Ganesh – the story of the elephant headed god

Hello everyone, I hope you’re well!

So this coming month’s theme for my online yoga classes is deities. A sankalpa (intention) will be set at the beginning of each practice. This intention will be based on the chosen deity of the week and what they represent. The first yoga class will be themed on Ganesh.

The yoga class is for everyone. Suitable for beginners, all the way to advanced. The sequence will include some somewhat challenging asana. Purposely placed to challenge us and entice the ego to come out and play. I will be guiding us inward to focus more on the mindset. Encouraging us to overcome what’s perceived to be an obstacle and learning to move into the postures with strength, ease, and surrender. 

Overcoming Difficult Times

So for those who are in the St Helens and Merseyside area, please feel free to come along to practice with us in St Helens town centre. Or maybe choose the option to practice yoga online in the comfort of your own home.  

So let’s begin with an insight into the beautiful story of Ganesh, so we can become familiar with the moral of the story. 

Traditionally, at the start of a brand new venture, the mantra Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha is used to clear paths to potential difficulties. This chant invokes Ganesh, the acknowledged deity and ‘lord of obstacles’. 

Here is one of my favourite versions…enjoy!

What does Ganesha symbolise?

Also referred to as Ganapati, The Lord of Beginnings, The Remover of Obstacles, and also the deity of fine Fortune, Ganesh is probably one of the most well-known deities. He’s the son of Shiva and Parvati, two of perhaps the most powerful Gods and Goddesses, however, despite the celebrated depictions of his elephant’s head, he wasn’t born that way….

The story concerning how Ganesh got his elephant’s head varies across India – as most things do – however a wide told story goes one thing like this:

The birth of Ganesha

One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt.Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband’s (Shiva) cow, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angered by Nandi’s act of defiance, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and breathing life into it, she created Ganesha, declaring him to be her loyal son.

such power did Ganesha possess

The next time Parvati wished to bathe, she posted Ganesha on guard duty at the door. In due course, Shiva came home, only to find this strange boy telling him he couldn’t enter his own house! Furious, Shiva ordered his army to destroy the boy, but they all failed! Such power did Ganesha possess, being the son of Devi Herself!

This surprised Shiva. Seeing that this was no ordinary boy, the usually peaceful Shiva decided he would have to fight him, and in his divine fury severed Ganesha’s head, killing him instantly. When Parvati learned of this, she was so enraged and insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation! Lord Brahma, being the Creator, naturally had his issues with this, and pleaded that she reconsider her drastic plan. She said she would, but only if two conditions were met: one, that Ganesha is brought back to life, and two, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods.

Shiva, having cooled down by this time, and realising his mistake, agreed to Parvati’s conditions. He sent Brahma out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature he crosses that is laying with its head facing North. Brahma soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant, which Shiva placed onto Ganesha’s body. Breathing new life into him, he declared Ganesha to be his son as well and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods, and leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati.



Meaning of the story of Ganesh

At first glance, this story may seem like a myth or a magical tale to share with our children. But, the true magical meaning is veiled. 

Parvati is a form of Devi, the Parashakti (Supreme Energy). In the human body, She resides in the Muladhara chakra as the Kundalini shakti. It’s said that when we rid ourselves of the impurities that bind us, then the Lord automatically comes. This is why Shiva, the Supreme Lord, came unannounced as Parvati was bathing.

Nandi, Shiva’s bull, who Parvati first sent to guard the door represents the divine temperament. Nandi is so devoted to Shiva that his every thought is directed to Him, and he can easily recognise the Lord when He arrives. This shows that the attitude of the spiritual aspirant is what gains access to Devi’s (the kundalini shakti’s) abode. One must first develop this attitude of the devotee before hoping to become qualified for the highest treasure of spiritual attainment, which Devi alone grants.

the great secret is revealed

After Nandi permitted Shiva to enter, Parvati took the turmeric paste from Her own body, and with it created Ganesha. Yellow is the colour associated with the Muladhara chakra, where the kundalini resides, and Ganesha is the deity who guards this chakra. Devi needed to create Ganesha, who represents the earthbound awareness, as a shield to protect the divine secret from unripe minds. It is when this awareness begins to turn away from things of the world, and toward the Divine, as Nandi had, that the great secret is revealed.

Shiva is the Lord and Supreme Teacher. Ganesha here represents the ego-bound Jiva. When the Lord comes, the Jiva (the consciousness in body), surrounded as it is with the murky cloud of ego, usually doesn’t recognise Him, and maybe even ends up arguing or fighting with Him! Therefore, it is the duty of the Lord, in the form of the Guru, to cut off the head of our ego! So powerful is this ego, however, that at first, the Guru’s instructions may not work, as Shiva’s armies failed to subdue Ganesha. It often requires a tougher approach, but, eventually the compassionate Guru, in His wisdom finds a way.

Ganesh Mudra

games mudra

Mudras are gestures created with the hands to focus the mind and direct subtle energy towards a certain place. They’re highly symbolic and are said to be powerful in the yogic tradition.
The Ganesh mudra represents strength and power and is additionally thought to be strengthening for the physical heart, and the muladhara chakra. Position the hands clasped in front of the chest with the elbows wide. This mudra represents both protection, but can also symbolise that our biggest obstacle area is often caused by ourselves. Our doubts, fears, and insecurities are often the only things holding us back (ego). By knowing this, we might realise that rather than seeking outside of ourselves for the answers to life’s issues. The real work lies in removing our obstacles. Maybe if we ask nicely though, Ganesh can lend a hand….

Om Shanti
Lea x

Here is some of my favourite Ganesha homeware…click on the images to take you to store