Traditionally inIndia, Vedic astrology or Jyotish horoscopes are prepared for children at birth. Most parents name their child based on the placement of the child’s lunar nakshatra (star). Thus, a horoscope is necessary to ascertain the appropriate phoneme for the child. At the top of every Vedic astrology horoscope is a drawing of Shri Ganesh, the elephant headed god. He is the remover of obstacles and invoked at the onset of any endeavor. Today marks the holiday of Ganesh Chaturthi. It’s the beginning of a joyous ten day festival inIndia. This festival commences in the Vedic lunar month of Bhadrapada on the fourth phase (chaturthi) of the waxing Moon.
In the Vedic cosmology, there are three primary male deities: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the destroyer. Shiva removes that which has outlived its usefulness so that it may take new form and rise anew.
Shiva’s wife is Parvati. According to Vedic folklore, Shiva used to spend extended periods of time in deep meditation on Mt. Kailash. Parvati grew very lonely during one of Shiva’s extended retreats. She decided to fashion a son out of clay for herself. She named her son Ganesh (also spelled Ganesha).
Parvati and Ganesh happily spent their days together. She cherished more and more as the years went by. One day, Parvati decided to take her ritual bath and told her son to stand watch over the door and not let anyone enter. Shortly after she entered her bath, Lord Shiva finally returned home. He was eager to see his wife.
Obviously Shiva was unaware of his son. He asked where Parvati was and Ganesh replied that she was taking her ritual bath and could not be disturbed. Shiva was adamant about seeing his wife, but Ganesh refused to yield. Shiva grew increasingly angry and he took his sword and chopped off Ganesh’s head.
When Parvati heard the commotion and saw what happened to her son, she was inconsolable. She told Shiva that he had killed his own son. Shiva vowed to bring Ganesh back to life. Shiva told his men to go out and bring back the head of the first creature that they saw. His men returned with an elephant’s head and Shiva placed the head on Ganesh. It is said that the beheaded elephant received moksha.
The prefix Ga connotes buddhi or the intellect and na is symbolic for vijnana or spiritual wisdom. The suffix –isha means the lord. Pati means mate or partner. Ganesh has 108 names; one is Vighneshwara or the remover of obstacles.
On this holiday of Ganesh Chaturthi, special offering of sweets are prepared to propitiate Ganesh. They are usually steam cooked sweets known as modak, which are dumplings made from rice or wheat flour stuffed with coconut, jaggery, and sesame seeds. The Ganesh festival is most widely celebrated in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namah: