Hinduism's most popular deity: Elephant-headed Ganesha. Ganesha is held in awe and reverence as a powerful force that removes obstacles in people's lives. But Ganesha also evokes a very down-to-earth affection that can be integrated into oneself. Some of this warmth emanates from his close involvement in our everyday lives and from the mythological tales about him. The legends of Ganesha depict him as a devoted son and a loving brother.
There are many versions, but here's the popular one. Officially, Ganesha's father is Shiva the Destroyer, one of the holy trinity in the Hindu pantheon, a rather fearsome figure with matted locks and an ash-smeared body who spends eons meditating in the Himalayas. Parvati, his beautiful wife, presides over all of creation. Without her, the earth would be barren and perennially cold. During her husband's long absence, Parvati created a little boy for herself from a lump of clay - none other than Ganesha. When Shiva, unaware of his 'son's' existence, returned home, Ganesha barred him from access to Parvati, who was bathing and had instructed her son to guard against intruders. Shiva, whose rage could destroy the universe, chopped off the child's head. When he realized his blunder, he replaced the boy's head with that of an elephant. Shiva also granted Ganesha a boon - that he would be worshipped before the start of any earthly enterprise. Notwithstanding this dramatic event in childhood, Ganesha grew up to be regarded as the essence of devotion.
Hindu mythology has several stories about Ganesha and his younger sibling, Karthikeya. Like many Hindu myths, stories of Ganesha & Kartikeya are of childlike simplicity, yet packed with lessons for mankind.
Once, a mango infused with divine knowledge was brought to Mount Kailas in the Himalayas, where Shiva and Parvati hold court. Since only one individual could consume the fruit, a race was proposed between the two sons - whosoever circumambulated the planet three times and returned first would win the mango fruit. Confident in the knowledge that Karthikeya's peacock would outrace Ganesha's mouse, Kartikeya zoomed off into space to get a head start.
Ganesha, on the other hand, simply folded his palms in prayer and walked around his seated parents, returning to his starting point ahead of Kartikeya. His reasoning? Shiva and Parvati contain the world within them; walking around his parents is equivalent to actually going around the earth. He won the fruit, but then ended up also offered it to his brother to share.
There are conflicting views regarding the marital status of Ganesha. Some parts of India worship Ganesha as a bachelor while the rest of India worships him along with his two wives.
Ganesha is thought to be married to Siddhi (spiritual strength) and Buddhi (intellect) - the daughters of Brahma the Creator. One of the holy trinity in the Hindu pantheon. Like most ancient knowledge, there sometimes be some discrepancies on what happened thousands and thousands of years ago.
We do know, that praying to Ganesha can have some very fruitful benefits. That being said, do we always really need to be asking for things? Maybe the answer is yes? Ganesha also represents devotion. And is a beautiful deity to pray to with all the gratitude that you can cultivate in your heart. Especially if you are new to devotional practices. Ganesha is a lovely name to chant and a beautiful way to start singing your love to the divine.