Ch.35–Ishta Devatas 1-GANESHA-1
Ch.39–Ishta Devatas 1-GANESHA-5
Multi- Part series.
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ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-1
In an earlier Chapter on Bhakthi Marga, I had brought out Mahaswamy’s exposition on the rationale of Ishta Devatas. I am recapitulating here what he said on the subject.
“The usual criticism against Hindu religion is the multiplicity of deities. Here Mahaswamy refutes it and says: “Reality is that no Hindu who knows his religion thinks that there is more than one Swami. …. This one Swami with great power, who controls and operates the Universe, has the compassion and competence to take many forms. ….. It is for attracting all people each with a particular attitude, mental disposition (and temperament), make them practice devotion, cleanse their mind and help their concentration that Paramathma has come as deities in different forms. Whichever deity it is, ultimately it is Paramathma only. …… Our great people have given us the mantras, the ways of worship etc., appropriate to each form. If we observe these strictly, we can also be the recipient of the grace of the particular deity (Devata).The deity will give us release from the worldly chain and also bless us in respect of our worldly life, till we become ripe for such relief.”
Against this background, I want to share with you the knowledge acquired by me from the lectures given by the Swamiji on selected deities. This is certainly not exhaustive. Each Devata will be dealt with one or more Series beginning with this.
No act of a Hindu commences without invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesha. It is only appropriate that this Series also starts with HIM.
GANESHA OR VINAYAKA
Looking at all personal deities, Ganesha (picture at left) who is variedly called Vinayaka, Vigneswara, Ganesha, Pillaiyar, Ganapathi etc. is the most singularly popular deity amongst all communities, rich and poor, of varying casts and creed. He has acquired a unique place all over India not available to other Gods and bestows His grace to all his Devotees who have unflinching faith in Him. Lord Ganesha is the only God who has least formalities and rituals attached to HIM. He does not even require a roof over His head. He sits everywhere, under a pipal tree with skies above, on the banks of a river. In poojas, He accepts all common things whether it is a flower or fruit, which is least expensive and available to even the poorest of the poor.
Mahaswamy has spoken so much about Lord Ganesha and His prowess that it is difficult to bring all of them, even in a concise form, in one or two Series. Readers should bear with me for carrying his thoughts in several chapters.
Let us now see Mahaswamy says:
Pranava Swarupa: “He (Lord Ganesha) is the eldest son of Parvathi and Parameswara the Mother and Father of the Universe. He is called the Child-God. Yet He was the beginning before everything else. Pranavam is the origin of everything. It is from Pranavam that the entire Universe and all life appeared. Pillaiyar is the visual form of that Pranavam. If one looks at His elephant face with the curved trunk He will look exactly like Pranavam. ….. Even while being a child and looking a child, Pillaiyar, with the figure of Pranavam, is the first in uplifting His devotees. …… Vigneswara is the Lord who grants great benedictions with effortless ease.”
“Whichever God one may choose for worship, only if Vinayaka’s benediction is obtained first, prayers will fructify without hindrance. There is a sect which considers Vinayaka Himself as the first ands absolute God and worship Him. Such a practice is called Ganapathyam.”
How Ganapathi became Elephant-faced: “According to one of the stories relating to His several manifestations His original form was human. (There is Naramukha Ganapathi -Ganapathi with human form- in Chidambaram; He cannot be identified as Ganapathi unless one is told so. In Tiruchirapalli also, in the Rockfort Temple, there is Naramukha Ganapathi.)
“Ambal thought of creating a guard for Her palace. She wiped her body and with the turmeric, kumkum and incense powder etc. so gathered, She made the form of a young man and gave him the form life. She kept him outside as guard and went to have Her bath. Ambal is auspicious in every way (Sarva Mangala). It is because She had created the original Pillaiyar form out of the auspicious turmeric we make Pillaiyar out of turmeric powder and do puja before commencing anything auspicious.
“Parameswaran came to Parvathi’s palace. He got angry on seeing a male member in His wife’s palace and cut off his head. Really speaking He acted in this manner for the good of the world and did it in this manner of an absorbing drama. The good of the world is like this: An Asura by the name Gajamukasura (who had the elephant face) had obtained a boon that only someone with an elephant head like him and who is not born of male female union, could kill him. For having beheaded the beloved child created by Ambal, He got pulled up by Ambal. Then He killed an elephant lying with its head to the north (which is bad for the world), fixed its head on the torso, gave it life and pleased Ambal. He caused the destruction of Gajamukasura through Pillaiyar and ensured the welfare of the world.”
(Mahaswamy explains in detail how simple this God is, easily reachable, easily pleased and has minimum rituals, for that matter no ritual at all-Ramanan)
Simplicity: “He is the God for ordinary, poor people; anyone can create a Pillaiyar from Turmeric powder, clay or even cow dung and perform a pooja for Him. Wherever and whenever He is called He would appear in the chosen clay or stone and bless us. We do not have to read a lot of ‘Sthothras’ to pray to Him. He will come running even for the prayer of an illiterate man.”
“We have to perform elaborate rituals to install the idols of other Gods, like ‘Prana-pratishta’ to infuse the power into the idol. Not so with Pillaiyar. It is said that He appears in the chosen idol, even if we think of Him.”
While talking about Pillaiyar, Mahaswamy refers to Avvaiyar, a well known female poet of Tamil Nadu extensively. Avvaiyar belonged to the ninth century and was known, not only for her extraordinary poetry, but also, as a noble and revered saint. The term 'Avvaiyar' means ' respected old woman' or 'Grandmother'. She had written a number of educative poems with full of moral values mainly benefitting children and all other members of the family. A great devotee of Pillaiyar, she prayed to the Child-God and became an old lady in her young age itself to prevent her getting married; regular family would have been a hindrance to her Bhakthi. She spent all her life meditating upon Pillaiyar, worshipping Him and teaching children of Tamil Nadu. While referring to this saintly poet, Mahaswamy says:
Avvaiyar & Vinayaka: “Just as a grandmother advises her grand children with a concern that they should grow up to be good people, Avvaiyar preached to all the children of Tamil Nadu. … If her words have survived thousands of years, it is because of the power of what she sang with great compassion and love. Avvaiyar who has written books on morals for children, has composed a verse on Pillaiyar, that is based on yogic philosophy even elders cannot understand easily. It is a short sthothra called Vinayakar Agaval. Reciting this, is a way to remember both and we will be blessed twice over. Everyone should go to the nearest Vinayaka temple, recite Vinayagar Agaval and pray to Him. Inside it, are several precious things relating to Yoga Sasthra which we may not have the intelligence today to understand it. Whether we understand it or not, let us learn it by heart and recite it with faith; Avvai’s words have the power to do good. We will benefit by it and our country too will benefit by it.”
(Vinayagar Agaval is a hymn in praise of the Lord Ganesha, by Avvaiyar. It is thought to be her greatest poem, written shortly before her death. Agaval” is a form of blank verse, close to speech. Avvaiyar’s poem is a journey through the Tamil devotional tradition known as Bhakti, in this instance as part of the Shaivite philosophy.
It begins with contemplation of the external form of the God (Lord Ganesha) and continues as an exposition of ancient Hindu spiritual belief and practice. The song consists of 72 lines and describes the various facts and facets of human life as being taught by Lord Ganesha.
For the benefit of readers, I give below internet reference to the text of Vinayakar Aghaval in Tamil and translation in English.
The second one gives the original poem in Tamil script and the third one its rendering by M.S.Subbulakshmi. –Ramanan)
“If we have to worship other Gods, we have to choose a time, have a bath and go to the temple with all the necessary pooja materials. Even after going to the temple we cannot go straight to the idol. We have to go around the compound and even then we cannot be close to the idol. Not so with Pillaiyar, Any time of the day, on the way to the school, or to work, or returning from the shop, we just lift our head by chance, there is some Pillaiyar in some corner. As soon as we see Him, we involuntarily touch the forehead with our knuckles and perform a quick Thorpikaranam. We just get an inexplicable joy and peace in just doing this.”
“Everyone belongs to Pillaiyar and he belongs to everyone. He belongs to the ordinary people who have not read the sthothras. When it comes to Naivedhya distribution, important people get priority in the presence of other Gods. However, Pillaiyar has ensured even the pieces from the coconut go to poor children.”
“He is close to everybody; you will see Pillaiyar in Vishnu temples, even though he belongs to the family of Siva. He is beyond all religious feuds. That is why he is worshipped even amongst Jains and Buddhists. We will find him in all important places of worship throughout Bharat Desa. Not just in our country. Vinayaka idols have been found in Japan, Mexico, (Indonesia) and several other countries. He is worshipped around the worlds in various forms.”
“We should break a coconut in front of Him every Friday and make children happy. We must become one with this child God, get rid of our various troubles and sorrows and be joyful like Him. If we sincerely demonstrate our Bhakthi, He would help us become joyful too.”
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –Vol 1 – pp 3-8; Vol 2 - pp-5-16) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-2
This is in continuation of the earlier Chapter on Lord Ganesha. In the following paragraphs, we would see his explanations of the philosophical and spiritual truths behind this Child-God.
Pranavam and Poornathvam: In the last Chapter, Mahaswamy referred to Pranava Swarupam of Pillaiyar. He now elaborates the philosophical truth behind this. – (To some, it may appear metaphysical, but let us accept it as gospel truth from a revered saint.):
In some parts of India, it is a common practice to mark the Pillaiyar symbol, (called Pillaiyar Suzhi in Tamil) before beginning to write anything on a piece of paper irrespective of whether it is a literary work or not. This is done to ensure that the work gets completed without any obstacles. The symbol ( ) consists of a curve (part of a circle); it is called ‘Vakram’. The lower part of the elephant’s trunk is curved. For this reason, He has a name ‘Vakrathundar’. The curve that is drawn for marking Pillaiyar symbol if completed becomes a full circle. The world, several other world, the stars. Brahmandam which contain the stars are all circular. (Andam means egg which is circular).
“What is surprising is that the complete form (Purna Swarupam) is also the name for cipher! What is full (Purnam) is Pillaiyar. What is sunyam (zero) is also Pillaiyar. The circle indicates the great truth that whatever is there and is not there is all Paramathma only. With Modakam in His hands, Pillaiyar demonstrates his fullness (Purnathva).
“The Pillaiyar symbol which starts with a curve ends in a straight line. There is lot of philosophical truth in this. .. When something rotates like a wheel, there should be an axis to it, which is straight. Even if that axis cannot be seen, it must be in the form of energy. We show the universe which rotates in a circular manner and the straight line which is supporting the axis as the symbol of Pillaiyar - a circle and straight line combined.
“In the Pillaiyar symbol, the curve is rotation and the straight line the energy rising from it. It can be said that the circle which gets completed at the point where it started represents “Brahmam”. The Pillaiyar symbol starts as a circle but after becoming a semi circle, it becomes a straight line. It can, therefore be said that, after symbolically showing “Brahmam” which is one, it also shows several creations which appeared from it. At the beginning of the Upanishad, we say that the universe which is whole came from Brahmam, which is also whole. The Pillaiyar symbol with its curve and straight line shows that the Universe came from Brahmam-that the curve symbolizes the Brahma Purnam and the straight line the Prapancha Purnam (Universe).”- (For a fuller discussion, please refer to pp 3-6- Vol 3 of the book quoted at the end. -Ramanan.)
Other Philosophical Truths: “Even small aspects of Vinayakamurthy, when observed, will reveal lot of other philosophical truths.
“Why are coconuts broken before Pillaiyar as offering? It appears that Vigneswara asked His own father Parameswara to offer His head to Him in sacrifice. Maha Ganapthi is pleased only if what is most valued is offered as sacrifice. Easwara who Himself has three eyes has created coconut with three eyes and has willed it that, as a token of our readiness to offer the highest sacrifice, we should offer the coconut to Pillaiyar.”
“Breaking a coconut by striking it forcefully on the ground so that it breaks into small pieces and gets strewn about, is a practice in Tamil Nadu. To whom do such scattered pieces belong as a matter right? To the children of course. .. When the coconut is broken, the nectar like water comes out and this is symbolic of the breaking of hardened ego.”
“No other God has a physical frame bigger than Ganapathi. …..He is like a mountain, yet a child. ……A child must eat well and be plump. Then only it will look beautiful. This child God with Modhak in His hand, conveys the message that children should eat well and look healthy.”
“Ganapathi is like an elephant. Quite contrary to this, the mouse He uses as His vehicle is small. To suit the strength of the mouse, He sits making His body so light that the mouse does not feel any strain but gets only respectability. He is thus demonstrating that, although He is of heavy body (Sthula Kayar), He will sit light in the hearts of devotees.”
“This elephant of a Pillaiyar broke His tusk (which is the pride of elephants) and used the piece to write the Mahabharata. By doing this, this elephant God demonstrated that Mahabharata which expounds Dharma, is greater than its own tusk which gives beauty, respect and pride. By sacrificing its own tusk, it has shown that, for the sake of justice and Dharma, anything can be sacrificed. …. At one time He (Lord Ganesh) killed an Asura with the tusk. It was a weapon then. When He wrote Mahabarata, it became a pen.”
“The child God has taken the elephant figure so that those who see Him experience (just like seeing the Moon is a joyous experience) joy each time they see Him. That is the philosophy of bliss, and just like the philosophy of desire which never gets satiated.”
Thorpi Karanam: “We double- up before Pillaiyar by holding our ears with both hands. This kind of obeisance to Him is called Thoppu Karanam, which is distortion of the words Thorpi Karnam, which means holding the ears by the hands. When we hit (touch) our foreheads with our knuckles, or perform Thorpi karanam, the vibrations in our nerves change. (just as yoga sasthra elevates our mind by influencing our breathing as a result of various exercises that bend the body in different yogic positions). It will have a divine influence on our minds. We are bound to feel the effects, if we do it with faith.”
“There is a story about this. It is said that Maha Vishnu started this practice. Once on His birthday Pillaiyar, in a playful mood, threw away all the presents given by Maha Vishnu and snatched the disk (Chakra) from Maha Vishnu and put it into His mouth. It was difficult to get it from His mouth and so, Maha Vishnu made Pillaiyar laugh so that the disk would fall from His mouth. Immediately, He caught His ears with His four hands and danced. Vinayaka laughed uncontrollably and the disk fell out of His mouth.”
In Tamil Nadu, this (Thoppu Karanam) is used as a punishment to people, mainly to children and young students. This apart, there is a yogic benefit out this form of obesience to Lord Ganesha. Though the Indian classics have not spelt out the exact benefits, our elders have found out that this form of yogic practice has beneficial results on the body and the mind.
It is interesting (somewhat disturbing too) to find that the westerners have claimed this as a revelation and are propagating this as brain energizer found out by them, as can be seen below:
“Dr. Paul Nogier MD, a neurologist, has found immense benefit from this for energising the brain. He calls it SUPERBRAIN YOGA® He says: Superbrain Yoga transforms or internally alchemizes the energies from the lower energy centres into higher subtler energies. These energies are then utilized by the upper energy centres. When those centres are highly energized, they energize the brain so it can function with greater efficiency and effectivity. Superbrain Yoga® not only energizes and activates the brain, but also assists in balancing the energies of the heart, throat, ajna, forehead and crown energy centers. Source: www.superbrainyoga.org.”-Ramanan
All powerful and all benevolent: “Pillaiyar is the chief of Lord Siva’s Ganas (forces).That is why the name Ganapathi, Ganesh etc. There is no other leader (nayaka) above Him; therefore, He is called Vinayaka.”
“There is not a single wish that He does not grant. In particular, He is the one who removes all obstacles (Vigna). Therefore, He is called Vigneswara.”
“He has other names too, like the Gajamuka, Gajaraja, etc. The names have come about because He has the face of an elephant. …….. Pillaiyar is an elephant and child put together. … He has the innocent mind of a child, a good heart like that of the child, the physical strength of an elephant, intelligence and above all beauty that never tier us of seeing.”
“Even though he is a child and a personification of some high level philosophical concepts, Pillaiyar presents a few contrasts too. There is a beauty in this. It means everything good and bad merges in Him. If He has a broken ivory in one hand, he has a full Modak in another hand. The sweet thing inside this (modak), is called poornam which means fullness, whole. One hand has something broken, in another He has something that is full. Pillaiyar is Himself fullness personified, containing everything in Himself. Knowing this is the real bliss and happiness, (Another word for happiness in Sanskrit is Modam, Modakam).”
“There is one more difference: Pillaiyar is a child, and therefore, a Brahmachari (unmarried). People pray, even today, to this staunch Brahmachari to get married. The same Pillaiyar who helped Avvaiyar to become an old lady to avoid marriage, helped Lord Subrahmanya to get married to Valli. He grants people what they ask for. What does this mean? He is in such a state (an evolved one) that He grants us even those things he does not prefer, because of His great compassion. (In the North, Lord Ganesha is portrayed as a God with two wives, Buddhi & Siddhi.-SGVR). By doing so, he is slowly uplifting us too; sometimes to unimaginable heights. When we look at Pillaiyar, newer concepts and philosophies occur to us. That too is limited by what occurs to our intellect. In reality, His grace is beyond what we know.”
“Only if Vigneswara’s blessings are there, any effort will fructify without hindrance. Pillaiyar is the beautiful Child-God who removes all obstacles and showers His blessings. May we pray to Him. Worship Him and lead a good life free of from troubles.”
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –Vol 1 – pp 3-8; Vol 2 - pp-5-16; Vol. 3 –pp 3-6) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-3
An important sloka on Ganesha gives His sixteen different names and the benefits in reciting them. Each one of these names has some story or philosophical truth behind it. In this and the next two Chapters, I present Mahaswamy’s erudite and beautiful explanations on the significance and meaning of these names.
The sloka which contains these names is reproduced below: It is said that:
“To one who reads the sixteen names or hears them from another, there is no hindrance in any of his efforts. If one reads or hears these sixteen names or better still memorizes and recites them he will face no hindrance in all his endeavours.”
Sumukaschaika dhanthascha kapilo gajakarnakah
Lambodharascha vikato vignarajo Vinayakah
Dhumakethur ganadhyakshah Bhalachandro gajananah
Vakrathundah surpakarno herambah skandapurvajah
Shodasaithani namani yah pateth srunuyadhapi
Vidhyarambe vivahe cha pravese nirgame thatha
Sangrame sarva karyeshu Vignas-thasya na jayathe
Let us see what Mahaswamy says on the names:
The Greatness of Sixteen
“Sixteen is a number of great merit. We talk of ‘Shodasa kala purnam’. Shodasam is sixteen. Starting from the New Moon day (Amavasya) upto the Full Moon day (Pournami), the moon has sixteen phases (kala). It is when the moon attains the sixteenth kala, it is pournami. The sixteen offerings we make during elaborate puja are called ‘Shodasa Upacharam’. Just as we talk of Saptha Mathruka of seven Devis, there are also sixteen Devis called Shodasa Mathruka. Of the Raja Rajeswari manthras of Ambal ‘Shodosakshari’ is the highest. It is for this reason Ambal has a name ‘Shodasi’.
“When any worship is commenced, one should do Sankalpam (expressing a resolve) that ‘I do this worship for being blessed with such and such things’. Sixteen such things are included is this wish-list. Prosperity, stability, fortitude (viryam), success, long life, good health and wealth for the whole family - these make seven; then, to be blessed with dharma, artha, kama and moksham - these make four; fulfillment of desire, to be blessed with all auspicious things and destruction of all sins - these make two; for the betterment of the children and grandchildren; finally the God to whom worship in offered should be pleased with it and by his Prasad all wishes should be fulfilled. Those who feel that in all this, there are more of worldly things, add attainment Jnana and vairagya.
Blessings for a good life are sixteen and Pillaiyar has sixteen names!
SHODASA NAMA SLOKA
“Thus, the Sixteen names mentioned in the Sloka as being important to Pillaiyar are: - Sumukar, Ekadhanthar, Kapilar, Gajakarnakar, Lambodarar, Vikatar, VignaRajar, Vinayakar, Dhumakethu, Ganadhyakshar, Bhalachandrar, Gajananar, Vakrathundar, Surpakarnar, Herambar and Skandapurvajar. (For remembering these names easily, they have been given in the form of a sloka.)
The following paragraphs carry the saint’s explanations and meanings of the names.-I have tried to condense them for the sake of space. Detailed explanation can be had from the source quoted below. -Ramanan
“This is the first name. The face is the index of the mind. When love and happiness in the heart is reflected in the face, it becomes Sumukam. Vigneswara has such a Sumukam which reflects His inner love. A face that reflects a good mind is Sumukam.
“In the Suklambaradaram Sloka, there are two words: ‘Prasanna Vadanam’. That is Sumukam. When love and happiness that comes out of it gets reflected externally in the face, it is ‘Prasanna Vadanam’. The ‘su’ which is part of Sumukam also refers to that ‘Prasannam’
“There is something special about the face of the elephant due to which we like to keep looking at it and do not feel tired of it. Its face is broad, commanding, extremely peaceful and something which belies description (if it can be described it will not be so great!). Since Vigneswara has such an elephant face the name Sumakar specially fits him.
“Vigneswara with a smiling face is the very form of joy. Happiness is perfection. Just as the face, His stomach is also the index for His joy. Mukam means ‘beginning’. It is appropriate that the names begin with Sumukar.
“Mukam means not only the entire face, but also the mouth. A good scholar has the name Sumukar, one with a mouth which speaks good things. Pillaiyar is also a Sumukar. He is a great Vidwan. There is no difference between Him and the great scholars referred to in Vedhas as Bruhaspathi.
“There is something special about the mouth of an elephant. For human beings and animals, the mouth is always visible with the lips spreading from one end to another. The lips have a major role in speech. Sound is produced jointly by tongue, teeth and lips. It is only for the elephant that its trunk hides its mouth. Closing the mouth by hand is a sign of humility. But for the elephant the trunk in its normal position hides the mouth. There is lot of philosophical meaning for the Pillaiyar having such a mouth. He is in the form of elephant with the mouth closed by the trunk only to show that, however much one’s scholarship (vidwat) may be, the mouth must be closed except when it is necessary and that is the characteristic of the Vidwan. He shows that the final stage of all vidwat is ‘mounam’.
2. EKADANTHAR: One who will do His utmost to Others.
“Ekadanthar means one who has a single tusk. He himself broke the right tusk and used it to write down the Mahabharatha as dictated by Vyasa. This story highlights the noble quality of sacrificing what is most important for an elephant.
“Another story is that he broke it and used it to kill Gajamukasuran. It is the story that shows that for the welfare of the world He gave His very bone. There is a philosophical meaning for His being with a single tusk. It is only to show the principle of god head which is both female and male. He is male on one side with the tusk and female on the other side without a tusk. (Just as His parents in Ardhanareeswra form).
“There is a Gayathri Mantra appropriate to each deity. …….. In Atharva Vedha there is one Gayathri specially for Vigneswara. The first name given in this is Ekadanthar.
“The third name is Kapilar. It means that he is dull red in colour. Vigneswara is of different colours in different forms. In the sloka ‘Sukalambaradharam’, it is said that he is white like the Moon. (Sasi Varnam). Avvaiyar, in one of her sthothras, describes Him as being blue in colour and in another sthothra as the color of coral. In Northern parts of India Vigneswara is generally red with ‘sindhur’.
Vathapi Ganapathi is worshipped by Agasthya Muni for digesting the Asura, Vathapi, who had entered his stomach deceitfully to kill the muni. The place where the asura, Vathapi lived and was killed is also called Vathapi (present day Badami in the Bijapur district of Karnataka). It also became the capital of the rulers of the Chalukya dynasty.
The Elephant-Faced and Agasthya
“Agasthya Maharishi is very much connected with Vigneswara. Both have a huge stomach. Agasthyar is of the size of a thumb. Pillaiyar is described as ‘Vamana rupam’.
Vamana rupa maheswara puthra
Vigna Vinayaka Padha Namasthe
‘Vamana rupam’ means short. On the one side he is described as ‘Vakrathunda Mahakaya’. That is, he has a huge body. On the other, he is described in Vamana rupa. He is both the big and the small. He is the atom. He is the infinite universe.
“In Hampi there are two large-sized Vigneswara Murthis. One is ten feet tall and the other is about twenty feet. But the name of the Murthis show that one is as small as mustard and the other is as small as dhal. ‘The fact is that since he is in the form of Viswarupa, no life size Murthi can be made which is close to his size. We have made it in a possible size. When these are compared with the real size, these are like mustard and dhal’ they say in all humility.
“Agasthya has kept the Kaveri with his Kamandalu. It was Vigneswara who went in the form of a crow, toppled it and made the Kaveri flow. At that time, Agasthya became angry but when he realized it was Vigneswara who had done it, he became his great devotee. Now the story about Vathapi: There were two asura brothers Vathapi and Illavan. They were both fond of human flesh. They were particularly fond of the flesh of rishis made sweet by their bodies being soaked in Vedha Manthras. But instead of openly killing the Rishis, they would indulge in deceit and kill the Rishis for their food. The elder brother used to approach a rishi in guise of a Brahmin and invite him for dinner. The rishi would accept the invitation in good faith. Rishis would use their supernatural vision only when absolutely necessary. Therefore they would get cheated. Vathapi himself would be served as a meal. When the rishi had taken it, the elder brother would call Vathapi to come out. Vathapi would take the form of a goat, tear the stomach with the horns and come out and then the brothers would eat the rishi. They tried the same trick with Agasthya. Agasthya was always meditating on Vigneswara. Therefore, Vigneswara made him realize the plot. Immediately, Agasthya passed his hand over his stomach and said ‘Vathapi jirno bhava’ The asura could not come out but got digested within Agasthya’s stomach.
“Agasthya performed puja to Vigneswara who had blessed him to fight Vathapi and thereby do good to the world. The form in which Vigneswara was at the time came to be known as Vathapi Ganapathi.
“Agasthyar installed Vathapi Ganapathi in Tiruvarur. Muthuswami Dikshitar sang the song Vathapi Ganapathim Bhaje on this Ganapthi only; ‘ Muladhara Kshethra’ occurring in the song refers to Tiruvarur which is a prithvi kshethram.
“The next name is Gajakarnakar which means ‘One who has the ears of an elephant’. What is special about the ears of an elephant?
“In the idols of all other Murthis there will be a quarter-circle around the ears and it will be touching the shoulders. The ears of the Swami will not be easily visible and we will have to search it within the quarter circle and the ‘kritam’. Mostly we can locate the ears only by the kundalam that hangs. Vigneswara is the only deity who is the exception to this. His ears which are of the elephant are spread broadly on either side of its big face.
“It is not necessary that the ears are shaped like a cup. It is only for the elephant that it is flat like a fan. It is of the shape of a cup for other animals to enable them to prevent the sound being dissipated and for sending it inside fully. But since the elephant has got a very sharp ear, it has no need to worry about the dissipation of the sound.
“The elephant keeps moving its fan-like ears in a rhythmic manner as if it is ‘thalam’. If human being can move their ears like the elephant it is considered a great feat. When something is impossible to be done we usually say that it cannot be done even if one were to do ‘Gajakarnam’. That means it is as difficult as moving the ears like the elephant.
“What is so difficult for us, Vigneswara does it as a mere play. This is what the name Gajakarnakar shows.
“When the elephant keeps moving its ears, not only is it beautiful to look at, but there is a purpose in it. During the rutting period there will be a constant oozing of a fluid on its cheek. Therefore flies and ants will collect there. It is for driving them away, God has given the elephant fan-like ears and also the ability to move them like a fan.
“In Ganesa Pancharatnam, Acharya has referred to the oozing of the fluid on Vigneswara’s cheek as ‘Kapola dhana varanam’. Kapolam means the cheek. Dhanam means the fluid that oozes during rutting.
The fluid flows on Pillaiyar’s cheeks out of joy and compassion. It will be as sweet as amruth. Lot of bees collects there to taste the liquid. Pillaiyar keeps moving his fan-like ears to drive away the bees which collect near his cheek. But, he is not driving them away in anger. To the child-god, this is also a sport. The bees come near him only for this play.
When Vigneswara plays by driving the bees, he becomes more beautiful. ‘Vijayathe’ - He is beautiful. He shines as a victorious hero. He is a victorious hero who has driven away the crowd of bees.
It is because he is Gajakarnakar, he can fan himself, and show that He is the cause, the instrument and the doer all by Himself.
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol.6, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-3-68) (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
(The next two Chapters will deal with the rest of the twelve names of Lord Ganesha- SGV Ramanan)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-1
In this and the next Chapter, I continue Mahaswamy’s portrayal of Lord Ganesha’s twelve other names.
“Lambodharar means ‘One who has a hanging stomach’. ‘Lambham’ means what is hanging. ‘Udharam’ means the stomach. That means he has a big stomach. Europeans refer to Pillaiyar only as the pot-bellied God. He is having modhakam which has inside it ‘purnam’ (the sweet ball) and has a pot belly to show that He is purnam (the whole). It shows perfection. Since it has within it all the planets of the universe, it is also of round shape. In modhakam, the sweet ball (purnam) has a flour covering.
Modhakam means joy or what gives joy. Vigneswara Himself is such a modhakam and He is himself blissful. He is like the modhakam which gives to everybody the love which is sweet. Lambodharar has the round stomach to show that He has within himself the sweet purnam of love. For a round thing there cannot be a beginning or an end. It is a metaphor for Brahmam; it is to show this (Brahmam), that Lambodharar has a round stomach.
“Pillaiyar who is Sumukar is with such a stomach in order that all of us can also be laughing and be in a state of sumukam. Pillaiyar is as Lambodharar in the thought ‘people are caught in various difficulties and are struggling. They may or may not react favourably to philosophical teachings. Therefore, let us be in such a manner that they will be able to laugh and be happy the moment they see us’.
“We all know that ‘Vikatam’ means ‘humour’, ‘joke’ or talking in a manner to make people laugh. Such talk will be intelligent also. Let us go by the practice in vogue of accepting Vikatam as creating humour and in that sense consider Vigneswara as Vikatar.
“Vigneswara indulges in a lot of Vikatam. When his parents Parvathi- Parameswara developed a misunderstanding and pretended anger as a sport, Vinayaka indulged in some fun or mischief and brought them together. He will go as a crow, deceive Agasthya in a humorous way and make available Kaveri for us. He will go as a brahmachari, deceive Vibhishana and make him install Sri Ranganatha on the banks of Kaveri. He will deceive his brother, Ravana in Gokarna Kshetra and make him install Siva Lingam. These are all practical jokes played by Vikatar. Although such practical jokes resulted in Agasthya, Ravana and Vibhishana getting cheated, the object of all such play was only the welfare of the world. It is His play of compassion by which He made available Kaveri, Sri Ranganatha and Kailasa Lingam for all people. He achieved all this in a playful way.
“There are several stories like this connected with Pillaiyar’s sporting ways. We learnt from the story of Avvaiyar that He will shower all blessings even up to Moksham very playfully. He had lifted her by His trunk and straightaway dropped her in Kailasam.
Vikata Chakra Vinayakar
“In Kanchipuram, there is a Vikata Chakra Vinayakar. He is in Kumarakottam (Subrahmanya Swami temple). He got this name because he had played some practical joke with his uncle Maha Vishnu. (This story of how Maha Vishnu found a way of getting the sudarshan chakra out of Ganesh’s mouth was narrated in an earlier Series). Because he played this Vikatam with Vishnu, the Vinayakar came to be called Vikata Chakra Vinayakar.
“Gajakarnaka drives away the bees with his fan-like ears and makes others laugh. Lambodharar makes the people who look at him laugh immediately because of his hanging stomach. There is no deity better the Vigneswara to make the people , who struggle in the midst of their several difficulties, happy.
7. VIGNA RAJAR
That is Vigneswarar. Vigna Raja is Vigna Iswara.
“It is the name Vigna Raja that shows the exclusive power that Pillaiyar has. Brahma is for creation; Vishnu is for protection. Pillaiyar is for removal of obstacles. It is only for avoiding obstacles to any of our undertakings, we pray to Vigneswara in the very beginning. Vigneswara or Vigna Raja is the form that the Supreme Being has taken to remove obstacles.
“When it is said that he is Iswara for vignam or Raja for vignam it should not be understood that He is the chief for creating the obstacles. He is Vigna Raja because he destroys the obstacles.
Noble Purpose In Creating Obstacles Too
“He has created obstacles now and then. When Paramasiva went for Thripura Samaharam, He did not think of Vigneswara (bedfore undertaking the task) and therefore, Vigneswara made the axle of Parameswara’s chariot break. It is only to make it clear to the world that people should obey the law that He made the axle break (irrespective of the power behind such action-sgvr) It is only for creating humility (that is to make people humble), He creates obstacles occasionally. Therefore, those who are affected at that time never meet with bad fate at the end. It is because Vigneswara who created the obstacle will make the person realize ‘we have forgotten the deity specially appointed in the rule of Parasakthi for removal of obstacles and thought we could mange everything ourselves and that is why this problem has cropped up’ and the affected person will pray to Him and Vigna Raja will respond to his prayer and bless him doubly.
“It is true that if any activity is conducted without any obstacle there is satisfaction. But there is greater satisfaction and happiness when an obstacle comes up and then it is remedied and action completed with success. It is only when there is hot Sun, you realize the greatness of the shade. It is only when jari (silver thread) is attached to black cloth, it shines brightly. In the same way it is only when an undertaking is completed after having gone through a vignam, there is greater satisfaction.
“Apart from the successful completion of the activity what is special is that the joy is born out of Bhakthi. We realize ‘although we forget the great Swami- who does not need anything but who satisfies all our needs- He does not forget our small prayer and makes us realize that we can do nothing without His blessings and in the name of creating obstacles He bestows His blessings’ Vigna Raja removes the obstacles. Occasionally, He creates the obstacles only to remove them later. (Mahaswamy narrates here his experience of having forgotten to break 108 coconuts earlier promised to Vinayakar in a temple near Vellore. The elephant which was carrying Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal went in circles when it came near the temple and did not pay heed to the commands of Mahut till Mahaswamy remembered the vow and fulfilled it.)
He then says: “By breaking coconuts and doing Abhishekam, we do not make Him gain anything or become happy. He is always bliss personified. By making us to do such Poojas to Him, He blesses us with happiness and spiritual gain.”
8. VINAYAKAR; DOUBLE PILLAIYAR
“Vigna Rajo Vinayakah – the name Vinayaka comes next to Vigna Rajar.
“In some temples, there is a practice of installing two Pillaiyars side-by-side for worship. In several places there are streets called ‘Double-Pillaiyar Koil Street’. In such temples in one Sannadhi two Pillaiyars will be seated side-by-side. Even in some Siva temples there are double Pillaiyars.
“It does not appear that there is the practice of installing a pair of any other Murthi for worship. This is exclusive for Pillaiyar.
“The reason for this is that He does two things which appear to us to be opposed to each other. One of the two is Vigna Rajar and the other is Vinayakar. The two things which He does are- one to create obstacles and the other is to remove obstacles. Earlier I have said ‘When we talk of Vigneswarar or Vigna Rajar, we should not take it to mean that He is the Iswara or Raja for creating obstacles. Just as Iswara and Raja are there to destroy what is bad, he destroys obstacles which are bad and therefore He has that name’. When we worship Him generally as Vigneswara we should have only this attitude.
“But when there are ‘Double-Pillaiyar’, Vigna Raja who is first of them should be understood as one who creates obstacles. Since He is expert in creating vignams he should be considered Vigna Raja. It is when He removes the vignam, He becomes Vinayakar.
“The two acts of creating Vignam and removing it are not actually opposed to each other but they appear to be so. The substance of both these activities is only one, which is Anugraham.
“If it is asked whether creating obstacles is anugraham the explanation is: we have done a lot of bad karma and come with a huge baggage. Still because of the little blessing of the Lord, we have Bhakthi to Pillaiyar and pray to him that whatever we undertake should succeed without obstruction.
“But simply because we have prayed like this, would it be all right if He overlooks our entire previous load and makes us succeed in our efforts? However considerate and compassionate He may be, will it be all right if the entire previous karma is cancelled? If that is done, how will people have fear of committing sins? Will not Dharma, justice etc come to mean nothing? Will not people think ‘we can do whatever we want or we might have done anything but if we do puja to Pillaiyar now, it is enough? All the wrongs would get cancelled out?’
“Vigna Raja takes upon himself the obstructions which are to result from our previous karma and just as flood waters are controlled by a dam and the flow regulated, Vigneswara channelizes the obstacles. Not only channelizes it but also makes it dry up to some extent. A big obstacle may come as a form of revenge at a later time. He brings it now itself, makes it small and enables us to bear it now. Vigneswara actually prevents this by creating and obstacle for us which may appear to be bad but in reality will do good. (This is a beautiful explanation and hence highlighted.-Ramanan)
“Vinayakar means a chief who is great. All the deities are ‘Nayakar’. They would have countered something bad done by an asura or rakshasa and done good. “Because of that they have become ‘Nayakar’. But how has Vinayaka become greater than the other Nayakas? He not only removes the cruelties inflicted by asuras but He removes the obstacles that He Himself creates as Vigna Raja. Since as Nayaka He excels Himself He gets the name Vinayakar.
“Just as we say Vigna Rajar, we also say Vigna Vinayakar- the Vigna Vinayaka Padha Namasthe.
“We can also take it that one who creates the obstacles is a great Nayakar.
“One of the famous names of Pillaiyar is Vinayakar. Nayakar means a chief who has several others under control. ‘Vi’ shows exalted status; He is also not an ordinary ‘Nayakar’ but somebody special and great. Both ways it is appropriate to Him.
“One who has smoke as the flag is Dhumakethu. But generally this term is indicative of bad or inauspiciousness. It was difficult to understand why Pillaiyar who is ‘Mangalamurthi’ should have such name. There was an ‘asura’ by name ‘Dhumasuran’. He came to know that a son who will be born to a queen as an aspect of Maha Vishnu would be the cause of his death. When he wanted to kill the lady with her husband he found she had a child on her lap. It was Pillaiyar who responded to the couple’s continued prayers and took birth as an aspect of Vishnu. … When Dhumasuran fired his Dhumasthram continuously, cloud like smokes went towards them. (Here the Mahaswamy explains that the weapon he specialized was smoke which would emit poisonous fumes; what is being done these days by using chemicals was done by mantras in the olden days.) The child Pillaiyar absorbed all that within himself. When the asura became tired and helpless, Pillayar ejected all the smoke that He had collected within himself and destroyed the ‘asura’.
“Pillaiyar who gained victory by using Dhumam as the weapon got the name Dhumakethu.
“Ganadhyakshar has the same meaning as Gana-pathi, Ganesar (Gana-Isar), Ganadhipathi (Gana Adhipathi), Gananadhar.
“Parameswara kept Vigneswara as the chief of his Bhuthaganas and Subrahmanya as the chief of the Devaganas . Controlling Bhuthaganas is more difficult than Devaganas. The elder son discharges this responsibility with ease and remains happy in that. The Devaganas and Manushyaganas (human beings) realize his great power and compassion and worship Him. Therefore, when it is said he is Ganadhyakshar it can be understood to mean that He is the adhyakshar of all beings.
11. BHALACHANDRAR (PHALACHANDRAR)
“Bhalachandrar is neither the name of the Moon nor is it the way we spell and pronounce it. Phalachandrar – It is the second ‘pha’ in Sanskri . It means one who has the Moon as the front portion of the hair on the head and has the same meaning as Chandrashekaran, Chandramouli etc. ……… It is not only Parameswara’s pathni who has the Moon on her head, but the eldest son also.
Vigneshwara has connection with the Moon in several ways. Once he cursed the Moon for making fun of Him. Nobody looked at the Moon lest they become victims of unnecessary blame. Chandran became ashamed and therefore, hid himself in the ocean, thereby unbalancing nature. At the behest of Devas and Rishis, the Moon sought Vigneswara’s pardon. Revoking partially his curse, the compassionate Vinayakar restricted the curse to only one day, the day of Chathurthi when his manifestation should not be seen by people. He further relaxed the curse and said that even those who see the Moon on that day by mistake can clear the ‘dosham’ by reciting the ‘Syamanthakamani Upakyanam’. He also said that at the end of ‘Sankatahara Chathurthi Pooja’ done for Him, pooja should be done to Chandran also. On top of all this, He has kept the Moon on his head and became Phalachandrar. The name indicates Vigneswara’s compassion and his quality of pardon. One who did a wrong and actually deserved to be kicked has been kept on His head, after His pardon was sought.
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol.6, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-3-68) (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-5
In this Chapter, I conclude Mahaswamy’s portrayal of Lord Ganesha’s sixteen names.
Gajananar means the elephant faced. The elephant has several great characteristics. Physical strength, intelligence, particularly memory and jnanam. (Here Mahaswamy narrates the various characteristics of an elephant. Subjecting to a man and serving him with a lot of hard and quality work not capable of any other animal, eating only sathvik vegetarian food, etc. Some of the special qualities of the elephant are briefly given below to illustrate and highlight the special characteristics/prowess of Lord Ganesha who has taken the elephant’s face.)
1. It is only the elephant that can embrace with love anyone and give him a high status by keeping him on itself. Even if someone stands in its way, it will not kick him down unless it feels there is no other go. Otherwise, it will lift him with the trunk and safely drop him at the side.
2. It has a name ‘Dwipam’, which means drinking twice and eating twice. Unlike other animals which take the food or water directly by the mouth, the elephant takes it in the manner of human beings. Therefore it is Dwipam. But when it ejects the solid food, it will be through the mouth, whereas the water will force itself out through its trunk like a fountain. There is a great philosophical truth in this. If we have to take something, we have to think more than once and then take it. But if something is to be thrown out, it should be thrown out in one push. Elephant shows this truth by being a Dwipam.
3. There is no instrument which can pick up a minute needle and also a huge teak wood beam. In God’s creation, it is the elephant’s trunk which does both. Pillaiyar is Gajamukar because he is capable of managing both small and big.
4. Its pace of walking which has in it both masculine and feminine, is specially lauded as ‘Gajagathi’.
5. Elephant has beauty combined with elegance. When someone sits on it, he also gets luster because of the elephant’s commanding beauty. That is why even Ramachandra Murthy was taken on a procession on elephant even though He did not require this additional luster.
6. We think pearl comes out from a shell. But the highest pearl comes from the raised corners of an elephant’s forehead called ‘Gajakumbam’.
7. Another greatness is what is divine. The elephant’s face is the abode of Mahalakshmi. The inside of lotus flower, the rear side of the bilva leaf, the center where hair is parted on the heads of a sumangali, the rear side of the cow and the face of an elephant are the five which are considered auspicious, since Mahalakshmi resides in them all the time.
8. The elephant’s hair is a great protection against all evil spirits. It also gives health. That is why it is kept on a ring like a gem and worn as a jewel.
9. Apart from the cow, it is only for elephant that puja is done in mutts. In Gaja Puja, when we do namaskarams, the elephant also lifts its trunk and offers obeisance and makes the noise of victory (Jaya Gosham).
10. Amongst the animals, the elephant has the biggest body and has all other great qualities (described above). It is for this reason that Paramathman selected elephant form for Pillaiyar.
Then, Mahaswamy describes the special qualities of Gajananar. –sgvr
The One Who Has All Beings Within Himself
“All the beings are within Him. Since He is the deity who is worshipped mainly and who has the power to bestow blessings, it is obvious He belongs to the Deva species.
He is also the Bhutha species, because of His stomach, short legs, etc., which are characteristics of the species.
It is only human beings who take cooked food. Even when we offer different food varieties as Ahuthi to the Devas, they only eat the spirit of those foodstuffs. It is only Vigneswara who takes cooked food (Modakam) Himself and gives us also cooked food. Thus He wanted to show within Himself the species of Deva, Bhutha, and the Human.
On top of all these, Paramathma wanted to show that He is the root and originator of everything and everyone should worship Him in that form. The root of all creations is Pranavam. It is only the face of the elephant with its trunk turned to the right which has the form of Pranavam. It is because of this great feature that He is Gajananar.
When we say ‘Vakra thundam’, the word ‘Vakram’ (unlike in ordinary parlance) does not mean anything bad. It means only curved trunk. Since Pillaiyar has his trunk curved to the side, He is called the ‘Vakrathundar’. Although an elephant can bend the tip of the trunk without moving the trunk sideways, Pillaiyar bends it only after taking the trunk sideways mostly in the left and occasionally to the right. That is why the name ‘Vakrathundar’. If the trunk is turned towards the right (valampuri), then it is ‘Pranava Swarupam’. We see the form “OM”. If we think of Vigneshwara’s Vakrathundam, our ‘vakra’ qualities will go.
Surpakarnar means one who has ears like a winnowing basket (Surpa). –See picture at the left.
“We have seen that He has the name of Gajakarnakar because He has wide ears through which he listens to all our prayers. Even when He is listening all that we talk, most of which is useless talk, He will take in whatever is to be retained and reject what is not necessary. This is the reason why He is called Surpakarnar. (Surpa is a winnowing contrivance used for separating chaff etc. from the grains). When grains are put in and moved up and down, unnecessary things like chaff are thrown away and only the grain is retained in the basket.
“A separate name Surpakarnar is given to Him to make it clear that even when He is listening, He weighs what is correct prayer and what is not and He will keep in His ears whatever is correct and good and reject the others.”
“As far as I know, no one has given a convincing meaning to the name on the basis of the root of this word. What can be derived etymologically is Yowkikam. On the contrary, if it is said ‘The reason is not known but this word has this particular meaning or refers to a particular person’, such words are called ‘Rudy’. To me it appears that the word ‘Heramba’ is one such ‘Rudy’.
In Mahabharatham, the name Herambam is mentioned as one of the kingdoms over which Sahadeva gained victory. It appears that the defeated rulers still thought high of themselves. Therefore, it appears those who indulge in self-glorification are called Herambar. The form in which Vigneswara was being worshipped in the kingdom might have got the name Heramba Ganapathi. This is merely a guess. Whether He belonged to the Heramba kingdom or not, Herambar has become famous all over the country.
“The form of Herambar is something special. He has five faces. There is also a song “Panchamathanga muka’. It appears that this was sung by (Muthusawami) Dikshithar on Vignesawra Murthi with five faces in Thiruvarur.
“In the Bhujanga Stothram, which Acharya – Adi Sankara - sang, in Vinayaka Sthuthi, he says: ‘Even though He is the elephant, He is being worshipped by the lion.’ He himself shines with the form having five elephant heads, ten hands and the lion as a vehicle. It is not only that the elephant is not afraid of the lion. But it is sitting over it and controlling it. Just as by His five faces He is reminding us of His father, by His vehicle, namely the lion, He reminds us of His mother.”
16. SKANDHA PURVAJAR
Skandha Purvajar means the elder brother of Subrahmanya Swamy. He is also referred to as Agrajar.
Greatness of Being Murugan’s Elder Brother
“Among the Shodasa Namas, there is no name to indicate that He is the son of Siva and Ambal. There is also no name to indicate whose ‘Pathi’ He is. Just as there are different forms of as a Brahmachari, there are also different forms along with consorts. With Vallabhai He is Vallabha Ganapthi with Suddhi and Buddhi as His consorts. He has also sons through them, but there is no name to indicate He is their father. But at the end of sixteen names, He is indicated as the brother of Skandha. This is because the elder brother has a very important part to play in three stages of Subrahmanya Swamy’s life, namely, birth, marriage, and Sanyasam.”
Role in Birth
“Surapadmasuran and Tarakasuran had obtained a boon from Siva Himself that they could be killed only by someone who is equal to Siva. Surapadman also made a condition that the one who is equal to Siva who could kill him should have manifested without male-female Union. He had deliberately obtained such a boon in order that Pillaiyar who is all powerful would not be able to kill him. Devas did penance to Lord Siva to cause a son to be born who would be their leader and commander-in-chief of the army to kill the asura. It was at that time Lord Siva was doing penance as Dakshinamurthi; Ambal who did service to Him also did penance. It is at this auspicious background of penance by both of them that Kumaraswamy was born from the sparks that came from the eyes of Siva without being connected with Ambal.
“It was because Vigneswara provided the space, Kumar Sambhavam was possible. Although Vigneswara was all powerful, He did not go to kill the asuras in order to honour the condition laid down in the boon that His father had given to the asuras. It was because He did not go to kill the asuras, Kumaraswami could manifest and become the chief of the army of Devas.
Role in Marriage
This is in the story of Kumaraswami’s marriage with Valli. When Valli did not respond positively to Kumaran’s pleas to join Him, He meditated on Vigneswara and prayed to Him to remove the obstacle in getting Valli’s hand. Ganesha responded immediately, came as a wild elephant, chased Valli and made her join His brother. Thus, He played a key role in Kumaran’s marriage.
Role in Sanyasam
It is in Palani in Tamil Nadu, Subrahmanya appears as a Sanyasi, named Dhandayuthapani, even before his marriage. “It is a form of renunciation (Sanyasam), which no other deity has taken. It is Vigneswara who is responsible for Subrahmanya taking to Sanyasam within six days of His birth. (This is a famous story of Lord Siva’s playful competition arranged between Subrahmanya and Ganesha; Siva offered the celestial fruit (symbolically denoting wisdom) as a prize to the one who went round the world first. Before Subrahmanya could complete this round in His peacock, Ganesha went round His parents and got the prized fruit.) It was because Vigneswara went round the father and mother and won the prize and Subrahmanya lost in the competition, He became a renunciate. The credit for making Subrahmanya, the Murthi of great “jnana’ and ‘santhi’, for all the world goes to Pillaiyar only.”
“Vigneswara is closely connected with the birth of Subrahmanya as the commander-in-chief of Devas, His marriage with Valli, and His taking the form of a renunciate in Palani. That is why, in order to show that He is the elder brother of such a younger brother, the special name ‘Skandapurvajar’ is included in the ‘Shodasa namas’.”
“When we say Pillaiyar, we will immediately remember that He is the son of Siva-Sakthi. When we conclude Shodasanama with ‘skandapurvajar’, we will remember the other son also and the entire family of Siva will be remembered. That is why it is the last name and the auspicious end.
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God” – Vol. 6 published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006-pp-3-68) (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine—sgvr)
(This concludes the Shodasanama. –Periaval’s further thoughts- on Ista Devata- Ganesha- will continue.)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-6
There are several stories about the help rendered by Ganesha in the development of particular regions, its social framework, spiritual advancement etc. These were accomplished with ease and in most cases, in a playful mood. I give below some selected thoughts of Periaval on the subject.
Help to Southern India
Looking into practical benefits that became available on account of Vigneswara, it is He who is responsible for bringing Kaveri from Kodagu. Agasthya Muni had kept Kaveri in his Kamandalu. Vigneswara went to Kodagu taking the form of a crow and toppled the Kamandalu. Kaveri flowed out into (Karnataka and) Tamil Nadu and the people of these states have been blessed with waters from Mother Kaveri and all the resultant benefits. (Mahaswamy explains here how because of Kaveri, people of the entire Kaveri basin became rich and how a great culture took shape promoting art, science, dance, music, etc). All these were dedicated to the temples. In no other country, there are such temples as in Tamil Nadu. Within the Tamil Nadu also, it is in the Chola region, in the territory adjoining Kaveri, majority of temples are located. (He points out that out of 382 Saiva (274) and Vaishnava (108) temples in Tamil Nadu, the Lords of which were sung by Nayanmars and Azhwars, more than 230 are on the banks of Kaveri river and says: Vigneswara is responsible for this.) If Tamil Nadu is called the ‘land divine’ and is full of temples and if it is said that the Dravida land is the land for bhakthi, the reason is Kaveri which has been gifted by Vigneswara. All fine arts that developed (in the region) related to divinity and culture has grown to an extent that the world is proud of. So, Vigneswara is responsible for this.
Important Vaishnava Temples and Ganesha
“Although there not as many Vaishnava Temples as Siva temples on the banks of Kaveri, the most important temple of the Vaishnavas, namely, Sri Ranganatha is in Srirangam, on the banks of Kaveri. In ancient times, Sri Ranganatha was being worshipped as a family deity by the kings of the Ikshvaku dynasty in Ayodhya. The story of how the Lord came to be established in Srirangam is linked to Ramayana and a Lila played by Vinayaka.
“After Sri Rama’s coronation, He wanted to give a very valuable gift to Vibhishana who had abandoned his brother and surrendered to Rama. Unlike Sugriva who took refuge for retrieving his wife and kingdom, Vibhishana had done genuine surrender without expectation. Supreme ‘Thyagi’ he was, Rama gave Vibhishana, the very idol of Sri Ranganatha, which had been their family deity and family wealth along with the (Pranavakara) Vimana to be taken to Lanka.
“Carrying the idol along with the Vimana, Vibhishana reached the banks of Kaveri. Vinayaka who was watching this decided that Sri Ranganatha should not be allowed to leave the banks of Kaveri, Tamil Nadu and the Bharat. He ensured it by enacting a Lila.
“Rama had told Vibhishana that the idol and Vimana should not be placed anywhere on the ground and that they should be carried to directly to Lanka. He had also warned him that if they happened to be placed anywhere, they would get established at that place only.
“Vinayaka created a desire in Vibhishana to have a dip in Kaveri and appeared before Vibhishana as a Brahmachari boy. When requested, He assured Vibhishana that He will keep the idol and Vimana in His hands without placing them on the ground till Vibhishana’s return. This was agreed to by Vinayaka on one condition that if He is unable to hold them any longer, He will call out for Vibhishana three times and if the latter did not respond, they will be placed on the ground. This was accepted by Vibhishana. When Vibhishana went far into the Kaveri for swimming, Vinayaka called him thrice in quick succession. Vibhishana could not come. The idol and vimana were placed on the ground by the boy and they were firmly established there. When Vibhishana returned, he was disappointed and felt angry. He tried to lift the idol but in vain. Vibhishana chased the boy, who ran up to the Rock Fort hill and sat there; he then gave a knock to the Brahmachari boy on his head. At that very moment, Vinayaka showed His true form to Vibhishana. Vigneshwara told him: ‘Do not feel that I have not allowed the Lord to go to Lanka. I have kept Him in such a manner that from here He will be looking at Lanka and extending His grace. Although it is not the normal practice to install the idols of the Lord so as to face the South I am doing here’.
“It is Parameswara as Dakshinamurthi and Nataraja face the south, now Vigneswara has made Maha Vishnu also face the south.”
Balancing Saivam and Vaishnavam
“There is another incident which balances Saivam and Vaishnavam. Just like Vibhishana had obtained the idol of Ranganatha from Rama, Ravana had obtained from the Parameswara the ‘Atma lingam’, which is Paramesawra’s own form (as in the case of Rama.) Similar to Vibhishana’s case, the Lord had told Ravana, that before reaching Lanka, he should not keep it anywhere on the ground. Then also, Vigneswara played sport and ensured that the lingam did not leave this country. The place where the lingam got established is Gokarnam, a holy place in the western shore in Karnataka. It is an island like Dwaraka and Rameswaram. Once Vigneswara installed the lingam, Ravana with all his might could not lift it from the ground. Since Ravana was made powerless, the Lord there is called ‘Mahabaleswar’. – Thus, the Mahaswamy points out, Vignesawara was fair to Saivam and Vaishnavism.
Bharat-The Karma Bhoomi
Then Mahaswamy poses a question whether this act of preventing idols being taken out of Bharat is fair. His answer is:
“When a plant or tree is watered, it is not the branch or the flower that receives water, but the root. So far as matters of divinity are concerned, our Bharat is like the root of the huge tree called the world. It is only the watering of the root that provides the energy to all parts of the tree. In the same manner, it is only the Pooja performed in Bharat that will provide the strength and vitality for other counties also.
“Bharat is like the power house for the whole world. Just as the heart supplies blood to the whole body, it is Bharat that provides the life force of spirituality, Dharma and soul. This does not mean that there need be no worship in other countries. As we apply medicines to individual parts of the body to cure the ailment of that particular part, worship has to be done in other countries too. But, as the heart has to be in good condition for any ailment to be cured, only if worship is done in Bharat according to the rules laid down, it will produce good not only for our country but also for all other countries.” (Saints all over have claimed that India is Karma bhoomi and all rituals done in this country are most effective. This is endorsed by Mahaswamy and explained as follows:-Ramanan)
Worship According to Procedure.
There are two types of Bhakthi - Vaidheya bhakthi and Raga bhakthi. Vaidheya bhakthi is worship according to rules and procedures prescribed in Sastras, whereas Raga bhakthi does not follow any such procedure, but the devotee shows his love to the Lord in any manner he likes. (Here Mahaswamy explains the difference between the two types of bhakthis – details omitted - and argues that :)
“The Lord blesses only some people with Anuraga bhakthi of the extreme kind by which they can be one with the Lord. Other people have to strengthen and develop their Anuraga bhakthi by the divine power of sthothras and mantras which have come down to us according to rules. Thus, what is appropriate to us is Vaidheya bhakthi, practiced with some basic love.
“In Vaidheya bhakthi there are rules and procedures in different countries according to the religions followed there. They too have the power to obtain divine grace. But Bhagawan has ordained that such power is more for Veda mantras, the mantras of Agama worship flowing from them, the sthothras, rules etc. Apart from these, He has also ordained that these yield best results only here in Bharat. (Here he says it is difficult to explain why this is most effective only in Bharat, just as it is difficult to answer why Switzerland has such a fine climate and Sahara has unbearable heat.)
“It is our land which is ‘Karma bhumi’ and it is here the power of mantras yield the full benefits. When I say Karma here what I mean Sastra karma in which mantras are involved. It is because Vigneswara had felt that, only if the Atma Lingam or the idol of Ranganatha remains in Bharat, it will be good for Lanka and all countries, He, the Vikatar, with all His dramatic talents and Anugraha performed this Lila.”
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol.7, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-1-18) (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-7
This Chapter covers topics on Ganesha’s lineage and Pujas done to Pillaiyar by other deities. I give below Mahaswamy’s thoughts on the subject.
Child of High parentage
If we try to find out the one whose parents are the top most in the world (most revered and in the highest place), we will discover such a Devata is none other than Pillaiyar whose parents are Parvathi-Parameswara, the father and mother of the Universe.
“When you want to convey the respectability of a child, it is customary to refer to the father and grand-father who are well known. This is called Pravaram (Lineage). A sloka that states the Pravaram, starts with Pillaiyar’s maternal grandfather; this is unusual, as always it is the paternal grandfather who is referred to. Since Siva has no father and is Swayambu, this sloka subtly conveys the greatness of the child referring to mother (Parvathi)’s father Himavan,- the ruler of Himodhgiri, the highest mountain on earth,- who got his daughter after an arduous thapas.
The second half of this sloka speaks of His own distinction:”He is also a Parabrahma swarupa (personification), who does not have any birth. He is indeed the cause of this Universe. ‘Karanam Jagatham’. That which came as the cause of the Jagath came as the son of ‘Siva-Sakthi’. I bow to Him.”
Suklambaradharam: The God to whom one should pray for the successful completion of any undertaking without hurdles, is none other than Pillaiyar and the sloka, which is recited at the beginning of any undertaking with cuffs (kuttu) on the forehead is:
Sukalambaradharam, Vishnum, Sasivarnam, Chathurbujam/
Prasanna Vadhanam Dyayeth Sarva Vignopa Santhaye//
But, this sloka does not mention any of Pillaiyar’s names directly, nor His parents’ name nor any other name connected with His vehicle, weapon, characteristics, or myriad names associated with His Lilas. The mention of Vishnu in this sloka makes it clear that of all the relationship of Pillaiyar that of his mama (uncle) Vishnu is a special one and considered most important.
Another sloka which begins with ‘Srikantho mathulo yasya’, also refers to Vishnu, as His Mama.
Srikantho Mathulo Yasya Janani Sarvamangala/
Janaka: Sankaro Deva: Tham Vandhe Kunjarananam//
After giving the first place to mama, the sloka mention’s mama’s sister Ambal, His mother. After this, the sloka mentions the name of Sankara as the father of Pillaiyar. Apart from these names, in the sloka mentioning the sixteen names of Pillaiyar, the last name is Skandapurvaja –one who was before Skanda. This name makes the elder brother distinguished through the younger brother. (Please refer to the Series on twelve names. -sgvr)
“A look at those related to Him shows He is highly placed. We must keep this child pleased. Because of His virtuous mind, benevolent heart and kindness, He will be gratified easily. If we make Him happy, we can please His parents, Parvathi-Parameswara, and win all grace and benefits from them.”
As Principle Deity
“People who worship Pillaiyar as the principal Deity (and not because He is the son of Iswara and Ambal), consider Him to be the provider of all that is good in this world and the next. They are called ‘Ganapathas’ or ‘Ganapathyas’. What they cite as evidence of the supremacy of their Upasana Murthy is convincing. Pillaiyar has the unique distinction of receiving the agra (first) puja. Ganapthi worshippers say, ‘just because the sloka on Him mentions Iswara, Ambal, Vishnu, Murugan etc., it is not at all correct to think that this glory comes from these other deities. On some occasion or the other, all these Swamis also had to seek His grace for the successful completion of their undertaking.’ They quote the Puranas to support this claim.
Then Mahaswamy clarifies: “Deities do not at all have superior and inferior rankings! However, when the same Paramathma appears in different forms to fulfill different purposes, either for His own Lilas or for catering to the appeal of various human tendencies, the Puranas do talk of the victory of some deity over some other on particular occasions. This is only for the sake of helping devotees of those deities concentrate on their chosen deity. The bhaktas of a particular deity choose to focus only on the victories of their deity over others and thereby strengthen their Bhakti. There is, however, no story of any defeat by Pillaiyar.”
Deities who Did Puja to Pillaiyar
Mahaswamy then narrates stories to prove that no activity could be commenced and completed successfully without offering Agra puja to Ganesha: And no one deity including His own father was an exception to this general rule. These stories are given in great detail in the book containing his lectures. I am condensing them here. (Details can be had from pp 13-65 of Vol. 4)
Iswara: When Iswara set out for Thripura Samhara, He left without meditating on His son, Pillaiyar, breaking the accepted rule for which there is no exception, including His own father. Pillaiyar caused the axle of Iswara’s chariot to break making it immobile. Iswara immediately understood what had happened and thought: ‘It is not proper for me to put myself above law, just because of my high status. Because of this very status, I must obey the law, to set an example to the entire world. When it comes to the rule of law there is no room for considerations on grounds of personal relationship.’ (What a noble (rather, celestial) thought! I wish our politicians and high placed officials follow this!-sgvr)
At once Iswara performed the Pillaiyar puja. No sooner the father took the corrective action than the Pillayar rushed in and removed the hurdle.
Ambal: Lalithopakyanam describes of how Ambal caused Vigneswara to manifest and with His assistance gained glory. When Lalithambika went to war with Bhandusara, She took an army consisting entirely of Deva women. This army was immobilized by Bhandasura by a weapon called Visukra created by an enormously powerful manthra. The minds of the army not only changed to one of hostility to the cause of Ambal but also the entire army was made to be in deep slumber. Ambal saw her army on strike. All these are Her own Lila; She herself created this hurdle in the form of Visukra only for the purpose of bringing out Vigneswara’s glory.
In order to bring out her darling child, Ambal directed her gaze brimming with love on Kameswara (Lord Siva), with a gentle smile. His face also assumed a smiling countenance. From the union of this glowing smile resulting from mutual love of this First Couple, Mahaganapathi was born.
Parasakthi, whose power is so vast that it could have rendered the Vigna yanthra powerless. However, since Vigneswara has been specifically designated for the purpose of removing hurdles, She ordained that it should be accomplished only through His assistance, hence this Lila of Hers. After receiving her blessings with humility, Vigneswara destroyed the Vigna yanthra. The army then woke up and their minds changed. Then Bhandasura was defeated.
Muruga: (The story of Subrahmanya’s marriage with Valli is well known to everyone. I will only summarize the part relating to the involvement of Pillaiyar in this.) To tease Valli who was pining for Him, Subrahmanya approached her in the form of a hunter. Not recognizing Him, she ignored Him. (At this point,) Subrahmanya wanted to reveal the glory of His elder brother to the world, and make people realize that the way to remove hurdles when undertaking any task is to worship Pillaiyar. Therefore, He meditated on Ganapathi. The elder brother immediately appeared in the form of a wild elephant and chased Valli to an extent that she had perforce to hug Muruga, even without realizing His true form. Subrahmanya then revealed His form and drowned Valli in ecstasy.
Here, Paramacharya narrates the stories of how Maha Vishnu paid homage to Pillaiyar and had His glory revealed during His avathara of Rama and Krishna in the Sastrik way.
Rama: “In a place called Uppur near Rameswaram, Ramachandramurthi worshipped Vigneswara before building the bridge. (Sethubandhanam). Pillaiyar here is known as Varaprasadhi; He bestows His grace on everyone, while He himself remains in the open, not even having an enclosure. He never permits anyone to build a Vimana over Him; some hurdle or the other is created by Him on every attempt to build one. He is sitting in the open, simplest of simple, soaked by the rain as well as scorched by the Sun.
Rama first did Ganesh Puja in another place called ‘Thondi’ where the bridge was to commence. It is claimed that Pillaiyar appeared before Rama and blessed Him, but advised Him to start the bridge further south to reduce the labour involved. He also let it be known that it will provide a straight approach to the entrance of the fort of Lanka. Adi Sankara’s Ganesa Pancharathna sthothram refers to the Thondi Ganapathi. It is the fruit of the blessings received from Rama’s worship on Iswarasutha that enabled Rama to destroy Ravana, earning the name Vijaya Raghva.”
Krishna: There is an interesting and long story of Syamanthaka Mani in which Lord Krishna (through His own Lila) got involved in a slander and what attempts He made to get cleared of this slander. The reason for this is a divine gem called Syamantha given by Surya Bhagawan to His devotee named Sathrajit. I am omitting this story here. (This can be read in pp 23-49 of Vol. 4-SGVR) The sum and substance of the story is twice Lord Krishna was suspected of foul play with this Syamanthaka Mani, once by His clan and another time by His own brother Balarama.
“When Bhagawan recounted all the hardships caused by the Syamanthaka Mani to Narada and asked him the reason there for, Narada replied, ‘You happened to see the fourth phase crescent moon on a waxing period during the month of Bhadhrapadha. Therefore, due to Vigneswara’s curse, you became a victim of wrongful accusations, since you are subjecting yourself to all human constraints while in the human form.’ (Here, Narada narrates the story of Moon and Vignesara, to which we will come later - SGVR)
“As suggested by Narada, Krishna faithfully followed his advice and performed Chathurthi Vratha and Mahaganapathi Puja. He did not take it lightly that it was after all for His nephew. Vigneswara appeared before Krishna and said: ‘My curse had to affect you since you have taken a human form and are guiding them with your human behavior as a role model. Very soon, your wrongful accusation will be cleared and you will shine like the Moon that glides out of the cloud.’ On the request of Krishna, Ganesa pronounced a Decree for the entire mankind: ‘I have already given an antidote to the unavoidable blemish which results from viewing the shukla chathurthi Moon. Just to remind the people of you (Lord Krishna), I will sanction a quick remedy. Just reading or reciting to this tale of Syamanthaka Mani, by which you have also glorified me, is sufficient to instantly clear the blemish of wrongful accusations. In fact, if this is recited or listened to, right after seeing the Chathurthi Moon, the blemish will be cleared by that very instant. It will also clear any kind of mental disturbance and provide peace and clarity.’ True to Pillaiyar’s boon conferred on Krishna Paramathama, the blame that was weighing with Him was removed in just a short time.”
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol.4, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-1-65) (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-8
This Chapter continues with two important slokas on Ganesa bringing out His importance on Agra Puja etc.
Sloka read on the New Year’s Day
“The sloka read at the beginning of the New Year is:
Vagisadhyas – sumanasas – sarvarthanam upakarme/
Yam nathva kruthakruthyasyuh tham namami Gajananam//
The meaning of this Sloka is:
‘I pay obeisance to that Gajanana who is ‘elephant-faced’ and whom even the Devas including the Brahma worship before starting any activity and complete it successfully. It is not human beings alone who are weak in strength that worship Pillaiyar, but also the Devas who are very powerful. They worship Him not just at selected days like Pillaiyar-Chathurthi but always and whenever they commence any activity’.
“The direct meaning of the word ‘Sumanas’ is a good mind (and a good heart). When it is said that all good hearted people worship someone, the one who is worshipped should also be good hearted. In order to show how large hearted Pillaiyar is, it is enough to refer to one incident. If there is one whom anger cannot approach and before whom even the very angry persons will become peaceful, he must be a person with a loving heart, like the Pillaiyar. The one who is compassionate to all beings, from the ants and insects onwards is only Ambal, the mother of the Universe. Such a mother, Akhilandeswari once took a terrible form (Ugra Rupam). She is the embodiment of all energy and is gentle and loving as Lalithambal. She will be at the height of anger as Kali when she gets angry. Akhilandeswari who is in Jambukeswaram (in Tamil Nadu) took such a form because of the conduct of the people in this kali yuga. Adi Sankara, the avatar of Parameswara alone could go near the Ambal in the Ugra form to contain Her anger. Even so, he wanted to use this opportunity to show the greatness of Pillaiyar to the world. Therefore, very near the compound of the temple and exactly opposite to Ambal , he installed a large Pillaiyar. The moment Her pet child was placed before Her, all Her Ugram disappeared. Because of the special nature of the son’s loving heart, Ambal’s anger vanished and parental affection filled Her heart. In order to contain Her anger once and for all, Adi Sankara drew the ‘Ugra’ rays into two ear rings (Thadangam) which were in the form of Yanthras, subdued the ‘ugra’ within them and arranged for the ornaments to be out on Ambal’s ears. Pillaiyar has the power to cool down even the anger of Parasakthi to ensure that She blesses the world.
The Second Sloka
Then Mahaswamy refers to a Mangala sloka done by one person of saintly character known as ‘Mannargudi Periyava’, which says:
‘Even those who want to perform puja to a deity other than Vigneswara know that they have to perform puja to the lotus feet of Vigneswara to ensure that there is no obstacle to their puja to the particular deity. One who knows the ‘Thath-hethu’ Nyayam understands Vigneswara as the only Supreme Deity and stops with worshipping Vignesawara only. May that Vigneswara who is himself capable of ensuring the successful completion of all of our efforts protect us’.
“If there is an obstacle when doing a Puja to other deities, those deities have no power to remove obstacles. Vigneswara is the only one who can do it. Therefore, all the Devatas worship Vigneswara. If there is a Devata which does not worship Him, Ganesa can cause an obstacle to its efforts. Hence, He must be greater and more powerful than these Devatas and should also be able to bestow all the fruits. The names of different Murthis, like Laksmi Ganapathi, Vidya Gaapathi Sarva siddhipradha Ganapathi etc. indicate that He is the Supreme Deity who is the cause of all Devatas and will grant anything on His own without looking for and doing elaborate Puja to another Deity.
Here, Mahaswamy explains the ultimate truth that other Devatas also can grant all fruits. He says: “In the Purana and Agama Thanthras relating to each deity, it has been described as ‘ekam and param’. It is only one Paramathma which has become the several Gods. It has also become all of us. But with its Maya it has prevented us from having the jnana that we are actually that ONE which is all powerful. But when it has taken the form of other deities, the important among them have the jnana that they are Paramathma.
In our Sanatana Dharma, it is Parameswara’s plan that people should have a pantheon of Gods whom they can worship in different ways making different decorations, offering different Neivedhayms etc. The general rule is that any deity, even if it knows that it is Paramathma, will not show all the power, but will grant only the fruit assigned to it. In this dispensation, Iswara has allotted the function of removing obstacles to Vigneswara. He has Himself taken that form and will only act in respect of the portfolio allotted to Him. When a devotee prays to a particular deity as Ishta Deavata: ‘You are my only God. I will not go to any other God.’ That Deity may like Paramathma grant everything. But such surrender and attachment exclusively to one Ishta Devata are rare. But even those who are devoted exclusively to a particular deity like Ambal, Rama or Krishna cannot forget Vigneswara. They cannot begin their Upasana without Suklambaradharam.
Dwaimathurar-The one who has two mothers
In the sloka referred to above, Vigneswara is called Dwaimathurah, a name which is not normally heard. One mother is Ambal (direct mother) and the other one is Ganga who is on Iswara’s head. Vigneswara considers Ganga as His mother as she is His father’s wife. Although Vigneswara does not have direct relationship with Ganga, He considers Himself as her child. This signifies His friendly and loving nature. He looks at all the women as mother and he is a pure Brahmacharyamurthi.
When Pillaiyar Played with ‘Chandrakala’
Mahaswamy then brings out another story on Ganesa’s role in the pretended anger (rift) between His parents.
“In his book ‘Sita Ravana Samvadham’, a poet named Rama Sastri from Mysore State has given a Ganesa sthuthi which refers to a Ganesa Lila connected with Chandramouli. That Lila brings together Parvathi and Parameswara, who remained separate due to a pretended anger, and creates in us a highly auspicious feeling.
Here, Mahaswamy explains the real meaning of this drama (Lila) enacted by Parameswara.
“The Jivathma is the heroine (Nayaki). Paramathma is the hero (Nayaka). The meaning (of this drama) is, however much the Jivathma tries to go away from Paramathma, He makes the Jivathma join Him even by falling at the feet of Jivathma and begging it. There will be a friend (saki) who will carry errands between them and try her best to unite them somehow. For all appearance it (the Lila) will look as if it is some kind of love rifts but deep inside, it will be found to be highly spiritual.
Now the story: Parvathi who is ‘Athri-ja (daughter of the mountain) is angry with Her husband and sits with a serious face. To appease Her, Paramasiva falls at her feet, as if He is doing Namaskaram. When Siva suddenly puts His head with jata on Parvathi’s feet, the Moon on His head comes out and shines very brightly.
Baby elephants are fond of eating the very thin fibre that comes out of the lotus stem. When the baby elephant Ganesa saw the Moon which is like a white line, He thought it to be the fibre bunch coming out of the lotus stem. Immediately He felt the desire to pull it and eat it. He stretched His trunk and tried to pull the Chandrakala which was on His father’s head and which was touching His mother’s feet.
When His dear child was indulging in mischievous play and was trying to pull the Chandrakala from His head, Parameswara was naturally happy. The very pulling of the Chandrakala by His child gave Him as much happiness as though He was being coronated. The mother was happier than the father in the child’s play. In the joy that both of them had in the child’s mischief, they forgot their quarrel and had a hearty laugh. Both of them were eager to embrace the child and competed with each other in having a tight embrace of Bala Ganesa. When both Parvathi and Parameswara embraced the child, at the same time, the child was in between and both of them put their hands on each other without being aware of it. When Ambal has the divine touch of Parameswara and He has Ambal’s touch even for a second, the pretended anger between them disappeared and the father and mother of the entire Universe joined in love. By pulling Chandrakala from His father’s head, He brings about reconciliation between them so that they become happy and the world is blessed.
Parameswara desired that Ambal should unite with Him. Even after Iswara worships Ambal (by falling at Her feet), She continues to be angry although in the heart of hearts, She also wanted to unite with Him. It was Vigneswara who ensured that their desire was fulfilled and He does this playfully.
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol.5 –pp-3-39) (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
ISHTA DEVATAS 1-GANESHA-9
This Chapter completes the topic on Ganesha, the prime Ishta Devata. After explaining the significance of Sankatahara Chathurthi etc., I give Mahaswamy’s advice on how to keep ourselves happy.
Vinayaka’s Curse on Moon
(This is a brief story of how the Moon’s pride was shattered and his arrogant behavior punished by Vigneswara.-For details please see pp 50-56 of Vol. 4-SGVR)
“The Moon is very proud of his beauty. When one gets caught up with self admiration, other worthy projects of admiration will appear lowly to him. Once, riding on His mushika, Mahaganapathi was happily touring the world. When the Moon caught sight of Pillaiyar’s beautiful and charming child form, He could only think of it as fit for ridicule. And when he saw Pillaiyar, the Moon laughed at Him and made fun of Him.
“Immediately, Pillaiyar got angry, anger as a result of His divine responsibility to check and punish unrighteous behavior, not anger arising from bruised ego. He pointed out to the Moon: ‘Your looks (white glow and soothing appearance) are borrowed from the Sun and parts of your own world that do not receive this light are still appearing dark, ugly patches. …Your character blemish is no less than your physical blemish. (The Moon earned his father-in-law’s (Daksha) curse for favouring only Rohini and ignoring other 26 wives. By this curse, he began to wane little by little every day. -sgvr) It is Parameswara who saved you from this waning phenomenon. Still, to serve as a constant reminder of your misbehavior to the world, He ordained that you should start waning again as soon as you grow to your full form. This made you alternate between the waning and waxing phases, alternating the display of His grace and your lack of character. No one looks up to you for your character; they are simply gazing at you for the enjoyment of your coolness to the eyes and the white glow that you have smeared on yourself.’
“Vigneswara then cursed the Moon to the effect that people who look at his blemished form will become objects of blemish themselves and be subject to wrongful accusations. The biggest punishment for those who are vain, taking excessive pride in beauty and decked-up appearance, is to make everyone ignore them and deprive them of the other’s attention. This is why Pillayar pronounced such a curse on the Moon. We might also add another possible motivation for this curse. Pillaiyar might have done this to curtail the common tendency to hero-worship and play favourites towards a person who has attractive looks or authority, however low his character may be.
“The proper punishment for someone who is too proud of his looks is to ignore him. The fittest punishment for those who ignore the character flaws and flatter just the looks of someone is to receive an accusation that is caused by a perceived flaw in their own character.”
“Moon was overcome by humiliation and fear; nobody would look at him anymore. Even if someone did look by chance, because of the misfortunes resulting from Pillaiyar’s curse, they would heap more curses on him. Tormented by these feelings, the Moon hid himself inside the very ocean from which he had come.
“The world suffered during nights in the absence of the Moon. Deprived of the Moon’s glow, all the herbs had wilted away, causing diseases to spread everywhere. People who used to enjoy the beauty of the milky white moonshine were feeling down.
“Sympathizing with the world, all the Devas and Rishis approached Brahma and appealed to him. Brahma advised them to go and worship the very same person who pronounced the curse and said: “Fall at His feet and pray. Observe the ‘naktha vratham’ on his propitious day, the chathurthi thithi and perform a special puja. Offer plenty of Modakam, appam, fruits and coconut with the prayer that will melt His heart and earn His benediction.’
“Following Brahma’s advice, all the Devas performed Puja to Pillaiyar with mind, body and speech under control. They also urged the Moon to realize his fault and seek forgiveness.
“Humiliation and misery sometimes infuse a bit of wisdom and teach a good lesson to arrogant people.
“Moon came out with a more purified and refined mind, well conditioned by his miserable experience. He joined the Devas and worshipped Vigneswara with humility. Full of remorse, the Moon pleaded for forgiveness. With a big heart, Pillaiyar forgave him.
“He retracted the curse that subjected the onlookers of the Moon for wrongful accusation- with a minor condition. He said: ‘The moon should suffer at least a minor consequence to serve as a cautionary reminder to the people that vanity based on one’s looks, knowledge, wealth, and power will only bring him down to the humiliation of being ignored by everybody. Therefore, I ordain that just one day, the day of my manifestation, which is the shukla paksha chathurthi, to be the day on which no one should look at the Moon. Those who disobey this ordinance will be subject to wrongful accusation.’ In addition to reducing the punishment to this extent, Pillaiyar also sanctioned a few privileges to the Moon with a very kind heart. The highest of these privileges was that He placed the crescent Moon on his own crown. Just like Parameswara, both Ambal and Vigneswara also have the crescent moon on their head. This is how Pillaiyar earned the name ‘Bhalachandra’.
Sankata Hara Chathurthi
Pillaiyar bestowed another honour upon the Moon.
He manifested only on Shukla Paksha Chathurthi. Therefore, Pillaiyar Chathurthi, the most elaborate celebration for Him, is indeed in Shukla Paksha. The Shukla Chathurthi Vratha is also observed in all other months.
In addition, there is ‘Sankata Hara Chathurthi Vratha’. This is another Vratha observed as a prayer to Vigneswara. (‘Sankata Hara’ means ‘destroying hurdles’.) Pillaiyar himself established this ‘Sankata Hara Chathurthi’ and that was precisely at this time of pardoning the Moon. This is the Krishna Paksha Chathurthi and not Shukla Paksha Chthurthi. Even the reduced sentence, which prohibits seeing Him on Shukla Chathurthi, was too harsh in Pillaiyar’s heart. To compensate for even this mild censure, He wanted everyone to honour the Moon on Krishna Paksha Chathurthi while observing the Vratha and said: ‘If this Vratha is done, I will specially be gratified and remove all hurdles. You must conclude this Puja to the Moon along with Rohini.’ Pillaiyar’s graceful heart is so softened as to pardon even the Moon’s special favours to Rohini.”
During the course of his narrations, Mahaswamy also brings out some useful advice to all of us for our happiness. This advice should be followed by everyone. Please see below:
“The biggest obstacle (in the pursuit of happiness) is the mind only. Some have desires; some have worries. By this very heavy load of thoughts (of worries and desires), we are ourselves creating obstacles for our journey on a happy path. By worshipping Vigneswara continuously, we should gain His grace and become child-like as He Himself is. If there is a moment of joy, we should experience it like a child with laughter. In the same manner, if we are faced with a sorrow, we may weep at that moment and forget it; we should not recollect the sorrow again and again and keep weeping over it. The cause for our worry is ‘something has happened in this manner; I am worried about what may be coming.’ The secret of a child’s joy is that it does not have this worry. The child-God although He has a huge body of an elephant actually feels light without any worry.
May I be permitted to quote here Thirukkural, which also says:
The advice given to us by Thiruvalluvar is that we should face misfortunes with a smile (laugh at it or laugh it away). There is nothing like this to overcome and mastering adversity. Here is the verse in Tamil.
idukkaN varungkaal Nahuha; athani
It is the mind, which experiences the misfortune; the wise people’s resolute thought can overcome even a flood of misfortune and checkmate it. (See the following verse).
Vellaththanaiya idumbai aRivudaiyaan
uLLaththin uLLak kedum
“Besides our sorrows and wants, the pride about oneself is also a big burden. When it is a burden of sorrow, at least we end up only with the thought that we should have it removed. But the burden of ego is not felt as a burden and therefore, it is dangerous. Since we do not realize that this is one thing which has to be reduced, we go on multiplying it. ‘I have done like this; I have achieved this- this is the burden of ego. To others, we feel like telling them: ‘You know what I would have done if I were in that situation?’ The truth is we are only tying our neck with a heavy load. A little advance on the spiritual path will show that there is no burden which is as bad as ‘kathruthvam’ (claiming I have done this or that).
I am reminded again of Poet Thirivallvar’s emphasis on self control and humility.
adakkam amararul uykkum adangkaamai
aarirul uyththu vidum
kaakka porulaa adakkaththai aakkam
athanin oongku illai uyirkku
Meaning: Self control or humility takes one to Heaven and uncontrolled passion
will push one into darkness. (121)
There is no possession more precious than self control and guard it as the very
treasure of your life. (122)
Here, the poet emphasizes that one’s learning, the family background or the
wealth he/she acquires should not make him/her proud of such achievements.
On the other hand, such persons should all the more be humble despite
erudition, good family background and wealth, as their humility will enhance
the value of these acquisitions.
In the Society, we have known many learned/wealthy people who are humble
and are being respected and revered more than those who show pride
and haughtiness. In Purana, Lord Rama and Hanuman are said to have
exhibited this throughout; on one occasion, when Ahalya’s curse was to be
removed by the celestial touch of His feet, Lord Rama felt shy of touching the
stone to which Ahalya was transformed; He touched the stone gently lest it
would hurt the women; after this transformation, He never showed any
pride in achieving this.
Pillaiyar who is worshipped by all the Devas and whose obstacles He removes does not feel proud about it. Although He reunited Siva-Shakthi, He behaves as if He has not done it and keeps playing. His heart is light like the thread of a lotus fibre and that is how He is happy all the time as a child.
May that Child-God make us all child-devotess and also make us float lightly in the world of happiness. May He make our minds light and protect us.
“As said in these narrations, Pillaiyar is not only a child of high place, but on various occasions, He has also acted as an elder to even the elders in the family such as His father, mother and uncle.
“Let us also worship this elder with love and reverence, who was worshipped for removal of hurdle and victory by Paramesawra, Lalithambika and Rama, worshipped for fulfillment of love (marriage) by Subrahmanya, and by Krishna Paramathma, for removal of accusation. Let us worship Pillaiyar who acted as elder to those mighty Devatas, for removing various hurdles we face in our life, for facing struggles, securing victory, as well as getting rid of our short comings, blemishes and disrepute.”
(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol.4, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-1-65) (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
(This Part will be followed by other parts which carry the further thoughts of Periaval on Ishta Devatas- The next Ishta Devata will be Ambal-Parasakthi-Ramanan)