An unusual depiction of Ganesh; my photograph, expressionistically taken in a hotel suite in Calcutta in 2010
Ganesh is very lovingly revered by all Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.
He is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He has a human body with an elephant's head. He is the Remover of Obstacles, and is worshipped at the beginning of every new venture, to ensure its success.
Here is one invocation of Ganesh, written by Girish Karnad at the beginning of his play Hayavadana:
May Vighneshwara, the destroyer of obstacles, who removes all hurdles and crowns all endeavours with success, bless our performance now. How indeed can one hope to describe his glory in our poor, disabled words? An elephant's head on a human body, a broken tusk and a cracked belly -- whichever way you look at him he seems the embodiment of imperfection, of incompleteness. How indeed can one fathom the mystery that this very Vakratunda-Mahakaya, with his crooked face and distorted body, is the Lord and Master of Success and Perfection? Could it be that this Image of Purity and Holiness, this mangala-moorty, intends to signify by his very appearance that the completeness of God is something no poor mortal can comprehend?
Like most of the gods, Ganesh has many names, which refer to their various attributes. One, which is used most endearingly, is Lambodara, One Who Has a Potbelly. (Lamba + Udara)
Ganesh with his two consorts, painted by Raja Ravi Varma, from my collection at home
One of his names is Ganapati, the Captain of the Ganas, an army of weirdos that follow Lord Shiva.
For more information about Ganesh, see his Wikipedia entry.
Ganesh's birth festival, Ganapati Chaturthi, is celebrated with a frenzy almost unparalleled in the Hindu pantheon of gods. Media, especially cinema and TV, do not tire, year after year, of depicting the frenzy with song and, dance, often performed under the influence of intoxicants. Each successive year surpasses the previous year in its depiction.
This year, for me at least, who has never stepped out, not only to participate, but even to get a glimpse of these events, brought a slew of shocking and revolting pictures of the aftermath of these celebrations. Some soul decided to circulate these in an email, so I have no means of acknowledging, giving credit, or attributing motives, except to say that it can benumb you, whether or not you are a believer. The email exhorted the reader to circulate them. Here are three of them. If you are aroused to revulsion, introspection, and a sense of feeling stigmatised, maybe the purpose would be served.
Ganesh, Following the Celebrations at His Consecration