He is the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles of both material and spiritual kinds. Interestingly, he also places obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked. Because of these attributes, Ganesh is widely revered by almost all castes and in all parts of India, regardless of any other spiritual affiliations. His image is found everywhere, in many different forms, and he is invoked before the undertaking of any task. Ganesh is also associated with the first Chakra, or energy wheel, which underpins all of the other Chakras and represents conservation, survival and material well-being. He is considered to be a patron of the arts and sciences and of letters. Devotees believe that if Ganesha is worshiped, he grants success, prosperity and protection against adversity. In a lesser known role, Ganesh is also the destroyer of vanity, selfishness and pride.
The son of the Hindu deities Siva and Durga is a god of luck and of "opening the way." Rotund and generally jolly, Ganesha is distinguished from other Hindu deities because he has the head of an elephant. His image appears on numerous Hindu products, such as incense and foods. His symbol is the swastika, which he bears in the palm of his hand. His identifying weapon is an elephant goad, to move stubborn people, but he is not always shown bearing it. Sometimes he carries a conch shell, holds a book, or receives offerings of sweet foods. Usually, one of his tusks is broken and his vehicle is a rat, who may be shown stealing one of the food offerings placed at his feet.
Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Gana) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikay. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha did not start the race like Kartikey did, but simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother as the source of all existence.
At birth, Ganesha was a perfectly normal boy, with perfect features and body parts, as befits one conceived by a goddess. There are many stories that describe how Ganesha got his elephant head. One tells how Parvati created Ganesha in absence of Shiva to guard her quarters. When Shiva wanted to see her Ganesha forbid it, at which point Shiva cut of his head. Later Shiva restored Ganesha to life and provided him with the head off an elephant, because no other was available. In another story, Ganesha's head is burned to ashes when Saturn is forced by Parvati to look after her child and bless him.
Shiva was in the habit of intruding upon Parvati while she was bathing. However, Parvati found this habit of her forgetful lord rather annoying. One day, when the beautiful goddess was about to get a bath in the water of a pool inside a cave, she placed Ganesha, her favorite son, at the entrance of the cave and strictly instructed him not to let anybody in while she was inside. So Ganesha stood guard while his mother bathed inside till he spied his father ambling towards the cave. Shiva demanded admittance but Ganesha stood his ground bravely and refused to allow his father in.
Shiva was astounded at this. He protested that no one had the right to keep him away from his rightful wife but Ganesha did not budge from his post saying that he would not disobey his mother's instructions. Shiva flew into a terrific rage and attacked his own son. Ganesha parried his father's attack and both fought for quite some time. At the mean time, Parvati unwittingly went on bathing inside, unaware of what was happening. Eventually, Shiva hurled his trident, his supreme weapon, at his son. Ganesha would not parry this as that would show great disrespect for his father. Therefore, he took the blow from the trident on one tusk, which broke off. At this point in time, Parvati emerged from her bath and, perceiving what has been going on, hastened to bring amity back to her family. Since then Ganesha, benevolent initiator, has had one tusk.
Ganesha has become one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. This not only suggests the importance of Ganesha, but also how popular and pervasive this deity is in the minds of the masses.
Ganesha rides a rat that represents the subjugated demon of vanity and impertinence. The conch represents the sound that creates Akash. The laddu presents Sattva. The snakes represent control over the poisons of the passions and refer to Shiva, father of Ganesha. The hatchet cuts away the bondage of desires. The mudra grants fearlessness. The broken tusk is the one with which Ganesha wrote the Mahabaratha.
The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. The laddoo – sweet - he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse.
Acceptance of the somewhat funny looking elephant man Ganesha as the divine force stills the rational mind and it's doubts, forcing one to look beyond outer appearance. Thus Ganesha creates the faith to remove all obstacles.