Ganesh is the Hindu lord of good fortune who provides prosperity and success and is one of the best-known deities in the Hindu pantheon. Depicted with an elephant's head on a human body and riding a mouse, in the Hindu tradition he is the son of Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. He is the lord of beginnings and the remover of obstacles of both material and spiritual kinds.. He is often prayed to when people are starting a new venture or enterprise. Ganesh represents much more, however, to many people, indeed, his legends offer lessons in duty, righteousness, kindness and forgiveness. Here are some of those lessons:
Ganesh’s birth and transformation are part of an interesting story. That story is retold in a variety of ways but basically he was mistakenly beheaded by Shiva, while trying to do as his mother asked him. Parvati grief-stricken ordered Shiva to find the head of a living being to replace their son's head and bring him back to life. Since it was an elephant that Shiva found, Ganesh ended up with an elephant head. The moral is that he lost his human head for fulfilling his duties as a son. For many people, this story speaks to family values and the love of one’s parents.
Make do with what you have
Kartikeya was Ganesh’s brother. One day, Shiva and Parvati challenged them to run three times around the world. The winner would get a miracle fruit that would give its owner supreme knowledge and immortality. Kartikeya left immediately, riding his peacock on his world tour. Ganesh, however, knew that no matter how hard he tried, he could never compete with his brother. So he thought deeply about his situation and physical limitations, finally telling his parents that they were the world to him and that he would circumnavigate them three times instead. In that clever way he won the race. This story reminds us to use our wisdom and intelligence to overcome difficult situations and not to worry about our physical weaknesses.
Be a good listener
A good listener is perhaps more effective than a good talker. With two big ears, Ganesh exemplifies this message. He was always an active listener, caring about what people said and letting them speak their minds, never judgmental.
Exercise control over power
The elephant, when angry or under attack, uses its trunk to exercise power. Power can be self-destructive and with great power comes a great responsibility. In pictures of Ganesh, his trunk is always rolled up, suggesting that he controls the power he wields. It is important to have power, coming perhaps from intelligence or wealth. However, it is more important to control power.
Sacrifice for the common good
One of Ganesh’s tusks is broken. He deliberately broke it to complete an important task. He did not hesitate to sacrifice his tusk to fulfil a larger purpose, in a genuine act of selflessness. When you can help achieve something good, contribute to something larger than yourself, do not hesitate and be selfless.
Meet anger with kindness
The story goes that one day Ganesh ate too much at a party. Embarrassed, he tried to sneak home but the moon saw him and teased him. When the moon wouldn’t stop, Ganesh got angry and cursed the moon, making the moon invisible forever. Realizing his mistake the moon begged Ganesh to forgive him. Since Ganesh could not revoke his curse, he proclaimed that the moon would grow thinner each day and remain invisible on one day of the month. The day, known as amavasya, is considered inauspicious in India. This legend reminds us to be kind in our actions and forgive those seeking forgiveness.
Maintain a healthy balance
When we pursue material things, fame and wealth, we lose connection with our inner selves. Ganesh teaches that happiness is a state of mind, achieved when you are able to communicate with your inner self. If you look carefully at some representations of the Ganesh idol, you will notice that while one of his feet rests on the ground, the other is neatly folded up. This symbolizes a healthy balance of materialism and spirituality. It is important to maintain a healthy balance between one's spiritual and material needs to lead a happy life.
Be always humble and respectful
It might seem strange that the mighty Ganesh chose the mouse as his vehicle; but it shows his humility and respect for the smallest of creatures, albeit one that is often despised. Ganesh teaches that one must always have respect for others, regardless of their positions in society.
Wisdom brings success
Ganesh is often seen accompanied by the goddesses Saraswati on his left and Lakshmi on his right. Saraswati represents knowledge and wisdom, Lakshmi represents luck and prosperity. Success will come to those who possess knowledge and wisdom.