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The chubby, gentle, wise, elephant-headed Ganesh, or Ganesha, is one of Hinduisms most popular deities.
Ganesh is the remover of obstacles, the deity whom worshipers first acknowledge when they visit a temple.
Statues of Ganesh can be found in most Indian towns. His image is placed where new houses are to be built; he is honored at the start of a journey or business venture, and poets traditionally invoke him at the start of a book.
Ganesh is also patron of letters and of learning; he is the legendary scribe who, using his commonly held broken tusk, wrote down parts of the Mahabharata Epic.
Ganesh is usually depicted colored red; he is pot bellied, has one tusk broken, and has four arms that may hold a pasam, a goad, and a pot of rice, or sweetmeats. The sweet meats are held in a type of bowl known as a laddus. His appetite for these sweets is legendary and offerings of them are often left at his shrine.
A pasam or noose is a triple twine weapon. Each of the three twines represent: 1. Arrogance and conceit, 2. Maya - the illusory nature of the real world, and 3. Ignorance.
Goads (or elephant prods) are typically used to direct elephants. Goads are symbolic of how one should steer the soul away from the ignorance and illusions of this earthly world just as a mahout would steer an elephant away from any treacherous path.
In Hindu ideology weapons are a viewed as symbolic tools to destroy the ego rather than to cause any type of bloodshed.
Ganesh's characteristic pot belly is usually bound around with a cobra. The cobra is an animal usually associated with Shiva, a reminder that Ganesh is his son.