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Definition: Ganesa or Ganesh from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

In Hindu mythology, the god of wisdom and good luck, lord of the Ganas, or lesser deities. He was the son of SIVA and is invoked at the beginning of a journey or when commencing important work, and on the first pages of books, especially ledgers. He is shown with a red or yellow human torso, a big round stomach, four arms, and an elephant's head with a mouth from which a single tusk protrudes. See also HINDUISM.


Summary Article: Ganesh
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Hindu god of prophecy, son of Shiva and Parvati; he is represented as elephant-headed and is worshipped as a remover of obstacles. Hindus seek his aid before difficult undertakings, such as an examination or job interview.

Ganesh is shown as pot-bellied, partly because he loves sweetmeats; he also sometimes holds sweets in one of his hands. His elephant's head has one whole and one broken tusk; the whole tusk symbolizes the perfect, hidden, spiritual world and the broken one represents the seen, living world. Another explanation is that he used one tusk to write the Mahābhārata . His vehicle is the mouse, as both animals overcome obstacles in different ways. Ganesh has four arms, and holds a rosary, a goad showing his authority, and a noose showing the need to resist being led by desires, even though he has the power to grant them.

His birthday is celebrated with the festival of Ganesha Caturthi, when small clay models of Ganesh are purchased and used in ceremonies of worship, including immersion in the sea.

Several stories are told about his birth. One popular version is that the goddess Parvati was lonely, so she created a son from scrapings of her skin. She told him to guard the door while she had a bath. When her husband Shiva returned home Ganesh refused him entry, so Shiva cut off his head in anger. Parvati was distraught and Shiva promised to replace the head. He asked a servant to go out and bring back the head of the first living thing he saw. The servant saw an elephant, and dutifully brought back his head, which Shiva placed on Ganesh's body.

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