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VINAYAGAR - The "AUM"kara


Vinayaga Chathurthi / Vinayagar/ Chathuthi Festival / Birth of Vinayaga / Celebration / Vinayaga - Master of Knowledge / Arukkampul Priyan (Fresh Green Grass) / Elephant Faced Mushika Vahanan / The Trunk / Large Ears / The Pot-Belly / The Hand / The Foot / The Modakam / The Pasam / Ankusa / The Snake / The Broken Tusk / Stotras And Mantras / Vinayagar Forms / Vinayagar Worship

Vinayaga Chathurthi
Hinduism is not merely a way of life. It is also a science of life. Its concepts are scientific and based on truths discovered by the Rishis and Jnanis. People are confused by the "many gods" of Hinduism. According to Hinduism, God or Paramporul or Sivam or Brahmam or the Supreme is Absolute. He is Infinite. However, He can and does appear and respond in a form. The different deities of Hinduism are different facets of God. They show His functions, powers or aspects. The forms of the Hindu deities are highly symbolic and they contain many meanings and messages.
Vinayagar
The first prayer of a Hindu is always to Vinayagar. Vinayagar is invoked at the beginning of all ritualistic worship. He is invoked before a family moves into a house. Recitation of holy songs begin with the recitation of a Vinayagar mantra or song.

Vinayagar has a place in the Buddhist temple and among the Jains. The Chinese too worship Vinayagar but with a different name. Vinayagar or Vinayagar-like deities are found in Indonesia, Japan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Brazil, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Tibet, Mongolia and Polynesia, among other places.

Vinayagar or Ganesha or Ganapati is otherwise called as Vigneshwara or Vighnaharta, the Lord of and destroyer of obstacles. When we do evil things or when the time is not right, He places obstacles in our path. When we take the correct path, He removes the root of our troubles.

Vinayagar is also one of the five Gods the worship of whom was popularized by Adi Shankaracharya; the other four being Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Surya. The worship of these five deities is called the panchaayatana puja. In some cases, Skanda is also worshipped.

It is said that Ganesha was born when the eternal couple contemplated on AUM. If you view Lord Ganesha sideways, then you will see the symbol AUM in sanskrit. That's why Ganesha is called AUMkara and worshipped first. AUM is praNava. What is meant by praNava. pra is short for prakriti and navam means excellent boat. That is, AUM is the way to cross the ocean of worldly existence.
Chathurthi Festival
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Ganesha (Vinayaka), the God of Wisdom and Prosperity. God Vinayaka is the Son of God Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. The principal annual festival of 'Vinayaka' or 'Ganesha' falls on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of 'Bhadrapada' (August-September). Constellation with the appearance of the elephant head is brightly visible on this very night. In Tamil Nadu, 'Vinayaka Chaturthi' (as it is known) is very widely celebrated with special rituals in people's homes, as well as at Vinayaka's temples and shrines.
Birth of Vinayaga
According to a legend, Goddess Parvati created an image of a boy made of clay and gave him life. She made him guard the door when she was taking a bath. The boy was guarding the door without letting anyone inside. When God Siva, Parvati's husband came home, the boy didn't allow him inside, which enraged God Siva who cut off the boy's head. The boy fell dead on the ground. God Siva went inside and Goddess Parvati was terrified by this news. On Goddess Parvati's request, God Siva went looking for a replacement head, when the first living thing he came across was an elephant. He cut off the elephant's head, affixed it to the torso of the boy and gave him new life.

Lord Vinayaka has got an elephant face and human body. He is worshipped by many names like Vinayaka, Ganesha, Pillayar, Vigneshwara, Gajanana, Ganapathy, Mooshika Vahanaa, Modhaga priya etc. He rides on an animal called mooshika (a large kind of rat).
Celebration
In our houses we celebrate this pooja in a grand manner. We decorate the floor with kolams using rice flour. On that day we buy a new Vinayaka idol (made of clay). We also buy a decorated umbrella to place behind the idol. On a wooden plank, plantain leaf is placed and raw rice is spread over it. We place the idol on this and decorate with flowers and perform pooja.

Vinayaka likes a dish called mothagam (kozhukkattai). So different varieties of kozhukkattai are prepared and offered to the lord on this day. It is the special item on this day.

On the next day, punar pooja is done. This is the pooja, which acts as an ending to the festival. After this we remove the idol from its place. On the next day after punar pooja, we immerse the idol in water in the sea, well or pond.

For this pooja, different flowers are used. Erukkampoo (calotropis), thumbaipoo (white small flowers and arugampul (a type of grass) is very special for the lord. Different varieties of fruits are also offered.
Vinayaga - Master of Knowledge
Vinayaka is one who drives away all sorrows, difficulties and miseries. He is the enemy of all obstacles. He will not allow any obstacle to come in the way. He is the destroyer of obstacles. He confers happiness and peace (on his devotees). He is the master of all those powers (Buddhi and Siddhi). What is this Siddhi? When there is purity of mind, you achieve peace (which is Siddhi). Vinayaka is thus the Lord of Buddhi and Siddhi (the Intellect and Self-Realisation). Hence, every human being should acquire control over the mind.

Ganesha is the embodiment of intelligence (Buddhi) and achievement (Siddhi). He was approached by sage Vyasa with a prayer to write down the Mahabharatha even as he composed the hundreds of thousands of its verses! Ganesha agreed immediately, He brooked no delay, even to secure a writing too, he broke his pointed tusk and was ready to start.
Arukkampul Priyan (Fresh Green Grass)
There is a mythological story which reveals how the practice of offering Arukkampul (fresh green grass) to Ganapathi during the Vinayaka Chathurthi festival originated.

Once, the story goes, Parvathi and Parameswara were playing a game of dice with Nandiswara (Parameswara's vehicle, the bully as the umpire). Although Iswara lost the game, Nandi declared Him as the winner. Enraged at this unfair decision Parvathi cursed Nandi that he would be afflicted with an incurable disease. Nandi, seeking Parvathi's forgiveness, explained that he gave the verdict in Parameswara's favour because the latter was his master and his duty as a servant was to serve him. Parvathi relented and said that Nandi would be freed from the curse if he offered to her son Ganapathi what was most relished by Nandi. Nandi pondered for a moment and declared that what he loved most as a bull was fresh green grass. He would offer that to Ganapathi. That was how the practice of including fresh green grass among the offerings made to Ganapathi during festival occasions came into vogue.
Elephant Faced Mushika Vahanan
The esoteric significance of the Elephant headed Ganesha image is: Ganapati has been given the head of an elephant because He is known for His extraordinary intelligence. The elephant is symbolic of extreme intelligence. Vinayaka is the embodiment of intelligence. He is described as Buddhi Vinayak and Siddhi Vinayaka (Vinayaka - the Wise and Vinayaka - the Accomplished)."

The rat runs hither and tether, Man's mind too, ruled by impulses, runs hither and thither. However, he is also capable of being wise, hardworking and strong like the elephant. Man's goal then is to remove his mouse qualities and enter the elephant stage. The huge elephant sitting on a tiny mouse also indicates the truth that the Atman is the same in all, irrespective of size or birth or race.

Another meaning is also given to the mouse. It moves everywhere unnoticed and steals or destroys food. Like the mouse, egoism too exists unnoticed in our minds and silently wrecks havoc in our lives. When controlled by divine wisdom, however, the ego can aid progress.
The Trunk
The elephant trunk is very significant. The trunk is also its nose. The elephant nose is its greatest weapon and tool. Similarly, Vinayagar having the elephant form shows that man's nose is his greatest weapon and tool. How? Breath-control. Through breath control man can attain powers. It can help him expand his consciousness and move towards Sivagati.
Large Ears
Vinayagar has large ears. Why? It is to teach us to talk less and listen more. Many of our problems with people arise because we listen little but talk a lot. Before someone can finish saying what he wants to say, we interrupt. This truth can be verified at home and at meetings. Ears are used to gain knowledge. The large ears indicate that when God is known, all knowledge is known.
The Pot-Belly
Vinayagar has a huge pot-belly. Why? Vinayagar's pot-belly suggests that it can contain anything and everything. His belly is considered to be the womb of the world. We notice that His belly is something like that of a pregnant woman who holds life in her. The difference is that while the pregnant woman supports one life or perhaps two or three, Vinayagar supports and sustains all life. He is the creative energy that brings forth life. Vinayagar's protruding belly and stories about His voracious appetite show that He can digest anything. This indicates that a man of perfection, the highly evolved man, can digest anything whether it is pain or pleasure, good or bad, honor or dishonor. He has attained equilibrium.
The Hand
The right hand of the deities in almost all representations is held in the Abaya posture with palm facing us. It indicates that he who surrenders unto Him need not fear anything. Vinayagar assures us that we should be brave as He is with the good and noble.
The Foot
One foot of Ganesa touches the ground while the other is folded and rests on the other thigh. Why? This suggests that while we live in this world, we must tread the middle path and not go to extremes. Moderation should be our guide.
The Modakam
In representations of Vinayagar, He is depicted as holding the modakam, a sweet cake, in one hand. There are usually modakam placed in a tray in front of him or held by His trunk. This is to show that the spiritually wise man always finds the world and life sweet as it enables him to be of service to his fellow beings of God. It also affords him an opportunity to improve himself and progress towards Sivagati. The modakam consists of the outer flour portion and the inner sweet portion. The inner sweet portion represents the Supreme. The message is that man must dive within himself, transcend the outer, in order to find the inner treasure.
The Pasam
Vinayagar, just like most other deities, is always shown holding a Pasa or rein/noose in one hand. The pasa has been given several interpretations. The pasa represents desires and feelings that bind. Uncontrolled desires are the seeds of bondage. Like the noose they strangle us.

The pasa shows that attachment is the cause of birth. It also shows the creative aspect of divinity. It is said that with the pasa (reins), Vinayagar guides us on the right path. With the pasa too He maintains obstacles in our path when we take a wrong turning or when the time is not right for us to do something. The pasa tells us we must bind ourselves to God for material and spiritual progress. For unfoldment we must bind ourselves through love, thavam and service to God. It suggests too that we should use our discrimination to control our desires as this conserves energy and helps us move upward. The pasa shows He binds us with His love and will guide us.
Ankusa
The ankusa is a hook-like instrument. This too has various related interpretations. The ankusa symbolizes discrimination, which can pierce through delusions. It is said that Vinayagar removes obstacles and troubles in our path using the ankusa. He helps us be rid of delusions. The ankusa indicates that we must check our emotions and passions through strict self-control and thavam. Like a hook pulling at our flesh, self-control and thavam will cause pain but it must be done. We must use our discrimination to control our lower nature. The ankusa reminds us to break away from the grip of material entanglements. The ankusa is also said to stand for anger, which hurts us. The pasa (attachment) and ankusa (anger) will not help in spirituality. So we have to get rid of anger and attachment by surrendering to Vinayagar. As the ankusa is used for destruction, it is also said that it shows the destructive or dissolving power of God.
The Snake
Vinayagar is the presiding deity of the Mooladhara Chakra which is the foundation of the evolutionary, creative or primeval energy called the Kundalini Sakti. It is coiled up like a snake when dormant. When activated, this energy is said to result in an expansion of consciousness and the unfoldment of man into Godman. This results in various siddhis (powers) and therefore we have Siddhi Vinayagar. Raising this energy to the Sahasrara will bring enlightenment. A snake normally coils around Vinayagar's belly. This represents the Kundalini sakti. It reminds us that we have to awaken this energy to reach the state of expanded consciousness. The snake around the belly also shows that everything in nature (the pot-belly) is supported by energy.
The Broken Tusk
Vinayagar's right tusk is broken. There are a few interpretations of this. Some suggest that it means we should not be trapped between the pairs of opposites like pleasure and pain but that we should with conscious effort break its grip on us. Vinayagar uses the broken tusk as a writing instrument. This shows that a man who transcends the pair of opposities becomes creative. Our right side represents Siva (spiritual) and the left is Sakti (material). The broken right tusk indicates that one must break-off the ego for spiritual fulfillment. In worldly life however, we need the ego as otherwise we cannot live. But the ego is worldly life must be controlled by divine wisdom. The story runs that Vinayagar and Vyasa participated in a challenge whereby Vyasa would recite the Mahabharatam without a pause and Vinayagar would write it down without stopping. In those days they wrote on palm leaves with a thick stylus. However, halfway, Vinayagar's stylus broke but he quickly broke off His tusk to continue, writing without stopping. This story indicates that we should be willing to make sacrifices for any noble cause.
It is said that by reciting Vinayaga Stotras, mantras and Thevaram songs we create energy which activates divine faculties in our consciousness. This helps remove obstacles that hamper our material and spiritual progress. What is required is patience and perseverance. We must apply the Pasa and Ankusa. Also, when we concentrate on Vinayagar and sing His praises, we awaken the divine potential in us. Reciting the following mantra is said to bring auspiciousness:

Aum Sri Ganesaya Namah
Aum Sri Ganesaya Namah
Aum Sri Maha Ganapathiyae Namah
Aum Sri Gam Ganapathiyae Namah.
Vinayagar Forms
Vinayagar is usually said to have 32 different forms. Among the important forms are: Bala Ganapati, Taruna Ganapati, Bhakti Ganapati, Vigheswara, Veera Ganapati, Sakti Ganapati, Dvaja Ganapati, Siddhi Vinayagar, Uchista Ganapati, Ekatanta Ganapati, Shristi Vinayagar, Thundi Vinayagar, Yoga Vinayagar, Vighnaraja, Kshipra Ganapati, Heramba Ganapathi.
Vinayagar Worship
Vinayagar worship is very simple. It is the most informal too. If we do not have a statue or picture of Him, no problem. We can make a conical shape out of clay, earth, wet turmeric powder or santhanam (sandalwood) paste and it becomes Vinayagar automatically. Even a rock or a tree with some bearing to his shape can be worshipped.

Vinayagar Chaturthi helps us realize the unity of all life. It teaches us to drop off our ego-centric, individualism for God-centered universalism.

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