All Tantric and spiritual worship in the Hindu tradition begins with the invocation of Lord Ganesha (or Lord Ganesh), the elephant-headed god.
Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Gana) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikay. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha did not start the race like Kartikay did, but simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother as the source of all existence (more about this story here).
Attributes of Ganesha
Many stories describe how Ganesha (Ganesh) got the elepant head. One tells how Parvati created Ganesha in absence of Shiva to guard her quarters. When Shiva wanted to see her Ganesha forbid it, at which point Shiva cut of his head. Later Shiva restored Ganesha to life and provided him with the head of an elephant, because no other was available. In another story, Ganesha’s head is burned to ashes when Saturn is forced by Parvati to look at her child and bless him. The human part of Ganesha represents that which is manifested, while the elephant part represents the unmanifested great being. Therefore the elephant part is the head.
Ganesha (Ganesh) rides a rat that represents the subjugated demon of vanity and impertinence. The conch represents the sound that creates Akash. The laddu (sweet) represents Sattva. The snakes represent control over the poisons of the passions and refer to Shiva, father of Ganesha. The hatchet cuts away the bondage of desires. The mudra grants fearlessness. The broken tusk is the one with which Ganesha wrote the Mahabaratha.
Some say that Ganesha has so much devotion to his mother Parvati, that he remains celibate. When he understood that all women are but manifestations of his mother, he decided not to marry. Others hold however that Ganesha is the consort of Buddhi and Siddhi, daughters of Brahma. ‘Ga’ symbolizes Buddhi (intellect) and ‘Na’ symbolizes Vidnyana (wisdom). Ganesha is thus considered the master of intellect and wisdom. Ganesha is also often portrayed along with Saraswati and Lakshmi, symbolising that success and beauty always accompany wisdom.
Acceptance of the somewhat funny looking elephant-headed man as the divine force stills the rational mind and its doubts, forcing one to look beyond outer appearances. Thus Ganesha creates the faith to remove all obstacles, forcing one to look beyond form, removing doubts and pointing out the spiritual side of everything. Ganesha is thus often worshipped to remove obstacles.
Forms of Ganesha
Traditionally, Ganesha comes in 32 different forms. One for example is Heramba Vinayakar, the Pancha Muga Ganesha or five-faced Ganesha. This form is specifically known as the protector of the weak. This ten-armed Ganesha is seated on a lion instead of the usual rat. He extends the gestures of protection and blessing while holding a noose, prayer (japa) beads, axe, hammer, tusk, garland, fruit and modaka. Pancha Ganapati is a popular festival to the five-faced elephant God. It consists of five days of gift-giving and festivities within the home, especially for the children.
Another famous form is Balganesh, the child version of this famous deity.
The Ganesha Yantra creates internal balance. The bhupur (eight-dimensional square) is in viridian green, a very balancing color. Meditation on this color produces red, bringing inspiration to the sadhaka. The eight-petaled lotus is the octave of prakriti : the 5 elements plus the 3 gunas. The sixpointed star brings balance between male and female energies. It is placed upon an upward pointing triangle that represents the amrit. The point (bindu) in the middle is Ganesha. It is the main object of the meditation : everything around it points towards it. It must be made of a radiant golden color. Read more about yantras.
Beyond the Trinity
The One is beyond trinity and duality. Hence it is without form, so it cannot be named nor painted. For some the One will quite simply be named Shiva, or Krishna, or Devi. Still in Hinduism we find certain deities that through their very form try to come closer to the big IT. They mostly show the union of opposing forces, such as those of creation, preservation and destruction or of the male and female energies. Or they may be shown as particularly neutral, such as Ganesha.
Even though Ganesha is the son of Shiva, he is thus regarded as a being beyond the trinity, as Ganapati, the lord of all categories or ganas, trinities included. The Upanishads even say, “You alone are the creator, the sustainer and the destroyer”. Ganesha is worshipped by virtually every Hindu, whatever his other spiritual preferences.