All the sacred festivals celebrated by Bharatiyas are full of significance spiritually and socially. Every festival is regarded as a holy event surcharged with divinity. On such a holy day, each house is cleaned up, everybody takes a sacred bath to purify the body, special pujas are performed, coconut is offered to the deity and prayers are offered during the day.
The significance of Ganesh Chaturthi is explained in different ways by different persons. The significance of Ganesha image is; Ganesha has been given the head of an elephant because he is known for his extraordinary intelligence, discrimination and wisdom. The elephant is ever alert and eminently conscious of its surroundings. Its memory is strong and deep. It moves majestically through thick jungles; it’s very passages blazes trails for other animals to go through. It is a path maker helping others without being aware of it because it is its nature. Ganesha guides every one Ganapathi is described as “Buddhi Vinayak” and “Siddhi Vinayak” (Vinayaka the wise and Vinayaka the accomplished). “Vinaya” itself means an unexcelled leader (Vi – Exceptional, Nayaka – leader). He is the chief of the Ganas (hosts of spirits) and hence is known as Ganapathi. He is the chief of the Rudra Ganas, Badra Ganas and other Ganas. He is the Lord of the divine forces inside and outside the human body.
When Vyasa requested him to write down Mahabharatha, Ganesha agreed immediately without any delay even to secure a writing tool; He broke his sharp-pointed tusk and was ready to start. Thus, he is ever ready to help others.
Vinayaka is the embodiment of intelligence and achievement. What is the significance of Ganesha’s worship? Man is confronted with many obstacles (vighnas) in the journey of life. Prayers are offered to Ganapathi who is also known as Vighneshwara – for removing such obstacles and minimizing impediments. Ganapathi is an important deity for people of all sects. He is the deity to whom worship is offered first in any ritual. He demonstrated the truth that everything in the universe is permeated by Lord Shiva by circumambulating his parents instead of going round the cosmos and claimed he is the winner of the race between him and his brother Subramanya.
Since Ganesha leads when Gods are invoked, installed and adored, this festival leads the long line of festivals for other forms of God – Navaratri, Deepavali, Sankranti, Shivaratri. The duty on this day is to contemplate on the Universal and Eternal Truth embodied in Ganesha and worship Him with purity and faith praying for Grace which can prevent lapses and promotes progress in all efforts to achieve the highest goal.
There is an astronomical support also of the Ganesha festival, celebrated on the fourth day of the bright half of Bhadrapada month. A constellation with the appearance of the elephant-head becomes brightly visible on this very night.
Man is bound by three tendencies. The first is longing to possess (Kama, desire). When that longing fails, anger (Krodha) raises its hoods. When the desire is fulfilled and the thing is gained, the third tendency, greed (Lobha) overtakes him. If one’s desire is beneficial, the Divine will shower Grace. Ganesha has no desire, no anger, no greed. His Grace is available for all who seek good and godly goals.
Look at the vehicle which he has chosen, the mouse! The mouse is a creature that is led, even to destruction, by Vasana (the smell of things). Men are all victims of Vasanas (preferences and predilections stamped on our minds during our past lives). Ganesha smothers and suppresses the Vasanas which mis-direct man and create misfortune. And also a big person like Ganesha rides on small mouse without crushing it shows the life or Atman or Self is the same in all therefore one’s size does not matter. Also, the rat symbolizes evil qualities like anger, pride and selfishness. By riding on a mouse, Ganesha shows that man can and should also control these qualities.
Since the mouse has been honoured so, it shares the worship offered to Ganesha. Association with Gods as vehicles, ornaments, accessories or servants of Gods endows objects, animals and men with a special sacred status. Elephants, Lions, Eagles, Snakes all these and many more have been divinized thus.
Elephant’s broad head also shows that God is broad minded, ever tolerant and sympathetic to the activities of his devotees.
Ganesha’s four hands are signs of the supernatural powers of God. Besides the two visible hands, Ganesha is also having two invisible hands which He utilizes for the Divine purpose of blessing His devotees and guarding them from danger. In one hand, he holds a Pasha or rope or noose, which He uses to attract the mind of devotees so as to direct them on the right path to reach God. In another hand, he holds an Ankusha, a hook or a spear – like weapon which He uses to destroy the ignorance in His devotees and goad or pole them to move in the right path. In another hand, He holds a sweet cake called Modak, this is the sweet for the devotees for their physical and mental health, a reward for those who reach Him to obtain the sweetness of Ananda or bliss. With His fourth hand, He blesses all devotees of God and grants them the wish or boon they deserve.
Ganesha’s ears are broad so that He can hear all the prayers of His devotees and distinguish between Truth and Untruth. His large stomach signifies that the entire universe is within Him.
See another role assigned to Ganesha. When Shiva is moved to Supreme ecstasy and it is expressed as the Cosmic Dance of Nataraja, Ganesha, Master of Tune and Time, leads other Gods, marks time on the mridangam (drum). No wonder, the Gods are pleased when Puja is offered to Ganesha even before any of them.
SOURCE-Balvikas Guru Handbook Published by Sri Sathya Sai Books & Publication Trust, ‘Dharmakshetra’, Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri, Mumbai.