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Why lord Ganesha have elephant head
Posted By Sarin on Sep 23, 2012     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news

In my previous article, we saw “why Ganesha is god and worthy of worship”.  If you haven’t read it, then please go through the below post:
Is lord ganesha God and worthy of worship

In this article, I will continue further to list out the reasons on “why elephant head was chosen for Ganesha” or why “lord Ganesha is shown with elephant head”.
Let us first see how Ganesha got his elephant head. Before knowing how Ganesha got his elephant head, there is a prefixed story which should be known first:
Once upon a time, Diety Surya (Sun) killed two demons, Sumaali and Mali. This angered Lord Shiva because Sumaali and mali were his dearest devotees and their deeds were not severe enough to be awarded death punishment. So, infuriated Lord Shiva fired his trident on Deity Surya. Strike of the powerful trident was unbearable even for the deity Surya and he fell down from his chariot unconscious. Seeing the dire unhealthy condition of his son, sage Kashyap began to wail in agony. Soon, all other demigods joined in mourning of kashyap since the part of the world was plunged into darkness because of no regular motion of the sun. Angry sage Kashyap cursed Shiva that one day; he will decapitate his own son by his trident. In the meantime, lord Shiva’s anger subsided and he resurrected Deity Surya but was unable to avoid sage kashyap curse as shown in below story.

How Ganesha Got His Head
As per shiva purana, the story of lord Ganesha birth goes like this: Once goddess Parvati was alone in her house and wanted a guard who will not allow anyone to enter her divine chamber while she baths. So, she rubbed paste of sandalwood on her body to create a magical figure of a young boy. She infused life to that creature and told him to guard the entrance like her son while she baths. When her husband lord Shiva returned, Ganesha obstructed him in entering his wife chamber.  

Ganesha Stopping Shiva
Unaware of the lad being his son, shiva became furiously and fired his powerful weapon to behead the young boy. Returning from bath, Parvati saw her headless son and in extreme grief threatened shiva to destroy whole universe. To soothe her, Shiva asked his celestial armies(Ganas) to search for ganesha head. Unfortunately, shiva Trishul strike was so powerful that Ganesha head was hurled beyond the reach of shiva celestial armies. Lord Brahma then suggested Ganesha's head to be replaced with the first living being with head facing north since north is associated with wisdom. Shiva asked his celestial armies (known as ganas) to get the head of any living being facing north. Their soldier was not able to find a sleeping human being but found a sleeping elephant. So, they brought elephant head which was later attached to the headless body of the boy. Shiva restored the life of the boy and made him the leader (Pati) of his follower. Hence, he was given the 'Ganapati'. Another name Ganesha is made up of gana (Followers) and isha (lord) which precisely means lord of the ganas.  
However, Brahma purana narrates a completely different story: Once, lord Shiva asked Parvati to fast for a year (punyaka vrata) to propitiate Vishnu year to have a divine son. After one year of fasting, lord Vishnu avatar (Krishna) announced that he would incarnate as mother parvati son in every kalpa (eon). So, after a year when parvati gave birth to a son, all deities gathered to celebrate baby birth with great enthusiasm. However, Lord Shani(Son of deity surya) avoided looking at the infant. Disturbed by this behaviour, Parvati demanded an explanation for which lord shani replied “looking at the baby might harm the baby body”. However, parvati insisted and when Shani looked at the baby, child head was severed instantly and flew down to Goloka. All gods started to bemoan, whereupon Vishnu travelled on his divine Garuda (Eagle) and brought the head of a sleeping elephant from the banks of river pushpabhadra. This head was joined to the headless body of the baby after which life was revived on the baby body.
As Indians, we are often questioned about our faith of worshipping an elephant-headed, broken-tusked, pot-bellied god having mouse as his vehicle. Now elephant headed god might sound strange but lord Ganesha every single peculiarity has a deep spiritual meaning which we will discuss in this article

 I gave some of the reasons in my previous article (Link given at start of this article). In this article, let us see the deep spiritual meaning of each organ of lord Ganesha head.

Lord Ganesha eyes
Firstly, eyes of the elephant are beautiful, kind, compassionate and full of innocence. So, Lord Ganesha is also kind, compassionate, loving and caring to devotees. Secondly, all animals on earth see the objects with right dimensions. Elephant is the only animal which does not have this feature and sees all the things bigger than size. This implies that never go by the size of the opponent and all living beings are to be nurtured and respected.  This is the reason why lord Ganesha vehicle is mouse, the tiny creature compared to elephant.
Elephant has two kinds of teeth - one for show and other to chew and eat. These teaches humans to adopt a dual behavior in life, Good behavior with gentleman and bad superficial behavior with crooked evil minded individuals.  

Nose signifies the reputation of an individual. For example. Whenever anyone commits a wrong deed, others say he has cut his nose; i.e. his respect and reputation is gone. Longer the nose, greater is said to be the reputation of the individual. Elephant is the most respected by all animals like lions, tigers etc and most often, elephant is also known as the leader of the forest. So, lord Ganesha long nose signifies that he is the most respected of all deities. Ganesha trunk is also a symbol of his intelligence. Elephant uses trunk to carry massive trees, logs etc. At the same time, elephant uses his trunk to perform minute task like picking up blades of grass, breaking small coconut etc. Hence, massive and minute task performed by the same trunk signifies lord Ganesha power of discrimination and intelligence.
Lord Ganesha inverted trunk represent OM, the most powerful word of this universe.  OM is said to be the sound generated first when creation came into being.  

Lord Ganesha inverted AUM on swastika

Tongue is the most dangerous organ of any human being because it is tongue which produces the sound which in turn becomes the mode of communication between two living beings. If tongue speaks offensive words, than it can ignite violence, loss of life etc. On the other hand, if tongue speaks good words then it can increase harmony, love and mutual affection between two living beings. Since humans have tongue outwards its neck, their tongue keep lollying out whereas in case of elephant, their tongue points towards its neck and hence need an extra effort to speak by moving their trunk upward first. Such Lord Ganesha peculiar tongue signifies that one must speak as per the need and before speaking against other, one must introspect himself.
Lord Ganesha is also known as Surpakarna, meaning one with flappy ears. A flapper (Surpa) is a traditional, indigenous way to winnow the grains so as to remove all unwanted material from the grains, Hence this teaches human to live in peace by listening to only good talks and ignoring all filthy immoral words that reaches our ears. Ganesha long ears also signify that he listens to the problems of all his devotees. Although his large ears hear everything, he retains only good and filters all bad.

Lord Ganesha another name is Lambodra, meaning one with large belly. Literally it means one who can digest even a high level secret easily. One who can't digest even a small gossip is short bellied. Thus, Ganeshji has the power of digesting or swallowing all the sorrows of this Universe. Ganesha's big belly also represents generosity and total acceptance.  

Lord Ganesha long ears and large belly

Every part of Lord Ganesha teaches a lesson. Only the Upper part of lord Ganesha is elephant shaped whereas the lower part is human like. Why it is so? This is because among all other animals, only humans have heart that beats with extreme love and emotion and understands good and bad feelings quite well. So, lord Ganesha has been given the human heart to understand the love, affection and good feelings of his devotees.

  Mouse is very small in size but his activities are very enterprising and huge. It is always engaged in activities involving hardwork

Meaning: Gods is helpful to those who have entrepreneurship, intelligence, capacity, courage, patience, and powers.
You may find it strange that the lord has chosen an obsequious noisy mouse as his vehicle since he is quite incapable of lifting the massive head and bulging belly of lord Ganesha. But it implies that the wise lord do not see any living being as disproportionate or ugly and gives power to every being devoted to him. Mouse is able to penetrate and wander through all places even the most secret places. Hence, this mouse signifies removal of obstacles from all places of this universe by going through even the most secret places. Also, this wandering of mouse is similar to our wandering, uncontrolled mind and the only solution for this wandering mind id subservience and devotion of the lord. Another reason is
though a mouse lacks intelligence and strength, yet it keeps digging even mountains with its small teeth. It may not know the futility of its efforts, but it does not give up efforts. Mouse teaches human being to remain in constant action without giving up efforts. 

Lord Ganesha shown on top of mouse with laptop to preach Wisdom and knowledge (Effect of modernization in India)

Lord Posture:
Lord Ganesha posture with one foot on the ground and the other folded up tells us that there must be a constant alignment with the soul and all spiritual experiences while we operate in this world.  
Lord Ganesha Foot
Modak and other food kept at lord Ganesha feet symbolize power and material wealth. Through this, the lord says that “Those who become spiritual achieve success in all his daily activities and receive wealth and respect even though they are not very fond of it.
Four hands:
Lord Ganesha holds a rope, an axe, a modak (sweet) and a lotus. The axe signifies the removal of desires with the axe of spirituality. Rope represents binding our mind with spiritual knowledge and devotion to god away from all worldly desires. The modak represents joy and happiness a seeker derives from spiritual pursuit and the lotus stands for divine state of conscious or unconscious Self-Realization In spite of staying in dirty ponds, lotus looks very beautiful and signifies purity. Ganesha's upraised hand, depicting protection, means, 'Fear not, I am with you', and his lowered hand, palm facing outwards means endless giving as well as an invitation to bow down, this is symbolic of the fact that we will all dissolve into earth one day

Lord Ganesha and OM
Description of lord Ganesha would be incomplete without mentioning the word ‘OM’.  AUM is said to be the most universal symbol of god. No mantra is complete without the word AUM. In a physical sense, Ganesha is regarded as the diety representing the primordial sacred sound AUM, hence reminding us his supreme position in the Hindu pantheon.
The Lord of Success
  Ganesha, son of shiva and parvati, has an elephantine appearance with big ears, a long curved trunk, and a huge pot-bellied stomach like a human being. He is the destroyer or all evils and obstacles. He is the Lord of success and is worshipped as the god of knowledge, education, wisdom and wealth.  

Lord Ganesha head

So, head of elephant was selected for Ganesha because it has more maneuverability than head of any other animal.  

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