Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ganesha’s Symbolism For Writers

This post is about Ganesha and his symbolism  for  writers.

Ganesha is  the elephant headed Hindu God. His birth is unique: his mother:  Goddess Parvati  smeared her body with a paste of  sandalwood and many fragrant herbs. She collected this mixture and shaped it into the form  of a small boy and breathed life into it. She asked the boy to keep guard  while she went for  bath. Her husband Lord Shiva returned home after a  long meditation session.

He was shocked to see the strange boy outside his house. The small boy refused to let  the God enter. An argument ensued.  Lord Shiva reknown for his quick temper chopped the boy’s head. After  the Goddess finished her bath, she was shocked to see her son’s head on the floor. To console his distraught wife, Lord Shiva sent his  minions in search of a creature whose head they could transplant over the  boy’s neck. The first creature the minions saw was the elephant.

The elephant head was brought and Lord Shiva placed it over the boy’s neck. But his wife was not satisfied. Her argument was that  everyone (Gods and demi gods) would laugh at her elephant headed son and no one would respect him. Lord Shiva blessed the boy with a boon that he would  rule over all the Gods by being the Remover of  Obstacles. Every endeavour  had to start with a prayer to Ganesha.

Ganesha’s entire body is filled with symbolism.

Ganesha’s trunk indicates the wise person’s   immense strength and fine discrimination; an  elephant’s  trunk has the strength to uproot trees and the grace to pick up needles.  His large ears show that the wise person hears everyone.

Ganesha  has  four hands. In one he holds a lotus:  the symbol of enlightenment. In the other he holds a hatchet : symbolizing  the cutting of old karma: accumulated good and bad of past deeds get cut when enlightenment occurs. The third hand  holds laddoos: rewards of a wise life. But Ganesha is never shown eating them just as a wise man never partakes of the rewards of his deeds. There is no attachment to the deeds. The fourth hand is shown blessing people. The wise man wishes good for  everyone.

Ganesha has only one task; the other is shown broken. Perhaps this is to show that perfection is just an illusion. Ganesha is shown  with one foot on the ground and the other resting on his knee. The wise person is of this Earth, yet not entirely of this Earth. He is seated on a rat that keeps nibbling on whatever is available. The rat is a symbol of our senses, never satisfied. The wise person rides on his senses and keeps  them under control.

The entire cosmos is said to reside in Ganesha’s  large belly, held together by the Kundalini or cosmic energy symbolized by a snake. The  son of Lord Shiva: the god governing the life force and  Parvati: the earth mother,  symbolizes the spirit and body of the wise person. 

Ganesha  also  played the role of a scribe, he was requested by Ved Vyasa (a sage) to write down the Mahabharata (epic) while the sage dictated.

Ganesha’s symbolism for us  writers.

The Four hands of Ganesha are   the four components of our books: setting, character, conflict and resolution. His  rat is symbolic of the distractions that trouble us. Ganesha’s foot resting on the ground symbolizes our grounding in reality and the other foot resting on the knee symbolizes our thoughts ( the stories  we create). The entire cosmos residing in Ganesha’s belly is a symbol of all the incidents packed inside our manuscripts. Ganesha’s trunk is a symbol of our inner editor  which has the wisdom to delete the unsuitable parts in our manuscripts and retain what it considers suitable. Ganesha’s  large ears symbolize the comments we hear in our writing careers.

Lets pray to the remover of obstacles to bless all our endeavours and clear   the obstacles in our paths. May Ganesha’s blessings be with all of us on this Ganesh Chaturthi. ( 11th  Sep)

If you were to ask Ganesha for one boon/blessing what would it be?


  1. Thanks for this awesome post. I love the way you have created the symbolism for writers. Ganesha is a lovable God and his blessings are extremely important before we start anything in life.

    I would ask Ganesha for good health for myself and my family..

  2. That was very interesting, Rachna. I didn't know anything about Ganesha, except that he was a god of India.
    I've just added your link to my blog. :P

  3. Hmmm, this is where you and I differ, my friend. I believe in Jesus. He's my Savior and died for the sins of humanity. The God of Heaven is his father. And gave his son to die for us all. So I wouldn't ask Ganesha for anything.

    Our September 11th is very different in this country. We mourn the loss of life caused by the terrorist attacks on our beloved country. Very different indeed.

  4. Ganesha is my husband's favorite God and everytime we go to India, we pay a visit to the Rock Fort Temple in Trichy so he can give thanks for the good life we are living. I come from a Christian background and don't really see a conflict between Christianity and Hinduism. I don't think Christ would, either. Hinduism believes in the Golden Rule and nonviolence -- Christ's message to the world. I don't think God would have a problem with that. Truth to tell, God is probably father to every faith before the political/religious instutions manage screw up the message and try to confine him to a book or building.

    As for what boon I would ask? Understanding

  5. Ah, but Elizabeth, God's only SON is the way, the truth, and the life. There is a conflict, if other gods are worshiped. The God of Heaven is the one true God. Thou shalt worship ONLY the God of Heaven. I see what you're saying. That you and Rachna and a lot of other people believe there is more than one god. But that is NOT what I believe. :)

  6. But the conflict is in the hearts of people. I doubt that God has any conflict about the form of worship by a good and sincere person. Actually, the Christian Bible, like bibles of every faith, was written by men. But there is an underlying thread running through them all: the golden rule. Personally I think there is one overall God of everything, with many expressions. And that God probably isn't as uptight about what people want to call God as people are, if you know what I mean.

  7. What a lovely idea, Rachna, to tie your spiritual beliefs to your writing. I do think that writers who stop trying to direct their writing from a factual place within themselves and instead listen to a higher source, as though taking dictation, tend to end up with a more soulful end result that moves readers more deeply.

    Robyn, lighten up.

  8. Seema...Ganesha is indeed a lovable God. And asking for good health is wonderful.

    Sheryl, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the link on your blog.

    Robyn...conflict is in our minds and heart. I completely agree with Elizabeth. I believe all Gods are one and the same and they are just worshipped as different names. Studying in a convent school and college I have said as many prayers to Jesus as I have said them to Ganesha.

    Elizabeth, like you I believe that there is a underlying thread running in all religions. All God needs is a sincere heart.

    Lia... when spiritual beliefs are tied to one's writing, it does become more soulful and moves the readers more deeply.

  9. Thanks for visiting my blog and for the congratulations :)

  10. I didn't mean to make anyone mad. I won't say anymore about this. I'm a christian and felt the need to witness. That is all. An Lia, I don't need to lighten up. Believe me, if you knew me you would see that.

    I just felt the need to speak up for my God. My Jesus.

  11. Lovely post, Rachna! I have a golden statue of Ganesha sitting here next to my computer removing obstacles from my life. The poor guy, he's working overtime!!

    I believe that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, Robyn included. What I don't care for is when they start expecting ME to adhere to their beliefs.

    To me, God is way more than mere mortals can comprehend. To tie the vastness of God to any one dogma, that's just ego and ignorance, in my opinion. I believe that it's not important what we believe about God, only THAT we believe in the beauty and power of creation in some form, that we acknowledge and see the interconnectedness of the universe, the world, the people in it. When it comes down to it, we are all made from the exact same molecules. And I believe that God is found right there on the subatomic level, in the gap.

    Regardless, the post is beautiful and inspiring and I thank you for reminding me of your culture and how you apply it to your writing. Keep these great posts coming!!

  12. Rachna, great post exploring all the different meanings of Ganesh's form. The depth of symbolism is wonderful to read about. It takes a wise and discerning to search throughout the stories of the world for meaning and truth.

    Some people find any wisdom other than their own threatening and that's sad because they've completely missed the point.

    Robyn, I found it interesting that you felt offended by the idea that anyone might worship any other God than 'your God', so far that you had to insist that what you believe is the only truth. That's not very American. I espcecially found it interesting that you considered this date of 9/11 and this country of America to belong to you and 'your people' (ie. Christian people) only. Thanks for eliminating people of all other faiths and backgrounds from this country. It makes us feel welcome.


  13. Now Jai, I never said it belonged to only Americans. I know there were a lot of other countries represented in the terrorist attacks. I MEANT that it happened in THIS country. You are not a very nice person. I never said anything about people of other faiths not being represented. All I said was on Sept. 11, we mourn the terrorist attacks in this country. HOW DO YOU GET THAT I ELIMINATED PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS FROM THE TERRORIST ATTACKS FORM THAT?

    And Birgitte, I don't impose my beliefs on anyone, but I have just as much right to voice my opinion as you do. I thought I could since Rachna and I were friends. I guess I was wrong. I guess that since I'm the only Christian voicing my opinion, then I shouldn't be allowed to say anything. I said it all in a nice way. I never said anything mean. And I never would.

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  15. Tabitha, thanks for dropping by.

    Birgitte, I just love this thought of yours "When it comes down to it, we are all made from the exact same molecules. And I believe that God is found right there on the subatomic level, in the gap." I wholeheartedly agree with this belief.

    Robyn, you are a dear friend and you have a right to voice your opinion.

    What we all are forgetting is that we all are Co-Pilgrims on this wonderful Writing Journey worshipping the God of Words and the Muse of Inspiration. We have always supported and encouraged each other and we should continue to do the same.

    Robyn, Jai is a wonderful writer, a great blogger and a supportive, helpful and a nice friend to have.

    Jai, everyone is entitled to their beliefs. Lets
    not take anything personally. Like you Jai, Robyn is a very helpful friend: supportive and encouraging and a great motivator.

    Hi Samuel, thanks for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed the post.

  16. This is so relevant for me, as we just brought the idol to our housing society the other day. Have prayed fervently for divine help with my writing!

  17. What great cross symbolism! I'll admit that picture jarred me a bit but after reading your explaination and how it pertains to writers I found it interesting.

  18. Thank you so much for this post. I've always felt a distinct pull to images and figurines of Ganesha but never really understood why. I would ask him to remove my biggest obstacle- self doubt.

  19. I simply pray to God that I get things right and that I honour Him in everything I do and say.

  20. Rachna, I don't want to lower the tone of this blog in any way. I just want to clarify my comments.

    Robyn, you said this: "Our September 11th is very different in this country. We mourn the loss of life caused by the terrorist attacks on our beloved country. Very different indeed."
    Well, I happen to be an American. So does this mean that on this date I'm not allowed to do anything other than mourn? Also, saying that our 9/11 is very different to Rachna's, you implied that Rachna was being somehow insensitive to post something about her faith on this date. Only your faith would do on 9/11. That, I felt, was unAmerican.

    You also said: "God's only SON is the way, the truth, and the life. There is a conflict, if other gods are worshiped. The God of Heaven is the one true God. Thou shalt worship ONLY the God of Heaven." You insisted that your way was the only way. I took exception to that because America (as far as I've always learned about it as an American) is about tolerance and religious freedom.

    If you wish to say that I'm not 'a nice person' then I really don't mind because you're entitled to your opinion. Just as I am. I'm sure you're a very nice person because Rachna happens to think you are.


  21. Jai..I am sure Robyn meant no harm or disrespect. Please lets not take anything personally. Both of you are awesome friends who have been supportive and encouraging. And both of you are wonderful people, I can vouch for that.