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 his 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 of the 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.
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, single 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
Adidaivat Pratipaadhak Khand
aum namaste ganapataye ..
tvameva pratyaksham tattvamasi .. tvameva kevalam kartaasi ..
tvameva kevalam dhartaasi .. tvameva kevalam hartaasi ..
tvameva sarvam khalvidam brahmaasi ..
tvam saakshaadaatmaasi nityam .. 1..
I bow to thee, O Ganapati, who is the Lord of all the groups of Deities ranging from Brahma. You are the personified form of Brahman or the Brhmatattva. You are the creator, protector and destroyer of all beings. You are the in-dweller, eternal, all pervading Brahman embodied in all of us as Self. 1
ritam vachmi.. satyam vachmi.. 2..
I shall speak the scriptural truth and experiential truth only.2
Vighna Rakshanaruup Khand
ava tvam maam .. ava vaktaaram .. ava shrotaaram..
ava daataaram .. ava dhaataaram..
ava pashchaattaat.. ava purastaat ..
avottaraattaat .. ava dakshinaattaat..
ava chordhvaattaat .. avaadharaattaat ..
sarvato maam paahi paahi samantaat .. 3..
Please, protect me, who is speaking about your true form. Please protect me who is hearing about your noble qualities. Please protect me who is teaching your adorations and worship to the other disciples. Please protect me who imbibes the spirit of Sadhana for your worship. Please protect me from all the obstacles in the way of my worshipping You emanating from all the sides and the directions (North, South, East and West, Above and Below). 3
tvam vaangmayastvam chinmayah ..
tvamaanandamayastvam brahmamayah ..
tvam sachchidaanandaadvitiiyosi ..
tvam pratyaksham brahmaasi ..
tvam jnaanamayo vijnaanamayosi .. 4..
You are the word, deed and thought. You are the truth, consciousness and bliss. You are the One only and non-dual Universal Self. You are the personified Brahma, appearing before us. You are the entire knowledge and wisdom. 4
Aadidaivat Varnanaatmak Khand
sarvam jagadidam tvatto jaayate ..
sarvam jagadidam tvattastishthati ..
sarvam jagadidam tvayi layameshyati ..
sarvam jagadidam tvayi pratyeti ..
tvam bhuumiraapo.analo.anilo nabhah ..
tvam chatvaari vaakpadaani .. 5..
This entire world has arisen from you, been nourished by you and dissolved into you. You support this moving and unmoving world. You are the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. You are the four levels of speech viz. para, pashyanti, madhyama and vaikhari. 5
Aadhyaatma Prakaashak Khand
tvam gunatrayaatiitah tvamavasthaatrayaatiitah ..
tvam dehatrayaatiitah .. tvam kaalatrayaatiitah..
tvam muulaadhaarasthithosi nityam ..
tvam shaktitrayaatmakah ..
tvaam yogino dhyaayanti nityam ..
tvam brahmaa tvam vishhnustvam rudrastvam indrastvam agnistvam vaayustvam
suuryastvam chandramaastvam brahmabhuurbhuvah svarom .. 6..
You are beyond the three Gunas- sattwa, rajas and tamas. You are beyond the three states of consciousness - waking, dreaming and deep sleep. You are beyond the three states of body- gross, subtle and causal. You are beyond the three time-periods – past, present and future. You are seated in the Mooladhara Chakra in the physical body from where the Kundalini shakti arises. You are the source of three types of energy viz creation, maintenance and dissolution. You are always being meditated upon by the sages. You are the creator Brahma, the protector Vishnu and the destroyer Rudra .. You are the Indra, the Fire, the Air, the Sun, the Moon. You are Brahma, the three worlds viz. prithvi, antariksh and svarg and also the Pranava – OM. 6
Ganesha Vidya Khand
ganaadim puurvamuchchaarya varnaadim tadanantaram ..
anusvaarah paratarah .. ardhendulasitam .. taarena riddham ..
etattavamanusvaruupam .. gakaarah puurvaruupam..
akaaro madhyamaruupam .. anusvaarashchaantyaruupam ..
binduruttararuupam .. naadah sandhaanam ..
samhitaasandhih .. saishhaa ganeshavidyaa ..
ganakarishih .. nichridgaayatrii chchandah ..
ganapatirdevataa .. aum gam ganapataye namah .. 7..
Your name starts with the letter 'ga', and ends with the letter 'sha' and in between come the letter 'a' and anuswara 'n'. These have symbolic meanings representing the 'ganas' of prosody, and the letters and sounds of 'akaara''anuswara' of the language and the ‘sandhis’ of the grammar. The sage of this hymn is 'Ganaka', its meter is 'nichridgayatrii' and the presiding deity is 'Ganapati'. After describing the structure of the mantra the Rishi gives the full form of the manra as ‘Om Gam’ after which one has to utter ‘Ganapataye Namah’ and then offer Namaskaars.
This part is giving the deeper Vedic meaning of the mantrabiija ga (m*) and is called the Ganeshavidyaa. 7
Sri Ganesha Gayatri Mantra Khand
ekadantaaya vidmahe vakratundaaya dhiimahi ..
tanno dantih prachodayaat .. 8..
Praise be to the bearer of the single tusk and crooked trunk. May we be inspired by this knowledge and meditation? 8
ekadantam chaturhastam paashamankusha dhaarinam ..
radam cha varadam hastairbibhraanam muushhakadhvajam ..
raktam lambodaram shuurpakarnakam raktavaasasam ..
raktagandhaanuliptaangam raktapushhpaih supuujitam ..
bhaktaanukampinam devam jagatkaaranamachyutam ..
aavirbhuutam cha srishhtyaadau prakriteh purushhaatparam ..
evam dhyaayati yo nityam sa yogii yoginaam varah .. 9..
After describing the Lord in the Mantra form, the sage now paints His physical form for the purposes of meditation on Him. The Lord is holding a tusk, a rope, an instrument 'ankusha' in three hands and the fourth hand is showing the boon-giving posture (vara mudra). He has his body smeared with a red fragrant paste. He is wearing a red dress and being worshipped by red flowers. He has the mouse as his vehicle. He has a large stomach and long ears. He is compassionate to His devotees. He is the cause of all the ‘leelas’ in this earth. He appeared before the creation of this universe. He is beyond the primordial Nature or Prakriti and Purusha. That sage who meditates on the Lord in this form is better than those who meditate otherwise. 9
namo vraatapataye . namo ganapataye . namah pramathapataye . namaste.astu lambodaraaya ekadantaaya. vighnanaashine shivasutaaya . shrii varadamuurtaye namo namah .. 10..
Salutations to the Lord of Gods and the Lord of the group of Ganas or hosts created by Siva,. Salutations to the Lord of the Sevak of Sankara. Salutations to the large limbed and the single tusked Ganapati. Salutations to the destroyer of obstacles, to the son of Shiva and the boon-giver incarnate, Ganapati. 10
etadatharvashiirsham yo.adhiite .. sa brahmabhuuyaaya kalpate ..
.. sa sarva vighnairnabaadhyate .. sa sarvatah sukhamedhate
sa panchamahaapaapaatpramuchyate ..
saayamadhiiyaano divasakritam paapam naashayati ..
praataradhiiyaano raatrikritam paapam naashayati ..
saayampraatah prayunjaano apaapo bhavati ..
sarvatraadhiiyaano.apavighno bhavati ..
dharmaarthakaamamoksham cha vindati ..
idamatharvashiirshhamashishhyaaya na deyam ..
yo yadi mohaaddaasyati sa paapiiyaan bhavati..
sahasraavartanaat yam yam kaamamadhiite..
tam tamanena saadhayet .. 11..
The one who studies Atharvasiirsham becomes qualified to become Brahma himself. He will not be afflicted by any obstacles and attains all-round happiness. He will be released from the five great sins.
If one studies this Upanishad in the evening he is absolved of the sins committed during the day; if studied in the morning the sins of the night are washed away; if studied both in the morning and evening, one is totally absolved of all sins. If studied always, one is freed from all obstacles; one obtains the benefits of all the four Purushaarthas (dharma, artha, kaama and moksha). However, one should not teach this to the undeserving student i.e. to the one who does not have faith and devotion to this scripture. If done so, out of greed for wealth, such a teacher becomes a great sinner. If one studies this Upanishad a thousand times according to prescribed Shastras, one achieves whatever is desired for.11
anena ganapatimabhishhinchati sa vaagmii bhavati ..
chaturthyaamanashnan japati sa vidyaavaan bhavati .
sa yashovaan bhavati ..
ityatharvanavaakyam .. brahmaadyaavaranam vidyaat
na bibheti kadaachaneti .. 12..
The devotee who performs Abhishek to the idol of Ganapati becomes a master in the art of speech. The devotee who studies this scripture on the Chaturthi by observing fast becomes a great and famous scholar. This is the final opinion of the Atharvasirsha. The one who practices this Brahma Vidya knows no fear, never.12
yo duurvaankurairyajati sa vaishravanopamo bhavati ..
yo laajairyajati sa yashovaan bhavati ..
sa medhaavaan bhavati ..
yo modakasahasrena yajati
sa vaanchitaphalamavaapnoti ..
sa sarvam labhate sa sarvam labhate .. 13..
He who worships with 'Dhuurva' flowers becomes equal to the lord of wealth (Kubera), the worshipper who uses rice flakes, becomes a man of fame and scholarship, if one worships by offering a thousand coconuts and sugar mixed rice balls, obtains whatever is desired for and one who performs Yagna with ghee and ‘samidha’ sticks attains everything, everything indeed.13
ashhtau braahmanaan samyag graahayitvaa
suuryavarchasvii bhavati ..
suuryagrahe mahaanadyaam pratimaasannidhau
vaa japtvaa siddhamantro bhavati ..
mahaavighnaat pramuchyate .. mahaadoshhaat pramuchyate ..
mahaapaapaat pramuchyate ..mahaapratyavaayaat pramuchyate..
sa sarvavidbhavati sa sarvavidbhavati ..
ya evam veda ityupanishad .. 14..
By teaching this (atharva) to eight brahmins properly, one becomes bright like the Sun. If the idol of Ganapati is worshipped by chanting this mantra, at the time of the solar eclipse, by standing in a great river like Ganga or Yamuna etc., one gets the full effect of the mantra and becomes a Siddha in that field. He is released from great obstacles, great defects/imperfections and great sins. He who knows this truth becomes the all-knower; he becomes the all-knower. Know this as the end of the Upanishad.14
.. shaanti mantra ..
aum sahanaavavatu .. sahanaubhunaktu ..
saha viiryam karavaavahai ..
tejasvinaavadhiitamastu maa vidvishhaavahai ..
aum shaantih . shaantih .. shaantih...
Let us both (the teacher and the taught) be protected together, let us
enjoy together, let us endeavour together, let our study be resplendent, let us not hate or quarrel with each other.
Om Peace Peace Peace
May there be peace all around (both outside and inside us).