Ganesha chaturthi, legends, and prayers
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Sep 13 22:05:43 CDT 1999
Here is the post on Ganesh Chaturthi that Anand was refering. As we have
come to expect from Mr. Hudli, it is scholarly, comprehensive and
insightful and I'm sure you will find it very interesting.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1996 10:06:49 -0500
From: anand hudli <ahudli at SILVER.UCS.INDIANA.EDU>
1. Ganesha in the Vedas
2. Philosophical significance of Ganesha's form
3. Ganesha legends
4. The syamantaka jewel
5. A Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana
6. 108 names of Ganesha - Ganesha-ashhTottara naamaavalii
1. Ganesha in the Vedas
vakratuNDa mahAkAya sUryakoTisamaprabha
nirvighnaM kuru me deva sarvakAryeshhu sarvadA ||
O Ganapati, One with a curved trunk, a large body,
and a brilliance equal to a crore (10 million) suns!
O God, please make all my undertakings free from
Ganesha chaturthi occurs on September 16th, this year.
Ganesha or Ganapati is an extremely popular God
in India. He is called Vighneshvara or Vighnahartaa, the
Lord of and destroyer of obstacles. People mostly worship
Him asking for siddhi, success in undertakings, and buddhi,
intelligence. He is worshipped before any venture is started.
He is also the God of education, knowledge and wisdom, literature,
and the fine arts.
Ganesha is also one of the five Gods the worship of whom was
popularized by Adi Shankaraacharya;
the other four are Vishnu, Shiva, Devi and Surya. The worship
of these five deities is called the panchAyatana pUjA. In some
cases, a sixth God, Skanda is also worshipped.
The rule for determining the Ganesha chaturthi is as
On any day, if bhAdrapada Shukla chaturthi prevails during
the madhyAnha kAla, then Ganesha chaturthi is to be
observed on that day. If bhAdrapada Shukla chaturthi
prevails during two successive madhyAnha KAlas or if it
does not extend over the MadhyAnha KAla of any day, then
Ganesha chaturthi is to be observed on the day on which
The puja of Ganesha on the Ganesha chaturthi day, extolled
in various religious works, is to be performed at noon. A clay
image of the God, painted beautifully, is installed on a raised
platform. After the usual preliminary rituals, the prANapratishhThA
must be done with the appropriate mantras. This prANapratishhThA
is done for the purpose of invoking the presence of Ganesha into
the image. This is followed by the worship with sixteen modes of
showing honor, known as shhoDashopachAra. Offering of dUrvA (grass)
blades and modaka, a delicacy prepared from rice flour, jaggery,
and coconut, is an important part of the pUjA. Usually, 21 dUrvA
blades and 21 modakas are offered to the deity, where the number 21
carries a symbolic meaning. The five jnAnendriyas or organs of
perception , the five karmendriyas or organs of action, the five
prANas or vital airs, the five bhUtas or elements, and the mind,
together comprise 21 parts. The offering of dUrvA blades and the
modakas teaches us that we should offer with humility, represented
by the dUrvA blades, all the good things in life, represented by
the modakas, to God. Ganesha is also offered red flowers, and anointed
with a red unguent (rakta chandana). The immersion of the image in a body
of water is ceremonially performed at the end of the chaturthi vrata,
which could be anywhere from a day upto 10 days (Anantachaturdashi)
after the Bhaadrapada Shukla chaturthi, depending on the customs of the
I will try to describe the Vedic hymns commonly employed
in the Ganesha puja.
Rg Veda contains the following verses (R^ich's) in praise of
Ganapati. Ganapati is identified with Brahmanaspati
or Brihaspati, and, sometimes with Indra or Maghavan,
Agni and even Rudra.
gaNAnAn.h tvA gaNapatiM havAmahe kavim kavInAm-
jyeshhTharAjaM brahmaNAn.h brahmaNaspata
A naH shR^iNvannUtibhiH sIda sAdanaM || (Rg Veda 2.23.1)
We invoke You, O Ganapati of the ganas (troops),
Who are Brahmanaspati of the brahmas (prayers), the
wisest among the wise, Who abound in treasure
beyond all measure, the most brilliant one.
Do listen to our prayers, come with Your blessings
and assurances of protection into our home, and
ni shhu sIda gaNapate gaNeshhu tvAmAhurvipratamaM
na R^ite tvat.h kriyate kinchanAre
mahAmarkaM maghavan.h chitramarcha || (Rg Veda 10.112.9)
Sit down among the troops (or worshippers), O Ganapati, the
best sage among the sages. Without You nothing can be done
here or far. Accept with honor, O wealthy One, our great and
variegated hymns of praise.
(The translation of maghavAn into "wealthy One" (dhanavAn.h) is
in accordance with sAyaNAchArya's commentary.)
Both these R^ik's (verses) are part of the Ganesha sukta that is
commonly chanted during the puja. The contents of the
Ganesha sukta, according to the panchAyatana pUjA manual
from Sringeri, is as follows (in order):
Rg Veda Mandala 8, sukta 81, R^ik's 1-9,
Mandala 10 sukta 112 R^ik's 9-10,
and Mandala 2, sukta 23, R^ik 1.
Another sukta that is chanted is the Brahmanaspati sukta, a
collection of 62 R^iks selected from different parts of the Rg Veda.
This sukta consists of the following R^iks (in order):
Rg Veda Mandala 1 sukta 18 R^iks 1-5,
Mandala 1 sukta 40, R^iks 1-8,
Mandala 2 sukta 23, R^iks 1-19,
Mandala 2 sukta 24, R^iks 1-16,
Mandala 2 sukta 25, R^iks 1-5,
Mandala 2 sukta 26, R^iks 1-4,
Mandala 7 sukta 97, R^ik 3,
Mandala 7 sukta 97, R^ik 9,
Mandala 10 sukta 155, R^iks 2-3,
and Mandala 10 sukta 128, R^ik 11 (khila portion).
By far the most important hymn related to Ganesha upasana is the
Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad. This remarkable upanishad seeks
to equate Ganeshavidya with Brahmavidya. For example, it says:
namaste gaNapataye | tvameva pratyakshhaM tat.h tvaM asi |
Tr: Salutations to You Ganapati. You are indeed the perceptible
representation of (the Vedic utterance) ``tat tvam asi".
Shri upanishhadbrahma yogin's commentary:
AUM laM oN^kaaralakshhyaturyaruupaM te tubhyaM gaNapataye
namo .astu, aavayoraikyamastvityarthaH | yadvaa laM iti
muulaadhaarabiijaM muulaadhaarasya gaNapatisadanatvaat.h |
muulaadhaare vibhaati tasmai lakaaravaachyamuulaadhaarasadanaaya
gaNapataye namo .astviti | ... tvameva shrotraadi pratyakshhaM
yachchaitanyaM vartate tattvamasi sarvaniyantaa .asiityarthaH|
AUM laM. I offer obeisances to You Ganapati who are of the form of
the turiiya (fourth state), indicated by the Omkara syllable.
May there be complete identity between You and me.
Or, my obeisances to You who are the Ganapati-tattva, the meaning
of the Omkara, who abide in the Muulaadhaara (chakra) as Your
abode. This muulaadhaara is indicated by the laM, the seed-syllable
of the elemental earth standing for the muulaadhaara. You guide the
organs such as that of hearing, and control their respective
activity and withdrawal from activity. You are the inner consciousness
and the controller of all.
tvameva sarvaM khalvidaM brahmAsi |
Tr: You are the all pervading reality, the Brahman OR
You are the representation of the Vedic utterance,
"sarvam khalvidam brahma."
The upanishad was commented upon by Sri Upanishad Brahma Yogin, who
is said to have been the only commentator on all the 108 upanishads.
The GaNapati atharva shiirsha is the most widely recited Sanskrit text
among devotees of Ganesha, atleast in Maharashtra. One can find the
entire text of the upanishad on
the doorway to the temple hall in the aShTavinAyaka temple in Rajangaon.
Seven other centers of Ganesha worship in Maharashtra are Morgaon, Thevur,
Mahad, Lehyadri, Ojhar, Siddha-tek, and Pali. Five of these 8 centers are
located in the vicinity of Pune.
Other relevant upanishads are the Ganeshapurvatapini, Ganeshottaratapini,
and Heramba upanishads; these are generally not counted as belonging to
the collection of 108 upanishads.
Just as there are Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas, Sauras, and Skandas,
attached to the worship of respective deities, there are Ganapatyas, who
are ardent devotees of Ganesha. One can find them mainly in Maharashtra,
which has long been associated with Ganesha worship.
2. Philosophical Significance of Ganesha's form
Ganesha's elephantine head and human body are explained as
follows in the Mudgala Purana:
tvaMpadaM narashcha tatpadaM gajashcha etayorabhedAtmako
gaNeshadehaH pratyakshhabrahmAtmakatvAt.h ||
Ganesha's human body representing "tvam", His elephantine
countenance representing "tat" and their joining together
signifies the nondifference of "tvam" (You) and "tat" (Brahman).
Thus, the body of Ganesha is the visible representation of the
highest reality, Brahman, realized from "tat tvam asi."
Another explanation has it that Ganesha's head signifies Atman
the Highest Reality, while the body below the neck represents mAyA,
the principle of phenomenal existence. The Atman's involvement with
the world is characterized by the assumption of mind and speech.
Ganesha's ears, which appear like large winnowing baskets, have a
philosophical significance too. Just as one uses a winnowing basket to
separate grains from dirt, one must use discrimination (viveka) to
separate the real (Brahman) from the unreal (mAyA) in life. Here the
grains stand for Brahman and the dirt signifies mAyA.
Or, Ganesha's ears indicate that such discrimination between Brahman
and mAyA is to be gained by taking recourse to shravaNa or hearing.
Listening to the scriptures from a Guru will lead to proper
discrimination and Brahman realization.
GaNapati's vehicle is the rat, although a form called Heramba-GaNapati
is depicted as riding a lion. There are also rare references to the
peacock as the vehicle in some texts.
The significance of the rat (muushhaka) as the vehicle of Ganesha
is explained by the Mudgala Purana.
IshvaraH sarvabhoktaa cha choravattatra saMsthitaH
sa eva muushhakaH prokto manujaanaaM prachaalakaH
maayayaa guuDharuupaH san.h bhogaan.h bhuN^kte hi choravat.h ||
The Lord (Ganesha) resides in all things and experiences everything.
He is called muushhaka because He operates unseen like a thief,
concealed by maayaa, and experiences all phenomena.
3. Ganesha Legends
Perhaps the most popular story regarding Ganesha's origin
is the one derived from the Shiva Purana. Mother Parvati once wanted
to take a bath and created a boy from the dirt of Her own body, asking
him to stand as a guard outside while She bathed. In the meantime Lord
Shiva returned home to find a stranger at His door, preventing Him from
entering. In anger, Shiva cut off the boy's head, upon which Parvati
was stricken with great grief. In order to console Her, Shiva sent out His
troops (gaNa) to fetch the head of anyone found sleeping with his head
pointing to the north. They found an elephant sleeping thus and brought
back its head. Shiva then attached the elephantine head to the body of the
boy and revived him. He named the boy Ganapati or commander of His troops,
and granted Him a boon that anyone would have to worship Him (Ganesha)
before beginning any undertaking.
The Brahma vaivarta Purana narrates a different story regarding
the origin of Ganapati. Shiva instructed Parvati, who wanted
to have a son, to observe the puNyaka vrata for a year to
harer ArAdhanaM kR^itvA vrataM kuru varAngane |
vrataM cha puNyakam nAma varshhamekaM karishhyasi ||
O Beautiful Goddess! Perform the worship of Hari by observing
the punyaka vrata for a year.
vratasyAsya prabhAveNa svayaM gopAnganeshvaraH |
IshvaraH sarvabhUtAnAM tava putro bhavishhyati ||
The Lord of Gopikas, the Lord of all beings, Krishna
Himself will be born as your son, as a result of the vrata.
On completion of the vrata by Parvati, it was announced
that Krishna would incarnate Himself as Her son in every kalpa.
Accordingly, Krishna was born as a charming infant, delighting
Parvati who celebrated the event with great enthusiasm. All the
Gods arrived to have a look at the baby. But Shani, the son of
Surya, did not look at him and stared at the ground instead.
Upon Parvati's questioning regarding his behavior, Shani said
that his look would harm the baby. Parvati, however, insisted
that he should look at the baby. In deference to Her wish Shani
cast his eyes on the baby. Due to his malevolent glance, the
baby's head was severed and flew to Goloka, the abode of Krishna.
Parvati and all the Gods assembled there, including Shiva, were
grief-stricken. Thereupon, Vishnu mounted Garuda and rushed to
the banks of the Pushpa-bhadra river and brought back the head
of a young elephant. The head of the elephant was joined with
the headless body of Parvati's son, reviving him. All the Gods
blessed Ganesha and wished Him power and prosperity.
Vishnu blessed Ganesha thus:
sarvAgre tava pUjA cha mayA dattA surottama |
sarvapUjyagashcha yogIndro bhava vatsetyuvAcha taM ||
O Excellent God! O dear one! May Your pUjA be
performed before that of any other God. May You
be situated in all venerable beings and may
You be the best among Yogis. This is My boon to You.
Shiva made Ganesha the leader of his troops (gaNa), and also
gave Him the following boon.
gaNeshapUjane vighnaM nirmUlaM jagatAM bhavet.h |
nirvyAdhiH sUryapUjAyAM shuciH shrIvishhNupUjane ||
All obstacles, whatever they may be, will be rooted
out by worshipping Ganesha, even as diseases are
cured by the worship of Surya and purity results when
Vishnu is worshiped.
4. The syamantaka jewel
It is said that anyone who looks at the moon on the night of
the Ganesh Chaturthi will be falsely charged with theft or a
similar crime. If someone inadvertently sees the moon on this
night, he/she may remedy the situation by listening to (or
reciting) the story of the syamantaka jewel. This story may be
found in the Puranas such as the Bhagavata and the Vishnu.
Briefly, Satrajit, who secured a jewel syamantaka from Surya,
did not part with it even when Krishna the Lord of Dvaraka,
asked for it saying it would be safe with Him. Prasena, the
brother of Satrajit went out hunting wearing the jewel but
was killed by a lion. Jambavan of Ramayana fame killed the lion
and gave it to his son to play with. When Prasena did not return,
Satrajit falsely accused Krishna of killing Prasena for the sake
of the jewel. Krishna, in order to remove the stain on His
reputation, set out in search of the jewel and found it in
Jambavan's cave, with his child. Jambavan attacked Krishna
thinking Him to be an intruder who had come to take away the
jewel. They fought each other for 28 days, when Jambavan, his
whole body terribly weakened from the hammering of Krishna's
fists, finally recognized Him as Rama.
jAne tvAM sarvabhUtAnAM prANa ojah saho balaM |
vishhNuM purANapurushhaM prabhavishhNumadhIshvaraM ||
I now know You. You are the life in all creatures, virility,
grit and strength. You are Vishnu, the Primeval Lord,
All-prevailing, the Supreme Lord (of the worlds).
setuH kR^itaH svayasha ujjvalitA cha lankA rakshhaH shirAMsi
bhuvi peturishhukshhatAni ||
He Who built a bridge (across the ocean) that is a standing
monument to His fame, set Lanka ablaze, and with His arrows
severed the heads of Rakshasas, which fell to the ground.
As repentance for his having fought Krishna, Jambavan gave
Krishna the jewel and also his daughter Jambavati in marriage.
Krishna returned to Dvaraka with Jambavati and the jewel, and
returned it Satrajit, who in turn repented for his false
accusation. He promptly offered to give Krishna the jewel and
his daughter Satyabhama in marriage. Krishna accepted Satyabhama
as His wife but did not accept the jewel.
In the event that one is not even able to listen to or read the
story, the following mantra may be recited holding some water
in the palm of the right hand. The water is then to be sipped.
siMhaH prasenamavadhIt.h siMho jAmbavatA hataH |
sukumAraka mA rodIH tava hyeshha syamantakaH ||
A lion killed Prasena; the lion was killed by Jambavan.
Don't cry, O dear child! This syamantaka jewel is yours.
5. A Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana
praNamya shirasA devaM gaurIputraM vinAyakaM |
bhaktAvaasaM smaren.h nityaM AyuH kAmArthasiddhaye || 1 ||
One should bow the head and offer obeisance before the
son of Gauri, Vinayaka, whose abode is the devotees, and
remember Him always for the purpose of obtaining longevity,
and desired objects (prosperity).
prathamaM vakratuNDaM cha ekadantaM dvitIyakaM |
tR^itIyaM kR^ishhNapi.ngAkshhaM gajavaktraM chaturthakaM || 2 ||
(Now the twelve names of Ganesha are mentioned. One must
utter) first the name Vakratunda, One with a curved trunk,
second ekadanta, the single-tusked One, third Krishnapingaksha,
the black and red-eyed One, fourth gajavaktra, the God with the
face of an elephant,
lambodaraM panchamaM cha shhashhThaM vikaTameva cha |
saptamaM vighnarAjaM cha dhUmravarNaM tathAshhTamaM || 3 ||
fifth lambodara, the God with a large belly, sixth vikata,
the gigantic One, seventh vighnaraja, the Lord (and destroyer)
of obstacles, dhumravarna, the smoky-colored God,
navamaM bhAlachandraM cha dashamaM tu vinAyakaM |
ekAdashaM gaNapatiM dvAdashaM tu gajAnanaM || 4 ||
ninth bhalachandra, One whose forehead is adorned by the moon,
tenth, vinayaka, the great leader (of Shiva's army),
eleventh, ganapati, the lord of (Shiva's) gaNas, and twelfth
gajanana, the elephant-faced One.
dvAdashaitAni nAmAni trisandhyaM yaH paThen.h naraH |
na cha vighnabhayaM tasya sarvasiddhikaraM prabho || 5 ||
Anyone who chants these twelve names during the three sandhyas
(morning twilight, noon, evening twilight), will not experience
any obstacles, and will achieve all successes, O Lord (Ganesha)!
vidyArthI labhate vidyAM dhanArthI labhate dhanaM |
putrArthI labhate putrAn.h mokshhArthI labhate gatiM || 6 ||
One who desires knowledge (vidyA) gets it; one who desires
wealth gets it; one who desires sons will have sons; one
who desires moksha attains it.
japed.h gaNapatistotraM shhaDbhir.h mAsaiH phalaM labhet.h |
saMvatsareNa siddhiM cha labhate nAtra saMshayaH || 7 ||
One gets desired results if this Ganapati stotra is chanted
everyday for six months; a complete success is assured
undoubtedly, within a year.
ashhTabhyo brAhmaNebhyashcha likhitvA yaH samarpayet.h |
tasya vidyA bhavet.h sarvA gaNeshasya prasAdataH || 8 ||
Anyone who writes this stotra and presents it to eight
Brahmins, will obtain all kinds of knowledge, by the grace of
iti nAradapurANe sankaTanAshanagaNeshastotram sampUrNaM ||
6. 108 names of Ganesha - Ganesha-ashhTottarashata-naamaavalii
The recitation of each name is to be preceded by the AUM syllable,
and to be followed by namaH. For example, AUM vinaayakaaya namaH.
1. vinaayakaaya 2. vighnaraajaaya 3. gauriiputraaya 4. gaNeshvaraaya
5. skandaagrajaaya 6. avyayaaya 7. puutaaya 8. dakshhaadhyakshhaaya
9. dvijapriyaaya 10. agnigarvachhide 11. indrashriipradaaya
12. vaaNiibalapradaaya 13. sarvasiddhipradaaya 14. sharvatanayaaya
15. sharvariipriyaaya 16. sarvaatmakaaya 17. sR^ishhTikartre
18. devaaniikaarchitaaya 19. shivaaya 20. shuddhaaya 21. buddhipriyaaya
22. shaantaaya 23. brahmachaariNe 24. gajaananaaya 25. dvaimaaturaaya
26. munistutyaaya 27. bhaktavighnavinaashanaaya 28. ekadantaaya
29. chaturbaahave 30. shaktisamyutaaya 31. chaturaaya 32. lambodaraaya
33. shuurpakarNaaya 34. herambaaya 35. brahmavittamaaya 36. kaalaaya
37. grahapataye 38. kaamine 39. somasuuryaagnilochanaaya
40. paashaaN^kushadharaaya 41. chaNDaaya 42. guNaatiitaaya
43. niraJNjanaaya 44. akalmashaaya 45. svayaMsiddhaarchitapadaaya
46. biijapuurakaaya 47. avyaktaaya 48. gadine 49. varadaaya
50. shaashvataaya 51. kR^itine 52. vidvatpriyaaya 53. viitabhayaaya
54. chakriNe 55. ikshhuchaapadhR^ite 56. abjotpalakaraaya
57. shriishaaya 58. shriipataye 59. stutiharshhitaaya
60. kalaadribhR^ite 61. jaTine 62. chandrachuuDaaya 63. amareshvaraaya
64. naagayajnopaviitine 65. shriikaNThaaya 66. raamaarchitapaadaaya
67. vratine 68. sthuulakaNThaaya 69. trayiikartre 70. saamaghoshhapriyaaya
71. purushhottamaaya 72. sthuulatuNDaaya 73. agragaNyaaya
74. graamaNye 75. gaNapaaya 76. sthiraaya 77. vR^iddhidaaya
78. subhagaaya 79. shuuraaya 80. vaagiishaaya 81. siddhidaayakaaya
82. duurvaabilvapriyaaya 83. kaantaaya 84. paapahaariNe 85. kR^itaagamaaya
86. samaahitaaya 87. vakratuNDaaya 88. shriipradaaya 89. saumyaaya
90. bhaktakaaN^kshhitadaaya 91. achyutaaya 92. kevalaaya 93. siddhaaya
94. sachchidaanandavigrahaaya 95. jnaanine 96. maayaayuktaaya
97. daantaaya 98. brahmishhThaaya 99. bhayavarjitaaya
100. pramattadaityabhayadaaya 101. vyaktamuurtaye 102. amuurtaaya
104. samastajagadaadhaaraaya 105. muushhakavaahanaaya
106. hR^ishhTastutaaya 107. prasannaatmane
After Lord Ganesha has been duly worshipped according to Vedic
methods, an Arati or waving of lights is performed. Sometimes
the song sung during this ceremony is in the regional language.
It is customary to sing the following Sanskrit verses after the
kAyena vAchA manasendriyairvA buddhyAtmnA vA prakR^iteH svabhAvAt.h |
karomi yadyat.h sakalaM parasmai nArAyaNAyeti samarpayAmi ||
achyutaM keshavaM rAmanArAyaNaM
kR^ishhNadAmodaraM vAsudevaM hariM |
shriidharaM mAdhavaM gopikAvallabhaM
jAnakInAyakaM rAmachandraM bhaje ||
hare rAma hare rAma rAma rAma hare hare |
hare kR^ishhNa hare kR^ishhNa kR^ishhNa kR^ishhNa hare hare ||
This is then followed by the mantrapushhpaM.
|| shrI kR^ishhNArpaNamastu ||
ahudli at silver.ucs.indiana.edu
bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam
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