We pray to Lord Ganesha for happiness and prosperity, the seed of which lies within us all. If we can give birth to the inner Ganesha, then happiness and prosperity follows us everywhere.
Ganesha was born of the dirt that Parvati, his mother, washed off while bathing. Shiva was not present then as he was in the smashan; he was dormant – not active in the birth of Ganesha. Dirt symbolizes negative emotions and Shiva represents the principle of prosperity or Shivatva. If we can be free of negativity by washing it off, we give birth to that which brings happiness and prosperity. We do not realize that just by getting angry or irritated even once, we sow a seed that invites pain. Likewise, many of us have money and comfort which we cannot enjoy because of our negativity.
Since Paravati was bathing, she asked Ganesha to guard the door. Never having seen Shiva, his father, Ganesha refused to let him enter. Shiva cut off his head and when Paravati admonished him for killing their son, he put the head of an elephant and gave him life. The elephant symbolizes new wisdom or vision that comes after freedom from negativity.
His vehicle is a mouse, the animal that steals at night and is called ‘mooshak’ from the Sanskrit ‘moosha’ or to steal. This shows that Ganesha has the power to steal bliss from every situation in life. This joy he steals is called ‘modak’, meaning happiness.
He is Vakratunda – he breathes with a crooked nose. We breathe with straight noses. Our thoughts and emotions are related to our breath and we cannot control them. Breathing with a crooked nose signifies using the breath to control passions.
His four hands symbolise that when we have the wisdom of the elephant, we can enjoy life in four different ways. One has a rope, signifying enjoyment through control of desire and passion. The other has a ladu, a symbol of mud, meaning that enjoyment comes by transforming the lower to higher. The third has the Vedas, indicating enjoyment through knowledge and the fourth is in the posture of fearlessness, or abhay, an essential quality for true happiness.
His two wives, Siddhi and Riddhi, represent that he extracts enjoyment from negative and positive events alike.
Yoga talks about chakras. The lowest two are Muladhara, symbolized by the elephant, and Swadhisthana, symbolized by the lower trunk. When energy is purified, these chakras exchange places and fuse to give birth to Ganesha within.