Ganesha: Everything You Need to Know

Ganesha: Everything You Need to Know September 16, 2014

Ganesha is the elephant-headed God that is beloved by nearly all Hindus. Regardless of sect, branch, region, or family, it would be rare to find a Hindu who didn’t have a Ganesh murti or some type of Ganesh symbol.

 Why Worship GaneshaStories * Symbolism * Holidays * How He Is Worshiped * Mantras and Bhajans

Why Worship Ganesha?

Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles (Vighneshwara). He is the one to pray to before starting any new endeavor. Often he is also honored first before starting any other form of worship. He also protects homes and cars. It’s not unusual for people to place a Ganesh statue or medallion on the front dash of their cars. Ganesha is also associated with learning and study. It is he who transcribes the Mahabharata while the poet Vyasa recites it.



There are a few different stories of Ganesha’s birth, but the most well known one is that Shiva’s wife Parvati wanted to take a bath while Shiva was away but there was no one to guard the door. So she formed a little boy from clay and breathed life into him. She instructed him not to let anyone in while she bathed.

A little while later Shiva returned and was furious that the boy at the door would not let him in to see his wife. In his rage, he cut off the boy’s head. Parvati came rushing out and was horrified by what Shiva had done. She told him that this was their son.

Full of remorse, Shiva hurried to find a replacement head and a young elephant was the first creature he came across. So he took the elephant’s head to restore Ganesha and brought him back to life.

Circling the World

Some people say that this is the reason that Ganesha is worshiped first in any undertaking. Some were curious to know which of Shiva and Parvati’s two sons was the wiser and so a contest was set up. (Other possible reasons: to get a fruit, to establish who was elder). The two boys were asked to circle the world as quickly as possible and the fastest would be the winner.

Kartikeya was much more athletic than Ganesha, with the large belly and elephant head. Kartikeya (also called Murugan) took off swiftly, but Ganesha did not follow. Instead, he circled his two parents. Asked why, he said that his parents were the world to him and for such a clever answer, he won the contest.

Ganesha and the Moon

“Ganesha, was once on his way back from a feast, after having had His fill of sweets and delicacies. He was riding His pet mouse, when a snake crosses His path. The mouse is scared of the snake and starts trembling all over throwing Ganesha off balance, and to the ground. Ganesha gets up and surveys the scene. The moon in the sky looks at this funny scene and starts laughing out aloud and makes fun of the spectacle. After a bit, when the moon wouldn’t stop his jeering, Ganesha gets irritated. He breaks off one of His tusks, and throws it at the moon, leaving a dent on the moon’s surface. He also curses the moon, that he would slowly wane and disappear, and not be visible to anybody. Ganesha also finds and ties the snake that crossed His path on His tummy like a belt. The scared moon now feels ashamed of his behaviour and begs the Lord’s forgiveness, after which the benevolent Lord Ganesha modifies his curse, and says that even though the moon would wane and disappear from sight (as originally cursed), he would also slowly grow back and be visible in his full glory and splendor in the night sky. However, in memory of this incident, the devotees of Ganesha are forbidden from viewing the moon on Shukla Paksha Ganesha Chaturthi day (or rather, night). There is also a story which says that a horrible misunderstanding or some kind of trouble would befall them if they do so on purpose and do not atone/ask forgiveness for it.” It is sometimes said that the moon in this story represents someone who laughs at the honest attempts of others to gain mastery over the mind and senses.

In some versions of this story, Ganesha trips and falls, breaking his tusk and the moon laughs. This is the reason given why he is drawn with one tusk broken off. Other stories say that he broke off his own tusk in order to write down the Mahabharata. Another story of the tusk is:

“When Parashurama one of Shiva’s favorite disciples, came to visit him, he found Ganesha guarding Shiva’s inner apartments. His father being asleep, Ganesha opposed Parshurama’s entry. Parashurama nevertheless tried to urge his way, and the parties came to blows. Ganesha had at first the advantage, seizing Parashurama in his trunk, and giving him a twirl that left him sick and senseless; on recovering, Rama threw his axe at Ganesha, who recognizing it as his father’s weapon (Shiva having given it to Parashurama) received it with all humility upon one of his tusks, which it immediately severed, and hence Ganesha has but one tusk.”

Ganesha’s Appetite

“One anecdote, taken from the Purana, narrates that the treasurer of Svarga (paradise) and god of wealth, Kubera, went one day to Mount Kailash in order to receive the darshan (vision) of Shiva. Since he was extremely vain, he invited Shiva to a feast in his fabulous city, Alakapuri, so that he could show off to him all of his wealth. Shiva smiled and said to him: ‘I cannot come, but you can invite my son Ganesha. But I warn you that he is a voracious eater.’ Unperturbed, Kubera felt confident that he could satisfy even the most insatiable appetite, like that of Ganesha, with his opulence. He took the little son of Shiva with him into his great city. There, he offered him a ceremonial bath and dressed him in sumptuous clothing. After these initial rites, the great banquet began. While the servants of Kubera were working themselves to the bone in order to bring the portions, the little Ganesha just continued to eat and eat and eat. His appetite did not decrease even after he had devoured the servings which were destined for the other guests. There was not even time to substitute one plate with another because Ganesha had already devoured everything, and with gestures of impatience, continued waiting for more food. Having devoured everything which had been prepared, Ganesha began eating the decorations, the tableware, the furniture, the chandelier. Terrified, Kubera prostrated himself in front of the little omnivorous one and supplicated him to spare him, at least, the rest of the palace.

‘I am hungry. If you don’t give me something else to eat, I will eat you as well!’, he said to Kubera. Desperate, Kubera rushed to mount Kailasa to ask Shiva to remedy the situation. The Lord then gave him a handful of roasted rice, saying that something as simple as a handful of roasted rice would satiate Ganesha, if it were offered with humility and love. Ganesha had swallowed up almost the entire city when Kubera finally arrived and humbly gave him the rice. With that, Ganesha was finally satisfied and calmed.”



 Another name for Ganesha is Ganapati.

Why do I sometimes call him Ganesha and sometimes Ganesh? In Sanskrit, every consonant has an “ah” sound attached to it automatically and that includes at the ends of words (this vowel can be modified and consonant clusters are possible also). In Hindi, the same is true except for the final syllable of a word. There is no final vowel automatically on Hindi words. So, “Ganesha” is Sanskrit and “Ganesh” is Hindi.

In southern India, Ganesha is not married because he has been unable to find a woman as perfect as his mother, Parvati. In northern India ” Ganesha is often shown married to the two daughters of Brahma, namely Buddhi and Siddhi. Metaphorically Buddhi signifies wisdom and Siddhi achievement. In the sense of yoga, Buddhi and Siddhi represent the female and male currents in the human body. In visual arts this aspect of Ganesha is represented with grace and charm.” –

Information on the direction of Ganesha’s trunk and its significance here:

Some more esoteric symbolism here:

It is often noted that the symbol for Om looks a lot like the profile of Ganesh.






Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesha’s birthday, falling sometime around August/September. It is celebrated by creating a Ganash Pandal, which is a temporary shrine with a new Ganesha murti that you can either buy or make yourself. A big part of the festival is immersing the new idol in water, symbolizing Ganesha washing away all your troubles. More information here:

Panchamukha Ganesh Festival

This festival is in December and is a five day event. It was created in 1985 as a substitute Christmas for Hindus in the west. More info here:

How He Is Worshipped

Ganesh Chaturthi pooja

This is the puja to be performed on Ganesh Chaturthi, but can also be done at any time.

  • Clay image of Ganesha
  • Red Flowers
  • 21 blades of druva grass
  • 21 modak sweets
  • a coconut
  • red sandalwood paste (kumkum)
  • incense sticks

1) Bathe, clean your home, prepare the clay Ganesha on a platform

2) Chant a Ganesha mantra: vakratunda mahaakaaya soorya koti samaprabha
nirvighnam kuru mein deva sarva kaaryashu sarvadaa

3) Recite a Pran Prathista mantra to bring breath into the idol. This is an invocation found in the Rig Veda:

गणानां तवा गणपतिं हवामहे कविं कवीनामुपमश्रवस्तमम |
जयेष्ठराजं बरह्मणां बरह्मणस पत आ नः षर्ण्वन्नूतिभिः सीद सादनम ||

नि षु सीद गणपते गणेषु तवामाहुर्विप्रतमंकवीनाम |
न रते तवत करियते किं चनारे महामर्कंमघवञ्चित्रमर्च ||

Gaṇānāṁ tavā gaṇapatiṁ havāmahē kaviṁ kavīnāmupamaśravastamama |
jayēṣṭharājaṁ barahmaṇāṁ barahmaṇasa pata ā naḥ ṣarṇvannūtibhiḥ sīda sādanama ||

ni ṣu sīda gaṇapatē gaṇēṣu tavāmāhurvipratamaṅkavīnāma |
na ratē tavata kariyatē kiṁ canārē mahāmarkammaghavañcitramarca ||

(This is a little hard to follow, but here it is being chanted:

4) Perform a simple aarti and offern incense and flowers.

5) Offer the blades of druva grass

6) Offer the modakas

7) Offer the red flowers

8) Apply a tilak mark on Lord Ganesha using the red sandalwood paste.

9) Break the coconut (or place it near Ganesha)

10) Recite the 108 names of Lord Ganesha (or simply pray).

-Modified from

See also:

Simple Ganesha Puja

Nice video, though it isn’t always clear what he is picking up for offering.

Another Ganesha Puja

This one is long and complicated with a lot of mantras.

Worshiping Gansha

Here is more information on worshiping Ganesha. This one includes the claim that one can worship Ganeshas made of different materials to gain different boons. “worshipping a silver Ganesha grants us long life. Worshipping a green jade (marakata) Ganesha fulfills our noble wishes and grants us a rich inner life, a divine intellect, wisdom and even moksha. When we worship a jade Ganesha, he takes care of our financial debts. Worshipping a crystal (sphatika) Ganesha is wonderful for enhancing harmony between the wife and husband.”

Mantras and Bhajans

Om Gan Ganpataye Namo Namah 

Ganesha Chalisa
Ganpati Bappa Morya 
Mangal Murthi Morya

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  • Yes, Ganesha is probably the most reassuring and gentle deity in the rich Hindu pantheon: if I were a Hindu, I would probably choose him as my role model!

  • Just a note about Ganesh versus Ganesha. What you refer to in Hindi is the Schwa Syncope Rule, in which you automatically delete the final schwa (inherent vowel) of the word, and the other thing it states is that whenever a schwa-succeeded consonant
    (no matra markings about the consonant) is followed by a vowel-succeeded
    consonant (a matra marking indicating a different vowel to be used with
    said consonant), the inherent vowel of that schwa-succeeded consonant
    is to be dropped such that the consonants are to be pronounced together, sounding like a conjunct. This happens about 89% of the time. Because it’s not 100%, it presents a problem for speech synthesis software written for Hindi.

    From Wikipedia:

    Correct schwa deletion is also critical because, in some cases, the same
    Devanagari letter-sequence is pronounced two different ways in Hindi
    depending on context, and failure to delete the appropriate schwas can
    change the sense of the word. For instance, the letter sequence ‘रक’ is pronounced differently in हरकत (har.kat, meaning movement or activity) and सरकना (, meaning to slide). Similarly, the sequence धड़कने in दिल धड़कने लगा (the heart started beating) and in दिल की धड़कनें (beats of the heart) is identical prior to the nasalization in the second usage. Yet, it is pronounced in the first and dhad.kane in the second.

    While native speakers pronounce the sequences differently in different
    contexts, non-native speakers and voice-synthesis software can make them
    “sound very unnatural”, making it “extremely difficult for the listener” to grasp the intended meaning.

    The only way to get a grasp of this accurately is to use the language in its proper context; as a Hindi speaker in a Hindi-speaking community. It is one of many examples of shibboleths in languages, which is simply a means of separating outsiders from insiders by watching/listening to mistakes being made by outsiders that an insider would not make. So, learning a language is not just about learning the basics of the language as mentioned, but all of the language-specific idiosyncrasies and rule exceptions. To be very fluent in languages means to have a good grasp of these things, not just the basics and grammar. This is why English is so hard to learn, in spite of its very simple true-alphabet writing system that it is based on; the more enemies you have (because you made enemies of them rather than the friends they could be), the more shibboleths you’ll have in your language to make it very easy to screen out spies and enemies acting as Trojan Horses in a community. Or, you want to screen out people who do not have the same belief systems/customs you have.

    This is why I go about learning this language very slowly. I will never be fluent in Hindi, Sanskrit, or any other language for that matter, simply because the people I live around don’t speak anything but English, and rarely do they speak español. It is frustrating to want to speak another language, and yet not be able to (my personal baggage from the Deaf Years makes it very difficult to progress beyond knowledge of writing systems, pronunciation rules, and basic vocabulary towards grammar, because I struggled SO HARD to learn English at a later age than I was supposed to), which is why I have had my own language for 30 years, which is an outlet in that department for me because I set the rules for everything that make sense to me, so it makes it easy for me to scratch that itch of wanting to verbalize in a non-English vocal train.

    • Ambaa

      Great information! Thank you for sharing all that.

      I learned the Sanskrit that I know from my parents and it wasn’t a formal class so I don’t always have the names for grammatical constructs, etc.

  • bhalc

    Good post, though you missed one big point on why ganesh, or ganapati is called what he is, Gana, or Gan – means army or weapons, same like ganatantra and esh or pati means king, so the meaning of his name is king of the army, he is considered the king or the supreme commander of the army of the goods, hence him being called clever, as he is considered the master strategist, even though saraswati is considered the goddess of wisdom, her role is tilted more towards fine arts, like music, dance, etc. Ganesh on the other hand is considered the intellectual person in hinduism. hopes this makes some things more clearer.

    • Ambaa

      Good point!

  • Hari devote

    The sons of Shiva and parvati were called Ganesha and kartikeya;
    both are equally dear of them. Once it happened that devas gave one divine
    fruit to Shiva and parvati and told them that it is a special fruit. this leads
    to be argument between them. So in that situation Shiva told that whoever will
    circle the world three times and come back first will get the fruit. But
    Ganesha was talented and started circling around his parents three times. So in
    last Ganesha got the blessings of his parents and won the divine fruit. For
    More Details Visit: –

  • Renee

    Is there any suggestions on how a person who speaks English can learn to correctly recite the mantras?

    • dr.viraj pradhan


      You have to listen to a person ,with impeccable pronunciation,recite them.

      All the same ,you can always chant Om.There are many explanations but the Yogi’s explanation will be this–Do not chant either Om or Gayatri,let them rise within you spontaneously with proper breathing and meditation techniques.If you wish to know–Osho( I am not a follower and have a lot of reservations about his methods)’s The Book Of Secrets -gives 112 techniques of meditation as per an ancient system Kashmir Shaivism.

      Again about mantras–Om has to rise within us but since you asked I am giving you something simplest.This is probably the only mantra which can be chanted without moving the tongue—a very essential consideration while meditating.The tongue moves–the mind moves( thoughts arise) so this is one reason.You can synchronize Om with your breathing–equal breathing–say 4 Oms while inhaling and 4 while exhaling.Slowly you can increase the number since the inhalations/exhalations lengthen.Then the next step–introducing the pause( which we normally and naturally have between inh/exh and between exh and inh.The latter is longer,just one Om between Inhalation and exhalation and 3-5 between exhalation and inhalation depending upon what you can easily and comfortably do.You be the determining person.No Guru is necessary( dependence is misery,independence is bliss).Buddha had said” Be your own light”.

      Or you can just inhale and exhale with equal no.s of Om.

      Mind well,no matter how the Gayatri mantra is chanted regularly by some( I have a relative who has chanted the same for nearly 40 years with perfect pronunciation—without any fantastic results,including peace of mind etc–so I know) the real secret of Gayatri mantra is this—You must have read about the Kundalini.Gayatri mantra has 4 stages and they depict the stages of Kundalini awakening,going up the spine,reaching the top of our head( Mount Kailas is the spine and not the mountain in Tibet) and releasing vast amount of endorphins( termed ambrosia).So repeating theis mantra is like–expecting to quench thirst by reciting H2O–H2O—H2O.We have to actually drink water.Similarly,one has to actually raise the Kundalini,not just chant some words representing the process.This is what a true Yogi( today there aren’t any–one only finds charlatans and molesters/rapists/swindlers) has said.There are frequencies of sound that are associated with mantras and Gayatri is supposed to have the highest.However,it’s only sound power.Nothing divine.I have–I repeat-witnessed this man and nothing has happened which can be called spectacular.He was a priest and very traditional but ZERO results.So don;t go by superlatives by many.

      So briefly now–don’t waste your time and energy in reciting any mantra except OM and that too to synchronize breath since this natural and spontaneous bodily function is the only thing that is keeping us alive.Stop that and there is nobody left to ask and answer questions.There are many books on various mantras which I possess and I have practiced them faithfully even involving some Yogis( semi-Yogis who did not reach that state but were trying,belonging to a tradition,not swindling anybody etc.They are all dead now.

      If you have any disturbing thoughts/sad and bad memories,just talk to yourself about these in front of a mirror.Have a catharsis,cry thoroughly.You will emerge stronger.When you practice any meditative technique,these suppressed agonies surface and I have seen people get stuck with major psychological problems if not psychiatric ones.So deal with these.They are your own issues only you know them and only you can know how to deal with them.Any further questions,please ask.Do not hesitate.

      I will not give you any false promises of fantastic results.There are,in India,many who only go by traditionally respected ritualistic methods and follow some scriptures.One just gets stuck with that without any results.Trust me.

      Do let me know if you need any further help.I can give you thousands of mantras from the Sanskrit books I have,many supposedly ancient and reprinted.I have myself never experienced any miracles.The one I have been reciting since long does act as a psychological crutch-considered very powerful seed sound mantra which is supposed to bestow everything.However,I do not see any spectacular results myself except that I feel I have some company within me and won’t crumble if life takes an ugly turn.Regards,

    • Tailless Baboon

      It’s very simple.Smaller the mantra,easier and better it is for focusing.I can provide many as I have a large collection of mantras but pronunciation is more important as is focusing.Longer the mantra,more scattered will your mind be.These seed sounds are most potent.As the name suggests,seed sound has maximum energy stored in it( a tree grows out of a seed)and it simply explodes( implodes in our mind when we are fully focused and the repetition crosses acertain threshold so as to produce the requisite frequency/potency)

      (1)Om Gum Om ( gum as you would pronounce routinely) and a bit longer,
      (2) Om Glowm Gum Om.

      Do ask again if you feel any need. Don’t worry about the myths.There is no god like this.All is esoteric symbolism–If you have read about the Kundalini( here the curled trunk),the three main nadis( channels) running down our back approximating the physical spine) are displayed by the trunk and the two tusks.We are supposed to focus only on moving the Prana through the middle( Sushumna—trunk)* and the two on the either side( tusks) are to be neutralized.

      Gana Pati or Ganesh mean the same= Gana means group.Group of what? The group of organs within our body and Esh/Ish is the lord= our soul,Pati also means the lord. Essentially,Ganesh/Ganapati refers to our own soul and we are supposed to( worship) know ourselves fully,acknowledging our true nature and potential and even while enjoying material pleasures,remain above them.

      * Make straight the Way of The Lord–( John 1;23)–the Sushumna / psychic spinal channel to be erect while meditating. Christianity and Hinduism are very similar when it comes to the esoteric/Twilight Language.

      If you wish to,read Paramahamsa Yogananda’s The Yoga Of Jesus. to learn about this Sandhya Bhasha( twilight language).The Book Of Revelation is replete with this coded language.

      Best luck.

  • OmLove

    Does Ganesha get angry with us if we stop worshipping after doing so for some time? Is there a karma to being a devotee and then refraining? And is it ok to return to him?