Tantra Magazine

In Mangala Purana it is said, “Ganesha’s human body represents tvam (you), his head is tat (Brahman) and together they represent the unity between the two.”

Thus, Ganesha’s body is the representation of the highest reality Brahman, and together they signify unity between the two aspects.

Thus, Ganesha’s body is the visible representation of the highest reality, Brahman expressed through “tat tvam asi” (you are That – Brahman or God).

Another explanation is that generally, Ganesha’s head represents Atman, the Supreme Reality, and the body from the neck down symbolizes maya, the principle of a phenomenon based existence. The implication of Atman into the world is done through the mind and speech.

There are of course several explanations about the elephant head. An elephant is strong, but almost always calm. It is one of the very few self-conscious animals that actually has funeral rituals. Despite its strength, it is vegetarian.

The Purana-s offer several versions on Ganesha’s birth and on the origin of his elephant head. Shiva Purana tells that Ganesha was created from a washing ointment (ubtan) which Parvati took from her body.

It is said that one day when she was preparing to take a bath, she noticed that the guardian of her house was missing. So she took part of the soapy foam from her body and molded a child-like form. She then brought life to it.

She made this child her guardian, and gave him instructions not to let anyone enter the palace. The guardian-child respected her wish and sat out front with a war scepter in his hand.

Right about that time, Shiva decided to visit his beloved wife, Parvati, and came to the palace. Because the little guard did not let him enter, Shiva eventually got mad and threatened the boy.

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The little guard did not even flinch and after a long battle he was finally defeated, but only with the help of all the gods and demons combined. By this time Shiva was so angry that he beheaded the little guard using his trident.

When the Divine Mother found out what happened, she became very upset and asked Shiva to bring him back to life.

Shiva, realizing he got carried away, began searching for a sleeping child, to take his head and put it on the little guard’s body.

However, mothers were sleeping with their children in their arms that night and Shiva was not able to find what he was looking for. He finally saw an elephant baby that had just passed away and decided to use this opportunity.

He took the elephant’s head and placed it on the guardian child’s body and thus, brought him back to life. Shiva named this child Ganapati and made him leader of all his troops. Furthermore, he decided that everyone should invoke him before any performing any important actions, so that obstacles could be removed and tragedies avoided.

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