Ganesa Chaturthi: Festival in Honor of the Most Revered Hindu God

There are many different religions in the world today, the element that makes them unique from the rest includes, the rituals, beliefs, and iconographies surrounding it. Hinduism is one of the most well-known religions, it is composed of many gods and goddesses. Lord Ganesh, in Hindu culture, is known as the one most commonly worshipped worldwide. Ganesh is also referred to as Ganpati, Nivayak, Ganesha, and Pillaiyar. He is the son of Shiva and Parvati and is especially known for his distinctive elephant head. Lord Ganesh is a powerful deity in the Hindu religion, recognized for being the Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles.

He is often worshipped before any new journey has begun, worshippers will often offer the deity Ladoo’s (Indian sweet). Lord Ganesha has numerous amounts of forms, often being a mix of human and animal parts, which symbolizes the beliefs of perfection as conceived by Hindu sages and displays many philosophical ideas of spiritual significance. In most sculptures and paintings, he is portrayed as standing in Samapada posture or seated, standing, dancing, and many others. Ganesh’s iconography displays him of having a head of an elephant, with a round protruding belly and his arms often ranging between 4-16. This paper will work towards developing a stronger understanding of how Ganesh became known as the Lord of beginnings and remover of obstacles, and the different ways he is represented in the Hindu religion specifically by focusing on the iconography which is associated with the different rituals that make Ganesh the loved god that he is today. Many devotees have images or idols of Ganesh in homes, shops, and many other places.

Many of Ganesh’s worshippers, look at him as a symbol of overcoming obstacles as well as being the lord that will grant them ease when they go upon new ventures. Ganesh had a tough life, he was faced with many great obstacles in his life which led to him being well known as a God. One significant event that took place was when Ganesh’s father demanded to be let into the house, Ganesh refused to obey Shiva, which led to his death by the hands of Shiva. He then was brought back to life, now with the head of an elephant. This is why he is the lord of new beginnings because he was able to get a new beginning. He also has many different names, one of them being; Vignaharta which is referring to his Puranic title as the ‘Remover of Obstacles. Although, originally, he was a malicious deity known as the ‘Lord of the Obstacles’, since he was appointed to create impediments for people on earth so that the heavens wouldn’t be congested. Moreover, Ganesh is often referred to as the “elephant-headed” deity, although the origin story of how he obtained the head differs depending on different beliefs. His head is always proportioned to 1/5 of his body size as a symbol of extreme knowledge. His immense knowledge is what his devotees look towards at the time of uncertainty and difficulty faced in life.

There are many festivals where devotees worship and celebrate Lord Ganesh. The most well-known celebration is Ganesa Chaturthi, which lasts 10 days. Humans are compelled to be frightened when an obstacle arises in life, so during this commemoration of Ganesh, worshippers chant “Remove the obstacles, clear the path, cleanse the road.'. The origin of this festival dates back to many years ago, in which Ganesh ate an enormous amount of Mithai (sweets) causing him to get bloated. He was riding on his rat, on his way home, as a snake frightened the rat; causing Ganesh to be thrown off. The fall burst open his stomach, he collected the sweets that had fallen out of his stomach and tied the snake around his stomach. The moon laughed at him so Ganesh pulled out a tusk, threw it at the moon, and cursed him so he would not be seen, the world became dark as Ganesh cursed the moon so it would wax and wane each month. Additionally, Ganesh’s large belly is symbolic of his life, which is representative of him being able to digest the good and the bad that life has to offer. When his stomach ruptured, he picked up everything that had fallen out, the good and the bad.

Furthermore, each attribute of Ganesh has its own significant symbolism. Iconographically, Ganesh’s representation has changed immensely over time. In the Hindu religion, a “Divine being” can have many different forms, including animals, humans, and many others. Depictions of Ganesh have been drastically refined over the years, from early depictions displaying Ganesh as a simple elephant, to the elephant-headed figures in the Puranic times. Currently, Ganesh is portrayed as a peculiar elephant head with a round belly and four arms. His statues are often white because it symbolizes his purity and peaceful temperament. The iconography of Ganesh is said to be becoming more “human” as the years pass by. His latest depictions are often appearing more humanly as it consists of Ganesh having human eyes, and eyebrows, and in some illustrations where he is clothed in human clothing which is inconsistent with earlier portrayals as well. Additionally, oftentimes in Western art, the face and head are seen to be the features which are dominant over the rest of the body. As opposed to Indian art, his body is just as critical. most assume Ganesh is like other gods, taking a human form, but with a trunk.

The Hindus worship Ganesh because they believe he helps guide them and prevents them from pursuing wrong aims by putting obstacles in their path. Ganesh has many different representations, whether it is during festivals or in the Puranic depictions of him, but they all symbolize the beliefs of perfection and spiritual significance. He is often called upon when his devotees are starting new journeys, although his appearance may have been altered, his guidance and principles remain the same.  

07 July 2022
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