Expand Your Consciousness: The Myth + Meaning of Ganesha

Every year, as the Earth cycles from August to September, Ganesha Chaturthi is held.

During this festival, people worship Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati. This festival honors the day Shiva proclaimed Ganesha to be worshiped before all other gods or goddesses. This year Ganesha Chaturthi falls on Sept. 17, 2015.

Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity who removes internal and external obstacles, is a portly fellow who personifies the energy that stands at the threshold of beginnings. He represents inner stability and foundation. He is the Guardian of Knowledge and guardian of doors and temples. Our bodies are the temples where our spirit resides. Ganesha’s main job is to assist us as we navigate our inner landscape. His tools help remove the obstacles that keep us from embracing our intrinsic greatness.

We each were born with all the tools we need to be happy. Somewhere in our personal evolution our self-worth becomes attached to external judgments and desires. We bounce from relationship to relationship, we work ourselves to exhaustion, we buy ourselves into debt in order to have beautiful hair, fancy shoes, a great car, a flexible body, all to acquire a perceived level of happiness. Yet after the original surge of confidence we felt when obtaining something new disappears, we feel a sense of lack and again attempt to feel the void with external products. True joy and happiness is found within our hearts. That is why watching a child or animal play, spotting a rainbow, digging in dirt, or laughing with a friend, can be the most joyous moments you experience and remember. We honor Ganesha energy to help take us inward, to push away self-made obstacles, and guide us to inner fulfillment.

There is a story that says when Shiva and Parvati fell in love they would make love for thousands of years, talk yoga philosophy, and then, as some conversations go, Parvati would bring up the subject of children. Shiva, not ready for kids, would get grumpy and leave to go hang in a cemetery. Parvati remembered she was the feminine energy of the universe, the creator of all things, and molded a boy from the dirt off her body. One day Parvati decided to take a bath and gave her son strict orders not to let anyone disturbed her. Just at this time Shiva realized he missed his wife and rushed home to find a strange, young boy refusing to let him see his wife. This infuriated Shiva who cut off the boy’s head. Parvati immediately felt the loss of her son, and in her grief and rage threatened to stop the sun from shining and the earth from turning. Shiva in attempt to pacify his wife placed an elephant head on the boy’s body and breathed life into him.

Ganesha, as the son of Parvati and Shiva, is an amalgamate of both deities. His portly body, made by his mother, represents the Shakti energy that creates, provides, nourishes, and dissolves. Ganesha is most often represented with four arms. Different depictions show him with different tools to help propel us on our path. A goad pushes us forward and removes obstacles. An axe severs our ties to attachments which keep us small and stuck to the past. A noose captures all our difficulties. A lotus represents spiritual growth, beauty, and abundance. A rosary or mala is our continuous pursuit of knowledge. Utilizing Ganesha energy we are able to see our situations and our circumstances in new ways.

His head is a gift from his father, who is the great cosmic consciousness. His large elephant head represents our own ability for expanded consciousness. When we move out of ego and open our big ears and tune into our heart and its connection to the underlying current of the world, we are able to move out of our ego and into our true selfless nature. His big elephant ears listen to our deepest wishes and prayers. His broken tusk is a symbol of sacrifice. We cannot receive without giving. This is exemplified in the simple exchange of an inhale and exhale. We draw breath in, we fill up, we energize our cells, and we exhale to release tensions, and excess energy.

Before we begin any day, festival, event, month, season, yoga class or even relationship, we must look at ourselves. We must tune in and connect to our internal starting point -- our mood, our health, our energy level, and the baggage we carry.  As we turn inward, Ganesha meets us with all the tools we need to forge new paths as well as climb over, climb around, and destroy the obstacles that keep us playing small.

Happy Birthday, Ganesha!

Photo: Koshy Koshy 


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Kimi Marin is a Portland-based yoga teacher who helps people find clarity in their mind, body and spirit. She guides students through their practice by riding the waves of breath, energetically aligning breath and body. Kimi has a master’s degree in literature, and loves to combine the power of stories with yoga. She often weaves the myths and stories about various poses into the class. Her...READ MORE