Ganesha chaturthi, legends, and prayers

anand hudli ahudli at SILVER.UCS.INDIANA.EDU
Mon Sep 16 10:06:49 CDT 1996


      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
    obstacles always.

   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
    Tritiya ends.

   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
   particular family.

   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-
  upamashravastamaM |
  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
  be seated.

  ni shhu sIda gaNapate gaNeshhu tvAmAhurvipratamaM
  kavInAM  |
  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 |
     yadoN^kaaraarthagaNapatitattvaM lakaaravaachyapaarthivaaMsha-
     muulaadhaare vibhaati tasmai lakaaravaachyamuulaadhaarasadanaaya
     gaNapataye namo .astviti | ... tvameva shrotraadi pratyakshhaM
      pratikaraNaM tattadvishhayapravR^ittinivR^ittinimittatayaa
     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
  propitiate Vishnu.

  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).
                              (Bhagavata 10.56.26)

    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

  nArada uvAca:

  Narada said:

  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
  Lord Ganesha.

  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
  103. paarvatiisha.nkarotsaN^gakhelanotsavalaalanaaya
  104. samastajagadaadhaaraaya 105. muushhakavaahanaaya
  106. hR^ishhTastutaaya 107. prasannaatmane
  108. sarvasiddhipradaayakaaya


   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

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