Lord Ganesha is most commonly known as the Remover of Obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of success, education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth.
The Hindu title of respect “Shri” is often added before his name. One popular way Ganesha is worshipped is by chanting a Ganesha Sahasranama, a litany of “a thousand names of Ganesha”. Each name in the Sahasranama conveys a different meaning and symbolizes a different aspect of Ganesha.
The devotees of Ganesha are known as ‘Ganapatyas’, and the festival to celebrate and glorify him is called Ganesh Chaturthi.
He has more than 108 names and is praised for his wisdom and ability to remove obstacles. His elephant characteristics have subtle meanings; his big ears remind us to listen and understand what we hear. His large elephant head is a reminder to acquire as much knowledge or wisdom as we are capable of, and his big belly invites us to absorb all of life’s experiences.
He is shown riding a mouse which represents desire.
The Story of Ganesha
One story of the birth of Ganesha, as depicted in the Shiva Purana, goes like this: Once goddess Parvati, while bathing, created a boy out of the dirt of her body and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When Shiva, her husband returned, he was surprised to find a stranger denying him access, and struck off the boy’s head in rage. Parvati broke down in utter grief and to soothe her, Shiva sent out his squad (gana) to fetch the head of any sleeping being who was facing the north. The company found a sleeping elephant and brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored its life and made him the leader (pati) of his troops. Hence his name ‘Ganapati’. Shiva also bestowed a boon that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any venture.