Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular of Hindu festivals. This
is the birthday of God Ganesha. It falls on the 4th day of the bright fortnight
of Bhadrapada (August-September). It is observed throughout India, as well
as by devoted Hindus in all parts of the world.
Ganpati is the elephant-headed God. he is worshipped first in any prayers. his names are repeated first before any auspicious work is begun, before any kind of worship is begun. he is the God of power and wisdom. he is the eldest son of Shiva and the elder brother of Skanda or Kartikeya. he is the energy of Shiva and so he is called the son of Shankar and Umadevi.
The following story is narrated about his birth and how he came to have the head of an elephant
Once upon a time, the Goddess Gauri (Parvati wife of Shiva), while bathing, created Ganpati as a pure white being out of the mud of her Body and placed him at the entrance of the house. She told him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for a bath. God Shiva himself was returning home quite thirsty and was stopped by Ganpati at the gate. Shiva became angry and cut off Ganpati's head as he thought Ganpati was an outsider,when Gauri came to know of this she was sorely grieved.To console her grief, Shiva ordered his servants to cut off and bring to him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing north. The servants went on their mission and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was thus made and the elephant's head was brought before Shiva. The God then joined the elephant's head onto the body of Ganpati.
This is how Ganpati lost one tusk in a fight. when Shiva, Ganpati's father, was sleeping, Parshuram came to visit him. Ganpati did not want his father's sleep to be disturbed. when Parshuram insisted, a fight between Ganpati and Parshuram broke out. Parshuram threw his axe, which had been given to him by Shiva, Ganpati at recognizing the axe and out of reverence for his father, Ganpati refused to intercept the weapon. he bowed and took its impact on one of his tusks, which broke.
Ganpati is very fond of sweet pudding or balls of rice flour with a sweet core. On one of his birthdays he was going around house to house accepting the offerings of sweet puddings. having eaten a good number of these, he set out moving on his mouse at night. suddenly the mouse stumbled it had seen a snake and became frightened with the result that Ganesha fell down. his stomach burst open and all the sweet puddings came out. but Ganpati stuffed them back into his stomach and, catching hold of the snake, tied it around his belly seeing all this, the moon in the sky had a hearty laugh. this unseemly behaviour of the moon annoyed him immensely and so he pulled out one of his tusks and hurled it against the moon, and cursed that no one should look at the moon on the Ganesh Chaturthi day.
Ganpati and his brother God Subramanya once had a dispute as to who was the elder of the two. The matter was referred to God Shiva for final decision. Shiva decided that whoever would make a tour of the whole world and come back first to the starting point had the right to be the elder. Subramanya flew off at once on his vehicle, the peacock, to make a circuit of the world. But the wise Ganpati went, in loving worshipfulness, around His divine parents and asked for the prize of His victory.
God Shiva said, "Beloved and wise Ganpati ! But how can I give you the prize; you did not go around the world?"
Ganesha replied, "No, but I have gone around my parents. my parents represent the entire manifested universe!"
Thus the dispute was settled in favour of Ganpati, who was thereafter acknowledged as the elder of the two brothers, mother Parvati also gave him a fruit as a prize for this victory.
In his first lesson in the alphabet a Maharashtrian child is initiated into the Mantra of Ganpati, Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah. Only then is the alphabet taught.
The following are some of the common Names of God Ganesha: Dhoomraketu, Sumukha, Ekadantha, Gajakarnaka, Lambodara, Vignaraja, Ganadhyaksha, Phalachandra, Gajanana, Vinayaka, Vakratunda, Siddhivinayaka, Surpakarna, Heramba, Skandapurvaja, Kapila and Vigneshwara. He is also known by many as Maha-Ganapathi.
He has as his vehicle a small mouse. He is the presiding Deity of the Muladhara Chakra, the psychic centre in the body in which the Kundalini Shakti resides.God Ganesha represents Om or the Pranava, which is the chief Mantra among the Hindus. Nothing can be done without uttering it. This explains the practice of invoking Ganesha before beginning any rite or undertaking any project.
His two feet represent the power of knowledge and the power of action. The elephant head is significant in that it is the only figure in nature that has the form of the symbol for Om.The significance of riding on a mouse is the complete conquest over egoism. The holding of the ankusha represents his rulership of the world. It is the emblem of divine Royalty.
Ganesha is the first God. Riding on a mouse, one of nature's smallest creatures and having the head of an elephant, the biggest of all animals, denotes that Ganesha is the creator of all creatures. Elephants are very wise animals; this indicates that God Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom. It also denotes the process of evolution the mouse gradually evolves into an elephant and finally becomes a man. This is why Ganpati has a human body, an elephant's head and a mouse as His vehicle. This is the symbolic philosophy of His form.
In the Ganapathi Upanishad, Ganesha is identified with the Supreme Self. The legends that are connected with God Ganesha are recorded in the Ganesha Khanda of the Brahma Vivartha Purana.