Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lord Ganapati : Part III - Obstacle remover

Creator or Remover of Obstacles?
Sri Ganapati is most often remembered as the 'Remover of Obstacles', Vighnaharta. But now, here's the curious thing: His name in said to be Vighneshwara, which means 'Lord of Obstacles'!. So we have a situation where He is both the 'Lord of Obstacles' as well as the 'Remover of Obstacles'!

Which is actually how it is meant to be. In Hindu religion, God is the agent responsible for distributing the fruits of our past actions to us. Some of our past actions, being negative in nature rebound on us in the form of unwanted events. Obstacles, for instance.

But as God, He also has the power to respond to the prayers of devotees in REMOVING these obstacles. Thus both Vighneshwara and Vighnaharta are applicable to God, as they should be.

Again, it is important to remember that He does not wilfully create these obstacles. It is we who have created it for oursleves and have to take responsibility for the same. And to correct for them our scriptures give numerous ways. For instance, Charity can counteract any miserliness that we may have exhibted in the past.

But the most powerful form of prayer is a simple and direct appeal to God. Coupled with a sincere attitude to change backed by the will to change. And Ganapati's attraction to the devotee is well known by his name as 'KshipraPrasada' - quick giver of blessings/relief. In fact, out of the 32 forms described in the earlier posts, a specific form called Kshipra Prasada Ganapati exists.

Incidentally, Sri S.K.Ramachandra Rao points out that the Ganesa Gita (1,21) tells us to regard Ganapati as not different from the other Gods - the proper approach is to regard all forms as those coming out of the One God.

Why is Sri Ganapati associated with Destroying Obstacles?
In the previous post, Ajith in his comment asked about the legend that gives Ganapati the status of obstacle remover.

The Brahmanda Purana legend

One legend appears here in the 'Lalitopakhayana' section . This section contains the famous Lalita Sahasranama, the powerful 1000 name litany of the Mother Goddess.
(A pdf version of the English version of the Lalitopakhyana can be downloaded here.)

The story containing the part on Ganapati (Verses 306 to 316 - page 27 of the above pdf) is remarkable. This is about a fight against the demonic forces of Bhanda by the forces of Goddess Lalita.

Bhanda's minister Vishukra inscribed a yantra (jaya vighna yantra) to thwart the forces of the Goddess. The result was that the Devi's forces were overcome with:
1) Fatigue (Alasya)
2) Meanness (krpanata)
3) Helplessness (dainya)
4) Slumber (nidra)
5) Impotence (klaibya)
6) Forgetfulness (vismrti)
7) Carelessness (pramAda)
8) Torpor (tandra)

What i found very interesting was the discussions that ensued in the Devi's army as a result of the yantra's effects. You can see the exact kind of dialogue going on around you, even today! The classic obstacles to our progress!

So these were the discussion points (language mine!):
1) This war is wrong! Why are we even doing this?
2) Tell me, why are we fighting for this Lalita Devi?
3) What the hell! Who is this Lalita devi, anyways? Who has made her our superior?
4) Let's just get together and decide not to fight. What will this Lalita do?
5) I'm tired. Let's just sleep.

Thus speaking amongst themselves they retreated allowing BhandAsura to advance. Noticing the problem in the rank-and-file, Ambika and Dandanatha (the Goddess's commanders(?) ) reported this to the Goddess. On hearing this, She looked at Lord Shiva and smiled.

From this smile flashed Ganapati, elephant faced, inebriated and embraced by Siddhi and Lakshmi. He burst into the camp, searched out the yantra and destroyed it by smashing it into pieces whereupon the Devi's army recovered and advanced. Simultaneously, Ganapati along with His forces attacked BhandAsura and destoyed the enemies forces.

Pleased with this, the Goddess gave Him the boon that he should be worshipped first among Gods. Thus the obstacles were cleared and success achieved by the grace of Ganapati and hence he is known as the 'remover of obstacles'.

The other legend associated with his being called the 'remover of obstacles' is in the VarAha Purana and involves Lord Shiva's boon to him as soon as Ganapati was created.

All in all, it is but appropriate to seek Sri Ganapati's blessings before commencement of any undertaking. If within one's means, it's great if a traditional ritual performed by qualified priests...else what we can always do : shoot a sincere prayer !

1 comment:

Ajith said...

hi sharan,
further thoughts.....how did Ashtavinayak come about. its very popular in Maharashtra and from what I understand these are 8 manifestations of Lord Ganesha....can you shed further light on this. And yes a lot of vighnas keep getting removed from the mind (in terms of understanding Ganesha) as one keeps reading your posts. I suggest you do a similar one on Devi during Navratri, clears a lot of cobwebs and lends clarity!