Monday 30 January 2017

Why did Lord Shiva behead Ganesha ?

 Most of us know the story of Lord Ganesha - notably His transcendence from a boy to an elephant-headed cutie.

The Purana illustrates as to how Mother Parvati created a boy as Her guardian,who did not permit Lord Shiva for entry.Lord Shiva then beheads the boy after a series of events. Then, an elephant's head was united with the body of the boy - who became Ganesha! 

Interestingly,there is a temple in Poonthotam near Kumbakonam , India where the main deity - Lord Ganapati is in the form of a boy with a human head - denoting the form He had prior to His elephantine majesty.

  Pic: Adi Vinayaka , Poonthotham

 So why Did Lord Shiva behead Ganesha - His own son after all ?

Puranas cannot be perceived by logic. Puranas are meant to convey the truths of the Vedas through a story, such that even a layman can understand its essence.

 For example : 

If the Vedas declare 1 + 1 = 2, the same message is conveyed in the Puranas as :

' Hari had a mango. One day he visited his friend Rohit. Rohit gave Hari another Mango. Hari now has two mangoes.

So what is the insight conveyed here ?  

As we know,the boy was created out of Mother Parvati.It is exemplified as

Mother Parvati creating an idol of a boy out of Her cells and breathing life into it 

This is how the boy was born. 

We must understand that Mother Parvati is Shakti. Shakti is the play and creative energy of existence. Without Shakti - there is no movement or action. Shakti plays the game of the universe with the five elements. If you notice, the entire creation and all that you observe is merely consisting of the five elements - fire, water, air, ether, and earth. These five elements are also represented by the Panchakshari mantra -   'Na, Ma, Shi, Va, Ya '.

Shiva is absolute consciousness. Shiva is nothingness from which something is createdShiva does not merely denote a deity or a being. That is only one dimension of what we call as ' Shiva'. Shiva is the 'observer' - The consciousness which exists in everything. With Shakti, Shiva can be expressed into action and movement.

This is symbolically shown in the picture below 

Mother Kali - the ferocious expression of Shakti is seen stepping on Shiva, who lies below her feet. This is an ingenious way of depicting the state of Shiva as Shava ( corpse ) without Shakti. Only when Shakti acts ( stepping ) on Shiva ( consciousness ) - can live sustain or creation play its game.

In Ganapati Upanishad of Atharva Veda, also known as Ganapati Atharva Shirsham, Lord Ganesha is related to Prakriti ( creation - Shakti ) and Purusha ( the masculine aspect of God ). 

Aavirbhuutam Ca Srshtyadau Prakrteh Purushhaat-Param

He manifested during the beginning of Creation (Srishti Aadi) within the manifested Nature (Prakriti), (He manifested) from the Supreme Purusha (Purusha Param)

So when the boy was created, He existed as only a Shakti aspect- as He was wholly created from Mother Parvati. Lord Shiva's trishula ( trident ) chopping of His head - denotes the infusion of Shiva aspect into the boy - making Him a complete Ganesha with both Shiva and Shakti aspect - well balanced.

Lord Muruga - the brother of Ganesha also expresses Shiva-Shakti in another unique way. Muruga was created from Shiva's third eye. When Lord Muruga was preparing to go for a war with the demon Tarakasura, Mother Parvati gifted Him the lance (Vel).

The Vel is from Mother Parvati and represents 'Shakti'. So even Muruga had His Shiva aspect equalized by Shakti.

This is why in some cultures, Lord Muruga is seen as the same as Lord Shiva. In Nepal, Lord Muruga is worshipped as ' 6-headed Shiva'. They are in reality one and the same - just different expressions. 

This is the yantra ( machine portraying the geometrical aspect of the deity ) for Lord Muruga. It is portrayed as two triangles -which is a very evident resemblance of Shiva-Shakti union.

The triangle pointing upwards denotes Shiva and the other - Shakti.

Another symbolism for the beheading scenario is the sacrifice of ego. The human head resembles ego and ignorance. This is expressed as the ignorance of the boy to recognize Lord Shiva as His father ( it indicates our ignorance in identifying God or seeking godhood )  Only when Lord Shiva beheads the head ( ego ) with the Trishula,is the boy enlightened into supreme-consciousness and with His elephant head ( which resembles intelligence or wisdom ) , He could recognize Lord Shiva as His Father ( depicting God-realisation or enlightenment )

The elephant is symbolically used as a sign of wisdom and intelligence. They are indeed very sharp and divinely beings. They are very alert to the happenings in nature and surroundings. Elephants are also well-known for their discriminative skills and memory. An elephant can discriminate a particular sound from other similar sounds rather easily.

 Hence, it also shows how as to how one should use his discriminative intellect to distinguish good from bad.
 The Ganapati Atharva Shirsham is perhaps the most important portion of the Vedas for Lord Ganesha. Also known as Ganapati Upanishad- it has a portion which describes the cosmic form of Ganesha as below :

एकदन्तं चतुर्हस्तं पाशमङ्कुशधारिणम्
रदं वरदं हस्तैर्बिभ्राणं मूषकध्वजम्
रक्तं लम्बोदरं शूर्पकर्णकं रक्तवाससम्
रक्तगन्धानुलिप्ताङ्गं रक्तपुष्पैस्सुपूजितम्

Eka-Dantam Catur-Hastam Paasham-Angkusha-Dhaarinnam |
Radam Ca Vara-Dam Hastair-Bibhraannam Muushhaka-Dhvajam ||
Raktam Lambo[a-U]daram Shuurpa-Karnnakam Rakta-Vaasasam |
Rakta-Gandha-Anulipta-Anggam Rakta-Pushhpais-Supuujitam ||


11.1: (The visible Form of Ganapati is as follows) His Face has a single Tusk (Ekadantam); He has Four Hands (Catur-Hastam); with two of His Hands, he is holding Noose (Pasha) and Goad (Ankusha),

11.2: With His third Hand He is holding a Tusk (Rada), and with His fourth Hand He is showing the gesture of Boon-Giving (Varada Mudra); His Flag is having the Emblem of a Rat (Mushaka),

11.3: His Form is having a Beautiful Reddish Glow (Raktam), with a Large Belly (Lambodara) and with Large Ears like Fans (Shurpa Karna); He is wearing Red Garments (Rakta Vasam),

11.4: His Form is annointed with Red Fragrant Paste (Rakta Gandha), and He is worshipped with Red Flowers (Rakta Pushpa), 

Click here to read on the benefits of Ganapati Upanishad

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