Every puja in Indian tradition begins with Ganapati worship. For, He is perceived to be Vighnavinashaka (remover or all obstacles). The ongoing 10 days period, which takes off on 4th lunar day during the waxing phase of Bhadra month, is especially dedicated to Ganapati in our annular calendar. The question now is: Why so much of importance to Ganapati worship?
We all know that life as such does not move to one’s asking, and has to face lot of obstacles in the way. But could the obstacles be removed just by Ganapati worship? Or by having his idols placed at the entrance of our house/offices? Or by dressing up our drawing rooms with his idols available in varied forms, as could be seen in many houses? Had it been so easy, everybody’s journey of life would be smooth.
If, however, we look at the educative import of the imagery of Lord Ganapati and imbibe that spirit in our day-to-day working, we could become as street smart as Ganapati. As the pauranic story runs, the two sons of Lord Shiva, Kartikeya and Ganesh, were put to test to figure out as to who would qualify to become the custodian of Lord Shiva’s folks. It was declared that whosoever goes round the universe faster will be declared the winner. Kartikeya went around the universe on his peacock. But Ganesh just moved around his parents, and was declared the winner. The import is that Ganesh remained centred to the root, whereas Kartikeya moved on the periphery. So, Ganesh was declared as Ganapati, the lord of gana (Lord Shiva’s dependants).
In the above story, there is a message to all ordinary mortals, invariably stuck to seeming realities. Unless we remain beholden to the root of our existences, it would not be possible to understand the unity underlying all diverse existences, each unique by oneself. And but for which, harmonious co-existence of all and sundry forming this phenomenal world would not be possible.
Now look at the imagery of Ganapati. He has the head of an elephant known for its most stable mind with phenomenal memory. The ignorant children usually keep throwing stone on elephant out of fun, and street dogs will be making big noise. With its large ears, it hears everything. Yet, disregarding all such ignorant moves of others, unprovoked it keeps marching down the street.
Now see the contrast. A fragile mouse happens to be the mount of such a heavy bodied Ganapati. Mind it; even human mind is no less fragile. Dreaming, speculating, attending to indwelling fear, responding to external stimuli, our mind usually gets loaded with an unruly thought crowd. Caught up in the melee, often mind keeps randomly flirting around with inconsequential and even assumed thoughts. Mind, thus, loses its sense of direction and control. Unless, the unruly mind is reigned in, it would not remain stable, and but for which, its power gets compromised. But at the same time, one needs to be on full alert to the emerging challenges, the way a rodent runs away on even a feeble sound alert. Alertness coupled with stable mind frame, also enables getting to the finer nuances of the emerging challenges, the way rodent has access to small holes in a house.
Look at the adaptability of elephant, marked by its flexible trunk. It could pick up small eatables, as also take in its fold the trunk of a tree and uproot it, to meet its hunger. But that is need based, not greed or ego based. Ganapati is perceived as having its one of the attacking tooth broken. Yet, it is not bothered, as being devoid any sense of ego, it does not carry any killing instinct. So, it does not misuse its might over trivial issues.
Ganapati is perceived as having a large belly, which is filled by a bowl full of ladoos. Why a ladoo and not any other sweet? Remember, ladoo is round and solid. It implies that life has varied dimensions, and all of them are important. Therefore, they all need to be attended in holistic terms, in the right proportion due. Otherwise, if you ever neglect one aspect at the cost of other, one may have to suffer the consequences thereof leading to painful experiences.
No wonder, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was so emphatic in according iconic status to Ganapati. He must have felt that by imbibing the educative import inlaid with Ganapati’s symbolism, would help remove obstacles, and turn life into a meaningful experience.