Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. He is worshipped first. His Names are repeated first before any auspicious work is begun, before beginning any kind of worship.
He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is the eldest son of Lord Siva, and the elder brother of Skanda or Kartikeya. He is the energy of Lord Siva, and so He is called the son of Sankara and Uma. By worshipping Lord Ganesha, mothers hope to earn for their sons the sterling virtues of Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom and bliss. He is the Lord of Brahmacharins. He is the foremost among Brahmacharins or celibates.
He rides on the Vahana, the small mouse. He is the Presiding Deity of the Muladhara Chakra.
He is the Lord who removes all obstacles in the spiritual path and brings worldly success. So He is called Vighna Vinayaka. His Bijakshara is Gang. He is the Lord of harmony and peace.
Riding on the mouse represents that He has killed egoism. He holds Ankusa. This represents that He is the Ruler of the world. This is the emblem of Divine Royalty.
Ganesha is the first God, Adi-Deva. Mouse is a small creature. Elephant is the biggest of all animals. Riding on a mouse and wearing the head of an elephant denote that He is the Creator of all creatures, from the biggest elephant to the smallest mouse. Elephants are very wise. Wearing the head of an elephant indicates that Lord Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom. It also denotes the process of evolution. The mouse gradually evolves into an elephant and finally becomes a man. That is the reason why Ganesha has a human body, the head of an elephant, and mouse as His vehicle. This is the symbolic philosophy of His form.
The Vaishnavas also worship Lord Ganesha. They have given Him the name of Thumbikkai Alwar, i.e., Alwar with the proboscis.
Lord Ganesha’s two Saktis are Kundalini Sakti and Vallabha Sakti.
Ganesha and His brother Lord Subrahmanya or Kartikeya had once a dispute as to who was the elder of the two. The matter was referred to Lord Siva for final decision. Lord Siva decided that whoever would make a tour round the world and come out first to the starting point had the right to be the elder. Lord Subrahmanya flew off at once on His vehicle, the peacock, to make a circuit of the world. But Ganesha went round His parents and asked for the prize of victory. Lord Siva said: "Beloved and wise -Ganesha! You did not go round the world". Ganesha replied: "No, but I went round My parents. My parents represent the manifested world". The dispute was settled in favour of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha was thereafter acknowledged as the elder of the two brothers. Ganesha got a fruit as prize for this from Mother Parvati.
During Aksharabhyasa (teaching of the alphabets), the child is initiated into His Mantra of Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah in Maharashtra and other places. Then only the alphabet is taught.
Ekadantaya Vidmahe Vakratundaya Dheemahi Tanno Danti Prachodayat: this is Ganesha Gayatri. The devotees of Lord Ganesha can do Japa of this Mantra also.
Ganesha Chaturthi is one of the most popular of Hindu festivals. This is the birthday of Ganesha. It is the day most sacred to Lord Ganesha. It is observed on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada throughout India. Clay figures of the Deity are made, and after being worshipped for two days, or in some cases ten days, are thrown into water.
The yearly Ganesh Chaturthi Puja that is thus observed throughout India is the festival version of the Ganesh Vrata that has become enjoined as a compulsory observance, as a matter of tradition. Apart from this annual Puja, the Ganesh Vrata—also known by the name of Siddhi-Vinayaka Vratam—is done as a special Vrata for the attainment of some particular end in view, usually for clearing oneself of false and unjust accusations and charges, recovering lost objects, regaining lost status, and removal of obstacles in an enterprise. It is to be performed on the fourth day of the dark fortnight. It consists of elaborate worship of Lord Ganesha with Shodashopachara (a 16 step worship) and various offerings, after appropriate Sankalpa (desire).
He who performs this Puja with faith, devotion and concentration obtains all that he desires and attains the Highest Abode.
May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path and bestow on you both Bhakti and Mukti!