The Five Principle Deities
The Vedas and Puranas form the knowledge repository of Sanatana Dharma; they are the Shrutis (श्रुति that which is heard) and Smritis (स्मृति that which is remembered) respectively. According to this knowledge repository, the Supreme Brahman can be attained through 5 forms and therefore spiritual discipline itself can be regarded to be directed into 5 ways. These 5 ways are also called the Pancha Deva Upasana Paddhati (पंच देव उपासना पद्धति).
It depends on the spiritual aspirant as to which path is suitable for him. So it becomes imperative that the aspirant should develop faith on one form of Upasana and pursue that way alone. It is that means alone, that shall prove useful and fruitful towards attaining the final goal of life.
The 5 Sampradaya Systems
The Smartas (स्मार्त), the sect within Santana Dharma that is driven by ritualistic practices, as the mode of Sadhana, follow the Panchadevopasana (पंचदेवोपासना), which means the worship of the five primary God-forms which include
(1) Lord Ganesh,
(2) Lord Surya,
(3) Mother Mahashakti,
(4) Lord Shiva and
(5) Lord Narayana.
Hence there are five preliminary Spiritual disciplic lines, also called as Sampradaya (संप्रदाय).
(1) Ganpatya (गाणपत्य)
(2) Saur (सौर)
(3) Shakt (शाक्त)
(4) Shaiv (शैव)
(5) Vaishnava (वैष्णव).
It is to be noted that with passage of time, the rituals and the belief systems prevalent amongst these five systems have immensely diverged from each other.
Ganpatya system considers Lord Ganesh as the Supreme Being and hence their goal is to attain the Supreme Being in the form of Lord Ganesh.
In the current times, this Sampradaya is immensely on the decline. Their main following is in a place called Moreshwar, in Maharashtra, India. The Supreme Personality is beginningless and timeless. The Lord incarnates and disappears according to time, place and circumstance.
According to Ganpatya, the Supreme Being is Lord Ganesh and the chief of all living beings. The pastime of Lord Ganesh is as follows, in the line of Vedic Scriptures.
Story of Lord Ganesha’s birth from the Puranas
Sri Uma-Maheshwar (Shiva-Parvati), wished for a son. Their elder son, Lord Karthikeya, was in the Land of the Devas, Swarga (heavens). He was appointed as the chief lieutenant of the Army of gods. Lord Karthikeya was close to his six foster mothers. This was another reason for Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati to expect another child.
Once, Lord Shiva and Parvati happened to spend some time alone. There appeared a Brahmana at the door who called out Bhiksham dehi (भिक्षाम् दही), which meant “Kindly lend me alms”. Mother Parvati arrived at the door with the alms only to find that the Brahmana had disappeared from the door. Mother Parvati called out to Lord Shiva and told Him about what happened.
To this, Lord Shiva said that Lord Ganesh had personally appeared and blessed them. When the couple went back, they saw a fair complexioned divine baby happily making babyish sounds.
This is one such story about Lord Ganesh’s appearance in the Puranas.
Why did Lord Shiva behead Lord Ganesha?
Once Mother Parvati was smearing Her transcendental body with freshly ground turmeric powder. With the excess powder that fell away from her body, she created an idol. Out of deep attachment for the figure, she infused life into it. On attaining life, the idol turned boy child.
He prostrated before Mother Parvati and asked humbly “Mother, how can I serve you?” To this, Mother Parvati, asked him to guard the door. She commanded: “Stop anyone who tried to enter My chamber. ”
This was the order that the child received as his first service from Mother Parvati. He held a stout stick in his hand and guarded the door. Lord Shiva, just returned after a sojourn on earth and tried to enter the chamber which was being guarded by the idol turned child. But the child stopped Lord Shiva. Not in a mood to be intercepted, Lord Shiva ordered His lieutenants to fix the small boy.
But all of the Lord’s men were easily defeated by the boy and the infantry of Lord Shiva ran off with their feet over their heads. The Devatas try to intervene and they were fixed by the boy who had the body of turmeric, created from the dust of Mother Parvathi’s body. In the end, angry and having lost His patience, Lord Shiva beheaded the boy, with one stroke of His Trishul (त्रिशूल Trident).
How did Lord Ganesha get an Elephants head?
Having got the boy out of the way, Lord Shiva barged into His chamber. Mother Parvati had just finished Her bath.
She asked Lord Shiva: “Did nobody stop you?”
He replied: “Your foolish door-keeper lies beheaded at the door.” Mother Parvati rushed to the door, wailing.
She said:“My son has been slain.”
Enraged by the scene Mother Parvati assumed the form of Mother Kali, in a ferocious mood. She roared brandishing Her deadly sword. The heavens began to tremble and all inauspicious omen starting erupting all over Creation.
With great difficulty, singing Her glories to appease Her, the gods finally pacified the Mother. Lord Shiva, arranged for an elephant’s head and got it fixed on the child’s beheaded body. Life was infused into the child once again. Lord Shiva appointed this elephant-headed son as the chief of His army of ghost, ghouls, goblins and other followers.
Why is Lord Ganesha called Ekadant?
Once, in a skirmish that happened between Sage Parshurama and Lord Ganesh, the latter lost one of His teeth. From that time onwards, Lord Ganesh is known a Ekadant (एकदंत Lord with one tooth).
Why is Lord Ganesha worshipped first?
There was once a confusion among the Gods as to who will receive the first worship amongst all Gods. Lord Brahma then communicated to the entire entourage of the Gods that whoever were to finish circumambulating the earth first, would be offered the first worship by humans. All the Devatas had swift vehicles. However, Lord Ganesh had the slowest vehicle, the rat. He was thoroughly disappointed and sat morose in one corner. Sage Narada saw that Lord Ganesh sitting gloomily. He approached Lord Ganesh and gave him a solution.
After hearing the solution Lord Ganesh sprang up with a big smile. He wrote the letters (राम RAM) on the ground. Prostrated it and circumambulated it 21 times and went to Sri Brahma with folded hands. Sri Brahma happily declared Lord Ganesh as the winner. From that day onwards, for every auspicious occasion on earth, Lord Ganesh is the first one to be worshipped before any other Devata.