Hindu Lord Ganesh: Remover of Obstacles

Hindu God Ganesh has ascribed to many roles over time.  His most marked role is that of Vighneshvara, or Lord of Obstacles, within the Hindu Religion.  This applies to both material and spiritual aims.  Besides the primary remover of obstacles he is also thought to place obstacles in the way of those in need of guidance.   If one is expressing themselves in less then ideal ways, Ganesh may bring those to light by bringing about hindrances that may enlighten them.

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Another such role is that of Lord of letters and learning.  Ganesh is renowned for his divine intellect and wisdom.  He is thought to be a teacher of the divine with his inherent cleverness and vast intelligence.  He is worshiped often by devout Hindus whenever they are embarking on a new endeavor, such as buying a house or starting a new business opportunity.  They pray for his guidance in that their new beginning may be successful.

It would not be a stretch to say that virtually every Hindu home has some sort of statue or montage to Lord Ganesh.  He is worshiped by everyone, whether rich or poor, all over India.  They collectively believe that he is a granter of success, prosperity, and protects against hardships that may arise.  Most beseech upon him at the beginning of every prayer, important events, or religious ritual.  It is even said that musicians, dancers, and artists call upon him at the beginning of every performance, undertaking, or event.  One of the most influential invocations is the following mantra:

‘Om Shri Gaṇeshāya Namah’ translated asOm, salutation to the Illustrious Ganesha’

Most Hindu households give offerings of sweets to their beloved Ganesh which is why he is often depicted holding a basket of delicacies.  Although the birth of Ganesh is the most often celebrated holiday worshiping Ganesh, he is often revered during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.  This is mostly due to his everyday influence in the lives of Hindus nationwide.  Diwali is a celebration of the plentiful qualities of life, of which Ganesh is often a largely believed guidance through them all.

Legends of Hindu Goddess Kali: the Dark One

fierce form of Devi hindu goddess Kali

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According to Hindu teachings, Kali is Goddess of time or change, but is most notably known by non-Hindus for her darkness and violence.  Much like Shiva in the form of Bhairava, her earliest incarnation was that of an annihilator of evil within the world.  She is often depicted in grotesque fashion as her terrifying eyes and shrieking expression horrify. Kali is referred to as ‘the black one’ as she is thought to have been the first creation before light itself and her very presence is said to convey death and destruction.

Within her most famous Hindu legend she comes to the aid of Hindu Goddess Durga and her assistants as they attempt to slay the demon Raktabija.  They attempt to wound him with various weapons but come to find that with every drop of blood they inflict he only multiplies in form.  His duplicates overwhelm them and they call upon Kali for aid.  Instead of Kali being summoned, however, Durga herself manifests into Kali’s form.

‘Out of the surface of her (Durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas’

Kali slays the Raktabija by sucking every last ounce of blood from his body and devouring his duplicates.  She rejoices in victory and dances upon the fallen in triumph.  Her ferocious celebration is said to have consumed her fully, unable to stop herself from stomping on the slain.   In order to snap his consort Kali out of her violent elation, God Shiva laid down amongst the dead beneath her feet.  The instant her foot touched her beloved Shiva she was able to calm herself.  This is why Kali is often depicted standing atop Shiva.

Although Kali is often seen as a terrifying and vicious slayer of demons, in union with Shiva she is said to help create and destroy worlds.

Shiva as Bhairava: Annihilator of Evil

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Hindu God Shiva, The Destroyer, comes in many forms.   One such important form and his most fear invoking is that of Bhairava, the annihilator of evil.   This fierce form is manifested when demons make themselves present and are in need of destruction.  Shiva in this form is often depicted draped in serpents as jewelry, wrapped bare naked in tiger skin, and decorated in a ritual adornment of human bones riding atop his divine vehicle, a dog named Shvan.  His frightful characteristics as banisher of evil are almost indistinguishable from Hindu Goddess of Death Kali.   He is seen with devastatingly angry eyes, sharp teeth, and carrying a noose, trident, and skull within his hands. In this form he is said to embody the very essence of fear itself, often forcing those who come upon him to confront their most terrifying sources of fear

The origination of Shiva as Bhairava is said to have been by Shiva himself in order to chastise Brahma, the great creator of the Universe.   Legend has it that Brahma lusted after his own daughter and created four heads in order to constantly be able to see her. His desires for his daughter caused her shame and she is said to have ascended to the heavens in escape.  Brahma then created a fifth head and insisted on her letting him live with her.  Upon hearing of this, Shiva used his sword to rid Brahma of his new fifth head.  Seeing this as an act of killing, Shiva was punished to walk the earth as a beggar carrying around the fifth head of Brahma until he was forgiven of his sin, in which case the skull of Brahma would finally fall from his hands.  Many did not recognize Shiva in his naked and violent beggars form as he howled and danced in madness.

Finally one day as Shiva enters the holy city of Varanasi, the skull falls from his blackened hands and he is rid of Brahmas curse.

Diwali Festival of Lights: Worship of Lakshmi

Lakshmi is worshiped throughout Diwali Festival of Lights

Lakshmi is no doubt worshiped throughout the year as the important Hindu Goddess of Wealth, but she is most astutely worship during the Hindu festival of Diwali, festival of lights.  Diwali is a very important 5-day holiday on the Hindu calendar in which families celebrate traditional activities together in their homes.  Participants in Diwali light small clay oil lamps which represents the conquering of good over evil.  The lamps are left lit throughout the night as followers cleanse their homes in order to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.  Throughout history people have put oil lamps outside their homes on Diwali in hopes that Lakshmi would come visit their homes and bless them.  Lakshmi Puja is the most important day of the Diwali festival of lights in northern India.  Fireworks are set off in order to send away evil spirits.  Sweets and snacks are shared among family and friends and an overall grand celebration ensues.

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It is no question that the Diwali festival is a celebration of great joy for Hindus, honoring Lakshmi’s abundance in their lives.  Lakshmi is an endless symbol of wealth in all its forms.  Wealth comes in many ways, not just the monetary wealth we think of.  She is a symbol of wealth of knowledge, wealth of courage, wealth of victory, and every other way in which wealth manifests.  Thus she is celebrated for her endless abundance.  Lakshmi is a symbol of luck to most Hindus and is celebrated daily in most homes.  She is a symbol of femininity for Hindu women with her gorgeous golden complexion sitting upon a blooming lotus bud.   The budding lotus represents fertility and purity.  She is believed to lead devotees into both material and spiritual prosperity.

As October is coming to a close, many Hindus are prepping for Diwali to start on the 13th of November, celebrated through the 17th of November.  Prep your oil lamps and prepare to celebrate with Hindus across the globe and celebrate the diving beauty Lakshmi, Hindu Goddess of Wealth.

Hindu God Shiva as Harihara

Glory to you, O Shiva! Glory to you, O Omkaara! May Brahma, Vishnu and the assembly of other gods, including the great Lord Shiva, relieve me of my afflictions!

Hindu God Shiva

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As many know, Hindu God Shiva comes in many different forms.  One such popular form is that of Shiva as Harihara, an important integration between Hindu God Shiva and Hindu God Vishnu.  The worship of Shiva as Harihara is an important form as it reiterates to devotees that worship of Shiva, Vishnu, or any of the prominent Hindu Gods is but the worship of every prominent Hindu God, one and the same.  When one worships Shiva, one also worships Vishnu, and all the other important deities collectively in the spirit of divine oneness.  All followers of Hinduism are all looking for one thing, the divine.  When one comes to fully realize this concept, they understand that we are all worshiping the same inherent thing, dharma, just from different approaches.  Both Vishnavites and Shaivities worship Harihara as a form of the one supreme god.

There is often much debate within Hinduism as to the inherent importance of Shiva and Vishnu.  Vishnavites believe that Vishnu is the supreme god, while Shaivities believe Shiva to be the ultimate being.  Conversely others believe that both are equal, manifesting different aspects of the same Supreme Being.   In many cases, however, even if one is preferred over the other, much respect is allotted to the other.

“Shiva and Vishnu are one and the same entity. They are essentially one and the same. They are the names given to the different aspects of the all-pervading Supreme Soul or the Absolute. ‘Sivasya hridayam vishnur-vishnoscha hridayam sivah—Vishnu is the heart of Siva and likewise Siva is the heart of Vishnu’.”

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