Lord Ganesh has many names (108 main names, but there are 1008 beautiful names as well) - for those who are not familiar with Hinduism, they might have seen Lord Ganesha's appearnce on many western shows such as The Simpsons.
Lord Ganesh is praised for being the remover of obstacles and the giver of success. In Hinduism it is stated that we must pray to Lord Ganesh first when doing puja. Many times you will go to puja, satsang or other Hindu events, and at these events Lord Ganesh is always praised first. Why do we pray to Ganapati Baba first?
The story of how Lord Ganesh came to be, explains the reason for praising him first. You can read more here, - but the essence is that Lord Ganesh was following his mother's request until he was challenged by his father Lord Shiva. But his father and Lord Ganesh him self did not know of thier relationship (Father-son) until after Lord Ganesh lost his human head and Parvati (Lord Ganesha's mother) got angry for this. The story has more details and philisophical points are outlined - Parents words are to be honored with great devotion and a love of a mother knows no bounds, not even the all mightly Shiva could resist Parvati's anger of seeing her son in that state.
Also there are stories behind the story, for example, the Elephant that gave its head up for Lord Ganesh had a destiny to have his head given up - Everything in our scriptures happens for a reason, things are interconnected through the universe at God's grace. Its an interesting side story I can possibly dwell on later, but just like many things in Hinduism, its very deep and helps us understand the story. The Elephant who gave up its head (it was not merely taken, but given), got liberation from this world at the grace of God.
Also more interesting stories about lord Ganesh here.
We all should dwell on the form of Lord Ganesh and praise his glory for he is the remover of obstacles and giver of success. He is praised amongst many, Hindus and Non-Hindus, for his Grace knows no background, status or difference - Ganesh Baba is the all loving caring one that wishes success for us all.
How do I pray to Lord Ganesh you ask?
- When doing puja we should pray to Lord Ganesh First. This can be done by saying a special invocation to Lord Ganesh such as, "Aum Shri Ganeshaya Namah". Also saying an opening invocation mantra;
"OM Vakra Tunda Maha Kaya Suryakoti Samaprabha Nirvighnam Kurmedeva sarva Karyeshu Sarvadaa". Also heard here. And more mantras here.
- Reading, Listening and singing the Ganesh Chalisa, heard here.
- Also more details on doing Lord Ganesh Puja and what puja items are needed, click here. Found thanks to Hindu-Blog.
- Fasting on special auspicious days dedicated to Lord Ganesh will reap great benefits. Every month there are special days to pray to Ganapati Baba (everyday is best of course), i.e. "January 3, 2010 – Ganesh Sankashti Chaturthi"
- Also celebrating the main Ganesh Chaturthi, this year 2010 it will take place, Sept 11th Saturday. Fasting on this day and praising Ganesh baba by singing his bhajans, chanting mantras and making ladoo will open great doors for success and blessings. More info on this great time here.
- Also Ganesh Jayanti which is on January 19th, celebrates the creation of Ganapati Baba.
- And lastly, if the above might be difficult, chanting the powerful name of Lord Ganesh will bring great blessings as well, "Aum Ganapati Baba".
Remeber, anything we do, work for school or at work, or volunteering - when we do it with devotion and heart, the end result is much better. Therefore, giving and praying with love in our hearts will yeild great results within ourselves. More to come......
May Lord Ganesha's blessings and guidence be with us as we walk on this complex journey called life.
Jai Ganapati Baba (Victory to Lord Ganesh, thy glories are endless).
Jai Shri Krishna,