Yogi Superheroes Round 2 – Day 4 – Ganesha

Ah, Ganesha, that perennial favorite.  EVERYONE likes Ganesha.  He’s like that big teddy bear of an uncle that is always there for you with a strong hug and words of wisdom.  Grounded, unflappable, dependable, and fun.  I mean, look at him….

He just looks happy, radiant, and settled!

And yes, he has the body of a man and the head of an elephant.  How did this happen?  Stories vary, but the most common one says that his mother, Parvati, consort of Shiva, was getting tired of the local guys spying on her while she bathed.  Shiva was away meditating on Mt. Kailash, as he is wont to do, and Parvati needed a guardian to protect her.  So, she fashioned a boy from sandalwood paste and blew life into him.  This boy was Ganesha.  Parvati told Ganesha that he must never let anyone into the house under any circumstances, and Ganesha, being a faithful and committed sort of chap took his responsibility seriously.  So seriously, in fact, that when one day Shiva – his father, unbeknownst to him – showed up at the door, Ganesha denied him entry.  Parvati said no one, that means no one!  Having been sent away from his own house, Shiva became enraged and cut off Ganesha’s head.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with Parvati, who demanded that Shiva bring his son back to life and restore his head.  Shiva asked for advice on how to best do that and was told to bring back the head of the first living creature he saw.  This was an elephant…and therefore, Ganesha was brought back to life and given the head of an elephant.

Ganesha, like our other characters this week, holds a variety of objects in his multiple hands.  One is the lotus flower (again! yes, it keeps turning up!), symbol of the spiritual path.  He also holds a noose and a hatchet.  The noose is though to represent the strangling bonds of desire, and the hatchet is the tool which these bonds can be cut.  His third hand is poised in the “abhaya mudra” (yes, that again too!) the gesture that says “do not fear.” Coming from this cuddly guy, it’s very reassuring!  Finally, his fourth hand holds a bowl of sweets.  Yes, Ganesha like his sweets – hence the pot belly!  He’s not afraid of a little sensory pleasure and he keeps himself well-nourished – a good state to be in for the god who rules the muladhara (root) chakraClick here for a great article on Ganesha’s iconography.

Ganesha is a good character to connect with in the fall.  As I wrote about last week, fall – especially here in the Rocky Mountain west – can be a tough time to stay grounded.  The air is dry and moving; vata abounds.  To bring that into balance we need to root into our feet, legs, and hips. We need to feel heavy on the earth – like elephants!  They have big heavy feet and legs that stand unmovable on the ground.  They are slow to move, but once they get going, they can get be forces to be reckoned with.  Ganesha has this quality as well.  When he says he is going to stay put at Parvati’s door, he does it.  He is considered to be the “remover of obstacles” because once he decides he is going to do something, it gets done, regardless of how long it takes, or what resources are required.  We can emulate him when we feel uprooted, and any grounding poses (Ganapati’s pose, utkatasana, standing poses with an emphasis on the legs, uttanasana, seating poses) we do will hep us connect with his energy.

Finally, I think Ganesha invites us to be open-minded, to look beyond appearances, and to have faith.  He’s not the most “normal” looking god out there, really.  I mean, Lakshmi, the gorgeous goddess of beauty and abundance – sure, of course, that makes sense.  But a pot-bellied elephant-headed guy?  Not what one might expect from a major deity.  Yet he is revered by Hindus and yogis the world over as a manifestation of the divine.  We have to look just a bit below the surface to embrace him, and once we do, he is as irresistible as that teddy bear of an uncle.  A little investigation and a little faith rewards us with stability and unwavering support.  That metaphor makes sense to me!

Enough that I have my own Ganesha.  My mother bought him for me from a crafts workshop near Ankor Wat, in Cambodia…


Ganesha is popular enough that he even sits on a street corner in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho!!  Here are photos of him there….

This public art work lead to quite the controversy up there in northern Idaho.  I investigated this and blogged about it a couple of months ago while I was up there – you can read the whole blogpost and learn more about this statue here.

Have you seen Ganeshas in the streets?  Or anywhere else unexpected?  If so, post them here – I love seeing him in unusual surroundings!

And finally, I’ll leave you with an awesome Ganesha chant by that rockin’ kirtan master, Dave Stringer…enjoy!

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~ by bridgetannlyons on September 22, 2011.

One Response to “Yogi Superheroes Round 2 – Day 4 – Ganesha”

  1. […] inspiring qualities, stories about him, a kirtan video, and links to articles and pictures, check out an earlier Ganesha blogpost of mine here. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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