Ganesha & Jainism


By Dr. C. Deva Kumar


Jainism is the religion of Ahimsa. Ahimsa means not to cause hurt to anyone by thoughts, speech and deeds. It is not my intention to hurt anyone's sentiments. Lord Ganesha has arguably now become the number one Hindu God thanks to sustained efforts in the last 500 years or so. Many Jains in some regions seem to worship Ganesh and put his figure in wedding cards. Today I want to relate the origin of Ganesha with Jainism, a religion of rulers and masses up to 1500 years ago. How many of us know that Ganesh is not mentioned before 500 AD and was quite insignificant until the mid-15th century (as mentioned in Hindu sources).

Today, I want to share with you the truth that Ganesha, also called Ganapati was invented to mask the face of Tirthankar and divert the attention of masses away from the Tirthankar cult in the medieval period. It is not easy to erase events from the public memory itched over 1000 years and one could see the retention of the same day and some of the Puja protocols as now known as Ganesh Chaturti. I shall relate these with Jain significance in the next message. Let us understand Hindu versions.

Keeping in mind that Lord Ganesha represents Tirthankar in reality; please the Hindu versions taken from various sources given below:

Ganesha is the Hindu god of wisdom, prudence, and salvation. Ga means "knowledge", na means "salvation", and isa and pati mean "lord". The Puranas differ considerably in their account of Ganesha's origin. According to the Shiva Purana, Ganesha was born of the scurf from Parvati's body. Once, when Shiva was away, Parvati wanted someone to guard the door while she bathed.

From the scurf of her body, she moulded a boy and gave him life. She told him to attend the door and not allow anyone to enter. Shiva returned, and when he tried to enter, was stopped by Ganesha. An argument arose, and enraged, Shiva cut off Ganesha's head and entered. When Parvati discovered that Shiva had entered by beheading her son, she was inconsolable.

Repentant, Shiva ordered that the head of the first living being that was found should be brought to him. This happened to be the head of an elephant calf. He placed this on Ganesha's body and restored him to life.

The Brahma vaivarta Purana narrates a different story regarding the origin of Ganapati. Shiva instructed Parvati, who wanted to have a son, to observe the puNyaka vrata for a year to propitiate Vishnu. O Beautiful Goddess! Perform the worship of Hari by observing the punyaka vrata for a year. The Lord of Gopikas, the Lord of all creatures, Krishna Himself will be born as your son, as a result of the vrata. On completion of the vrata by Parvati, it was announced that Krishna would incarnate Himself as Her son in every kalpa. Accordingly, Krishna was born as a charming infant, delighting Parvati who celebrated the event with great enthusiasm. All the Gods arrived to have a look at the baby. But Shani, the son of Surya, did not look at him and stared at the ground instead. Upon Parvati's questioning regarding his behaviour, Shani said that his look would harm the baby. Parvati, however, insisted that he should look at the baby. In deference to Her wish Shani cast his eyes on the baby. Due to his malevolent glance, the baby's head was severed and flew to Goloka, the abode of Krishna. Parvati and all the Gods assembled there, including Shiva, were grief-stricken. Thereupon, Vishnu mounted Garuda and rushed to the banks of the Pushpa-bhadra River and brought back the head of a young elephant. The head of the elephant was joined with the headless body of Parvati's son, reviving him.

The Puranas say that the fourth day of the month, known as Chaturthi, is specially Ganesha auspicious for Ganesha worship. It is believed that Ganesha was born on the chaturthi of Bhadra. The Ganesha moon starts in the lunar month Bhadrapada (August/September). Ganesha Chaturthi is an important festival in India, especially in Maharashtra. www.gurjari.net

Eight is a sacred number to Ganesha. His mythical life story tells us that he has links with eight 'demonic' (16) elephant guardians. The eight male elephants could be visualised as direction guardians, with Shiva and Parvati guarding the upper and lower realms. Their names are:

Kamasura (Love), Krodasura (anger), Lobhasura (greed), Mohasura (delusion), Matasura (intoxication), Mamasura [ego (17)], Abhimasura [attachment to life (18)], and Istasura [self chosen demon (19)].

Eight fold (5) Doxology of Ganesha With modaka (6), garlands and incense I worship Ganesha, the beloved god with the fawn coloured eyes. With a staff, a lamp and a key, I worship Ganesha, gatekeeper who removes hindrances (7). With oil, herbs and water, I worship Ganesha the moon crested keeper of the sacred bath (8). With wine, maithuna (9) and lotus flowers, I worship Ganesha monstrous guardian of kundalini (10). With meat, fish (11) and music, I worship Ganesha, the trickster with the twisted trunk. With sweets, healing herbs and haldi (12), I worship Ganesha pot bellied reliever of childbirth. With poetry, blood and amulets I worship Ganesha whose single tusk is like a sword. With parched grain (13), stone and poppies I worship Ganesha with the elephant's mouth, as lord of the harvest (14). The reason for the disparity between interpretations offered in the literature is the same difference between the different sects or schools of initiation According to Adinatha Sampradaya, the symbolism reflects this. The Form: The philosophical significance of Ganesha's Form Ganesha's elephantine head and human body are explained as follows in the Mudgala Purana: Ganesha's human body representing 'tvam', His elephantine countenance representing 'tat' and their joining together signifies the no difference of 'tvam' (You) and 'tat' (Brahman). Thus, the body of Ganesha is the visible representation of the highest reality, Brahman, realised from 'tat tvam asi'. (Excerpted from an article By Anand Hudli, E-Mail : ahudli@silver.ucs.indiana.edu, www.angelfire.com



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