ) for Lord Muruga.It is portrayed as two triangles -which is a very evident resemblance of Shiva - Shakti union.
The triangle pointing upwards denotes shiva and the other - shakti.
Another symbolism for the beheading scenario is the sacrifice of ego.The human head resembles ego and ignorance.This is expressed as the ignorance of the boy to recognise Lord Shiva as His father ( it indicates our ignorance in identifying God or seeking godhood ) Only when Lord Shiva beheads the head ( ego ) with the trisulam,is the boy enlightened into supreme-consiousness and with His elephant head ( which resembles intelligence or wisdom ) , He could recognise Lord Shiva as His Father ( depicting god-realisation )
The elephant is symbolically used as a sign of wisdom and intelligence.They are indeed very sharp and divinely beings.They are very alert to the happenings in the nature and surrounding.Elephants are also well-known for their discrimintive skills and memory.An elephant can discriminate a particular sound from other similar sounds rather easily.
Hence,it also shows how we should opt to get rid of our ego,and discriminate good from bad, and attain godhood.
Video : Ganapati Atharva Sirsam tutorial video
The Ganapati Atharva Sirsam is perhaps the most important veda mantra for Lord Ganesha.Also known as Ganapati Upanishad- this hymn has a portion which describes the form of Ganesha as below :
एकदन्तं चतुर्हस्तं पाशमङ्कुशधारिणम् ।
रदं च वरदं हस्तैर्बिभ्राणं मूषकध्वजम् ॥
रक्तं लम्बोदरं शूर्पकर्णकं रक्तवाससम् ।
रक्तगन्धानुलिप्ताङ्गं रक्तपुष्पैस्सुपूजितम् ॥
Eka-Dantam Catur-Hastam Paasham-Angkusha-Dhaarinnam |
Radam Ca Vara-Dam Hastair-Bibhraannam Muussaka-Dhvajam ||
Raktam Lambo[a-U]daram Shuurpa-Karnnakam Rakta-Vaasasam |
Rakta-Gandha-Anulipta-Anggam Rakta-Pusspais-Supuujitam ||
11.1: (The visible Form of Ganapati is as follows) His Face has a single Tusk (Ekadantam); He has Four Hands (Catur-Hastam); with two of His Hands, he is holding Noose (Pasha) and Goad (Ankusha),
11.2: With His third Hand He is holding a Tusk (Rada), and with His fourth Hand He is showing the gesture of Boon-Giving (Varada Mudra); His Flag is having the Emblem of a Rat (Mushaka),
11.3: His Form is having a Beautiful Reddish Glow (Raktam), with a Large Belly (Lambodara) and with Large Ears like Fans (Shurpa Karna); He is wearing Red Garments (Rakta Vasam),
11.4: His Form is annointed with Red Fragrant Paste (Rakta Gandha), and He is worshipped with Red Flowers (Rakta Pushpa),
Click here to read on the benefits of chanting Ganapathi Upanishad
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