Lord Ganapati is the most popular Deity among the Hindus. No Pooja or religious rites or for that matter no daily activity in any Hindu household commences without first worshipping Ganapati. Ganapati worship is as old as Hinduism itself. The reason for this common form of prayer is not far to seek.
Human life is beset with more of thorns than roses. In order to face the daily struggle against all odds man needs some support and protection. As all human beings sail in the same boat, such assistance can come about from some super human factor alone. By intuition, experience and scriptural knowledge he realized that offering prayers to Ganapati before beginning any human enterprise or venture can go a long way in mitigating the difficulties that he may face on the way. He was convinced that even a little success he achieves in his endeavors is due to the mercy granted to him by the Almighty Ganapati. The Lord Ganapati is therefore called by different names such as Vighneshwara, Vighna Vinayaka, Sukha Karta, Vighna Harta etc. implying His qualities as the universal problem solver and remover of all impediments on all paths.
Lord Ganapati has several names like Ganesha, Gajaanana, Ekadanta, Lambodara, Kapila, Vakratunda, Surpakarna, Heramba, Vighnaraja, Siddhivinayaka, Mushikavahana etc. signifying his multifarious attributes.
Ganapati In Vedas
There is no Hindu who does not recognize the pre-eminence of the worship of this mysteriously conceived deity called Ganapati whose name occurs right in the beginning of the Rigveda itself, the earliest of the scriptures in the entire world. In this Veda we get the popular Mantra “OM Ganaanaam tvam ganapatim havaamahe ….” which is a tribute to Lord Ganesha praising His various attributes.
Ganapati In Upanishads
Every Upanishad commences with Omkara and Omkara is the form of Ganapati. The following four Upanishads specifically deal with the true significance and form of Ganesha Viz.1. Sri Ganesha Poorva Taapini Upanishad 2. Ganesha Uttaraa Taapini Upanishad 3.Heramba Upanishad and 4. Ganaapati Upanishad or Ganapati Atharvasirsha or Ganapati Atharvasirsha Upanishad which is the subject mater of this essay.
Ganapati In Smritis
Ganesha worship is referred to in all the Smritis particularly in Brihat Paraashara Smriti, Yaagnavalkya Smriti and Maanavagruhya Sutra. Valmiki Ramayan also mentions Ganesha and His Omkara Rupa. It is interesting to note that Lord Ganesha rendered His services as a stenographer to sage Veda Vyasa for taking down his dictation of the immortal epic, Mahabharata.
Ganapati In Puranas
Ganesha Mahima is discussed in many Puranas. Ganesha Purana, wherein Ganesha Gita finds place, Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Mudgal Purana elaborately explain the hidden implications of the real form of Ganesha. Besides the Shrutis and Smritis many saints, sages and devotees from all parts of India have sung in praise of Ganapati.
Siva And Ganapati
Siva made Ganesha as the leader of His hosts or Ganaas or celestial servants who are demi-gods. As Ganesha is the leader of the hosts of Lord Siva Himself he came to be called as Ganapati or the Lord of the Ganaas (Ganaanaam Pati or The Lord of the Ganaas is Ganapati). These Ganaas are ruled by Ganapati under the orders of Siva. Apart from making Ganapati as the leader of hosts, Lord Siva bestowed another blessing on Him saying “You shall be the first one to be worshipped on all occasions and that no one will be worshipped before you, not even Me. After you are worshipped alone, will anybody else be worshipped”
“Om Gam Ganapataye Namah” occurring in Ganapati Atharvasisrsha is the Mantra to propitiate Ganapati.
Symbolic Philosophy of The Form Of Ganapati
There are several legends and stories explaining the birth and elephant headed form of Ganapati and His vehicle, the mouse. His two feet represent the power of knowledge and the power of action. The elephant head signifies the symbol ‘OM’. Ganesha riding on tiny mouse indicates the complete conquest over egoism. The biggest and smallest living beings in the forms of an elephant and a mouse denote that Ganesha is the source of the evolutionary process of creatures from the smallest mouse to the biggest. elephant and finally becoming a human. This is why Ganesha has a human body, an elephant’s head and a mouse as His vehicle. A pictorial rendering of this symbolism is given at the end of this article.
Shri Ganapati Atharvasirsha occurs in the Atharvana Veda. It is considered to be the most important Vedic text on Lord Ganesha. This is a very highly popular stotra, particularly in entire Maharashtra after the Ganapati worship was taken out of the temple precincts and brought to the public places as a social movement in the shape of community worship of The Lord.
Atharva means firmness, non-wavering, one pointedness of purpose, while sirsha means intellect. This means by controlling the unsteady and outgoing mind, man’s intellect can be directed towards liberation or ‘Atmonnati’.The full text of Ganapati Atharva Sirsha with its Bhaavaartha (general meanings) is given below for the benefit of the readers.
Text of Ganapati Atharvasirsha
.. shaanti mantra..
aum bhadram karnebhih shrunuyaama devaah.
bhadram pashyemaakshabhiryajatraah ..
sthirairangaistushhtuvaan sastanuubhih .
vyashema devahitam yadaayuh ..
O Gods .. Let us hear auspicious things through our ears, see good things through our eyes, May we spend the life time allotted to us by utilizing our strong bodies in offering our services and praises to You.
aum svasti na indro vriddhashravaah .
svasti nah puushhaa vishvavedaah ..
svasti nastaarkshyo arishhtanemih .
svasti no brihaspatirdadhaatu ..
aum shaantih . shaantih .. shaantih...
May the gods Indra, Puusha, Garuda and Brihaspati bestow blessings on us and protect us.
Om Peace Peace Peace