Today we celebrate GANESH CHATURTHI, the birthday of the Lord of New Beginnings and Destroyer of Obstacles.
It is said that once, the Devas (gods) had an argument about who was the greatest amongst them — unable to reach an agreement, they went to Mount Kailash to seek Shiva’s advice. Shiva smiled and suggested a competition : they would have to circle the world as fast as possible, and the first one to arrive would be declared the winner.
The gods took off, each on his own vehicle, dashing faster than the wind : Brahma on his swan, Indra on Airavata, his ten-tusked white elephant, Surya on his fiery chariot drawn by seven powerful horses, Karttikeya on his majestic peacock… and even Ganesh, riding on his brave little mouse, Dinka.
His pace was very slow, but he didn’t seem to mind. As the shining horde of Devas quickly disappeared over the horizon, Ganesh headed towards his parents, Shiva and Parvati, who were sitting nearby. He walked in a circle around them and then silently waited at their feet.
When the Devas returned, they were eager for Shiva to announce the winner. To their great surprise, Shiva named Ganesh.
“But… but how? He rides a mouse! And we didn’t even see him pass us by!” exclaimed Karttikeya, Ganesh’s older brother.
Ganesh answered, “The Vedas say that for a child, the whole world is embodied within his parents, and that he who circumambulates them will derive the fruits and merits of circumambulating the Earth — so while you were all circling the world, I walked around my parents.”
The Devas, impressed, bowed to the wisdom of Ganesh. Shiva declared, “If a person uses his intellect and wisdom during hard times, his misfortunes will perish.”
This is why to this day, Ganesh is the first among the gods to be worshipped, and every ceremony starts with an invocation to Ganesh :
Gajananam Bhuta Ganadhi Sevitam
Kapitha Jambu Phalacaru Bhaksanam
Umasutam Shoka Vinasha Karakam
Namami Vighnesvara Pada Pankajam