Ganesha literally means the Lord of the Universal forces. Ganesha, the elephant faced God in Hindu theology is worshiped as the first God or the remover of obstacles. During every ritual or worship or while initiating anything, Ganesha is invoked in a turmeric image and worshiped as the remover of obstacles. Turmeric being the most powerful antiseptic is the most befitting seat for Ganesha. The shloka chanted at the beginning of the rituals go this way, “I bow down to the Lord with a curved trunk and huge body having the luster of a crore suns. Let Lord Ganesha be pleased to remove all the obstacles in my way for the successful fulfillment of the activity I have taken up now.” Thus, Ganesha is highly popular among Hindus in particular and the people of the world in general. In fact, worship of elephant face God is seen across different cultures and geographies.
Children and adults alike have a liking for elephant. Therefore, they are naturally drawn towards the image of Ganesha in love and reverence. Elephant is a mighty animal. In the forest, elephants make the way amidst bushes and thick woods for the other animals to tread. Similarly, Ganesha clears the way for us to act smoothly and without any hurdles. Secondly Ganesha’s elephant head signifies wisdom, the elephant being a wise animal with a huge brain. It is highly clever and sensitive. Man is made up of mind. It is said mind alone is responsible for bondage as well as liberation. The mind is wavering in nature. This mind should be ruled and coordinated by the intellect for success in life here and hereafter. Ganesha reminds man about this fact in the following way.
Mooshika or the rat is the vehicle of Ganesha. People might be taken to laughter when they wonder how a tiny animal of rat can bear the weight of Ganesha, the huge bodied one with an elephant head. We need to understand the underlying symbolism to come out of this confusion. Man is the bundle of vasanas or the impressions of his past birth that he carries with him. These impressions force man to do this and that in course of his life. The word vasana also literally means ‘smell’. The point is this. As rats are highly sensitive to smell and are attracted towards the objects that smell, man is also attracted towards the world driven by his impulses. Man should let his intellect or good sense rule over his mind so that he is misguided by the vasanas. This is precisely the message given by Lord Ganesha sitting on a rat indicating the necessity to control mind with intellect (Ganesha’s head symbolizes intellect).
Ganesh has a huge tommy that symbolizes the universe. Ganesha is thus the ruler of the universe. The noose (Pasha) and spear (Ankusha) he holds in his hands signify bondage and liberation meaning that God is the one who creates and annihilates the world. The Modaka or the sweet stuff he carries in one another hand stands for bliss (Pramoda) indicating that the true food for man is bliss or Ananda. Ganesha also carries a broken tusk in his hand which he used as the pen tool to draft the epic Mahabharata as it was dictated by sage Vyasa. Thus, he is the embodiment of sacrifice. In total, Ganesha indicates the kind of life man must live.