There is the reverberating sound of the Nashik dhol all around you. Everywhere you look, you’ll see Ganesha idols either on its way to the mandap or already placed on the pedestal. It is very likely that your child will ask you questions about the who, what, how, and whys of this festival (Ganesh Chaturthi) and particularly the chubby little God.
This is the perfect time for you to grab the opportunity of teaching your toddler some life lessons. Why not use our beloved Ganesha’s life and teachings to teach your child some good things. After all, it’s not every day that an imperfect and oddly mismatched God’s idol can be used as an actual idol.
10 Teachings of Lord Ganesha:
1. Accept your imperfections
Use the idol of Ganesha to teach your child about accepting yourself the way you are. It’s a human body with the head of an elephant! What better way to teach your toddler that not all of us can be complete or perfect. Despite this, we can and we must learn to accept ourselves and everyone around us the way they are.
2. Your parents are your world
There is a story that goes that once Shiva and Parvati issued a challenge to test the skills of both their sons, Ganesh and Karthik. According to the story, both of them were given the task of encircling the world three times and whoever completed the task first would earn a miracle fruit- a fruit which would give the owner supreme knowledge as well as immortality. Karthik, being eager to start off early and wanting to win the task the right way, took off at once! Ganesha, being the smarter one, knew that his stout body and much slower vehicle (the rat) would be no match against Kartik’s agility and the pace of Karthik’s vehicle- the peacock. He put on his thinking cap and came up with the best solution. He looked at his parents and thought “For me, my parents are my world. I’d rather circumnavigate around them than waste my time roaming around the world.” Needless to say that when Karthik returned, he did not only find that he had lost the race, but he had been beaten wisely!
This Ganesha story doesn’t only teach our kids to respect their parents but also to think out of the box in a given situation. Your physical weaknesses should not bring you down. One can always rely on one’s wisdom and intelligence to win a losing war.
3. Make the best of what you have
We all know about the story of how Parvati created Ganesha out of dirt collected from her body while Shiva was away. The story follows that Parvati asked Ganesha to guard the entrance to her door while she went for a bath. When Shiva returned, Ganesha refused entry, and Shiva, not knowing that Ganesha was his son, beheaded him to make an entry into the house. On realizing what had happened, Parvati was grief-stricken and ordered Shiva to replace their son’s head with the head of the first living thing he came across. An elephant was the first thing Shiva came across and that’s how Ganesha ended up with the body of a human and the head of an elephant.
There are three lord Ganesha sayings as a take-away from this Ganesha story:
- Molding your child is in your hands (creating a life out of dirt)
- Duty above everything else (Ganesha not letting Shiva in), and
- Making and creating the best out of whatever you have (replacing Ganesha’s head)
4. Listen more than you speak
The elephant’s ears on the Ganesha idol can be used to exemplify the message of how important it is to be a good listener. Most of the time, when someone shares their grief or sorrows with you, what they want is a non-judgmental listener. You don’t need to give opinions or advice; you simply have to let the speaker pour out his heart.
Teach your little one that when someone walks up to them to communicate something, they need to listen before they talk.
5. Use your knowledge and power wisely
Since we already know that the idol and Ganesha himself, is a good listener, it is safe to assume that he holds immense knowledge too because of this.
Teach your child the importance of using one’s knowledge wisely by explaining how Ganesha, despite knowing so many things, never misused it.
Another thing that can be taught here is power. This again can be done by using an organ of the elephant as the symbol. The elephant uses its trunk to not only pick up water and food and to breathe and communicate, but it also uses it to leash out its anger and punish the wrongdoers. Point out the trunk of the Ganesha idol to your toddler and ask him to observe that it rolled up. Tell him that Ganesha is controlling the power of his trunk by doing so.
Teach your child that as important as it is to possess a power that comes from various sources like wealth, knowledge, intelligence, and success, it is equally important to control it and also know how to control it.
6. Never give up
Another body part that can be used to teach a lesson to your child, is the idol’s tusk. Ask him to observe that the tusk is broken. Tell him the story of why this is so. There is a story that Ganesha’s pen broke when the learned Sage Vyasa was dictating the Mahabharata to him. In order to avoid any interruptions, Ganesha sacrificed his tusk and used it as a pen to continue his job.
This Ganesha story can not only be used to teach them to never give up but also to again emphasize the teaching of ‘making the best of what you have’. It can even be used to teach them to sacrifice something they hold dear, for the cause of the greater good.
7. Be kind and forgive easily
Another story of Ganesha can be used to teach your child kindness. Ganesha was once invited to a big feast and because he was very fond of sweets, he ended up overeating. His stomach bloated because of this and to hide the same and also to avoid being embarrassed, he grabbed hold of a snake and wrapped it over his stomach to disguise his bulging belly. He waited for nightfall to leave for home so that nobody would notice this. It so happened that the moon did notice it and mocked Ganesha for the same. Ganesha got angry at this and cursed the moon saying that he would become invisible from that day on.
The moon at once realized his mistake and begged for Ganesha’s forgiveness. But Ganesha could not revoke the curse, so instead, he tweaked it a little saying that the moon would grow thinner with each passing of the month and ultimately become invisible on one day, every month. That day is what we refer to as Amavasya (no moon night) and it is considered inauspicious in our country.
This story and the act of Ganesha’s forgiveness can be used to teach your child to be kind in their actions and also forgive those people who ask for their forgiveness.
8. Maintain a balance
If you observe the Ganesha idol carefully, you will notice that one of Lord Ganesha’s feet rests on the ground while the other one is folded. This can be used to teach your toddler the importance of balancing. Tell them that they will always need to have a balance between their inner self, that is- their inner happiness (which can be called spirituality) and the materialistic happiness which they will get through fame and wealth. Teach them that even if they might have everything in terms of the materialistic possessions, they will never find happiness if they do not communicate with their inner self and realize what truly brings them happiness.
Tell your child while it may be impossible to let go of one’s material desires, it is equally important to maintain a healthy balance between one’s spiritual and material needs to lead a happy and content life.
9. Respect everyone and be humble to everyone
Ganesha’s vehicle is a mouse. Most humans detest this animal because it feeds on our food. It is also considered as an untrustworthy animal because it comes out and attacks in the dark. Ganesha’s choosing the mouse as his vehicle as a reliable partner can be used to teach your child about humility and how to respect even the tiniest of creatures.
Teach your child that this trait is important to apply in life so that they imbibe mutual respect for people irrespective of their backgrounds and positions in society.
10. Knowledge = Success
In the southern and northern states of the country, the Ganesha idol is depicted by showing goddess Saraswati and goddess Laxmi on either side of our chubby God. This too can be used for teaching a lesson to your child.
Tell the child that, while goddess Saraswati imparts knowledge and wisdom, goddess Lakshmi represents luck and prosperity. This can be used to make home the point that success is bound to accompany those who possess knowledge and wisdom. So, knowledge and success go hand in hand.
Hope this Ganesh Chaturthi becomes more fun for you and your little one through these teachings. Enjoy the festivities!! Ganpati Bappa Mourya!
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