Stories of Ganesha, Hindu God of Opportunity


Ganesha is often found at the entrance to a Bali home.

Ganesha, the god of opportunity – a remover of obstacles – is important for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.  He is considered the god of new beginnings, a patron of the arts and science, and in Bali, his image is everywhere.  He’s the stocky god with an elephant head and two to sixteen arms (which may help explain why he can remove obstacles).  Each hand holds something of use or significance.  He can be sitting in a meditation pose, dancing, or reclining.


Reclining Ganesha at Honeymoon Guesthouse, Bisma Road, Ubud, Bali.


Each appendage and part of Ganesha has significance:

Each appendage and part of Ganesha has significance

We could learn from Ganesha: His big head means think big; his big ears mean listen; small mouth means talk less . . .

Just by looking at Ganesha, you know he must have an interesting past.

Recently in a Yoga Barn class with Noah Muse here in Ubud, Bali, I’ve learned more about Ganesha.

In one of his hands, Ganesha usually holds out a tray of sweets. As you can tell by his big belly, Ganesha loves life.


Ganesha with his trunk in his pot of sweets.

A story goes that one day long ago, Ganesha managed to eat allllll the sweets he was holding. He couldn’t believe it, and the big, round moon, who had seen him do it, laughed and made fun of Ganesha, which, of course, angered him. Ganesha grabbed his broken tusk that he had been holding in another hand and threw it at the moon– shattering the moon into 18 pieces–giving us the many phases of the moon.   Before that, time was linear. Ganesha gave us cyclical time.


Ganesha is often decorated with a garland of fresh marigolds.  Notice the little mouse to the left of Ganesha’s  feet.  That’s Musica, his mount.

Another story is about Ganesha’s sidekick: Musica, the mouse. Most gods and heroes have sidekicks: the Lone Ranger and Tanto, Spiderman and Robin, and Ganesha and Musica, who serves as Ganesha’s mount, his vehicle.  Normally, elephants are afraid of mice. And mice can cause a lot of damage to farms, be carriers of disease, and generally are not wanted by anyone.  But in choosing Musica, Ganesha brings out his weakness and uses it. Ganesha doesn’t hide his fear or avoid it; he gives it a big job and thus empowers himself (and the mouse) in positive ways.  Because Musica has such a challenging job in transporting Ganesha he is unlikely to be causing any trouble.  So symbolically, Ganesha is a good model for us not to hide our fears or weaknesses but to make good use of them- put them to work for us.


Notice little Musica to the right of Ganesha’s legs.


Ganesha is part of daily life in Bali.

Ganesha with his trunk in his pot of sweets.

Ganesha in a garden entrance.


Ganesha on the street outside a store in Penestanan, Bali.


Ganesha in a Yoga Barn classroom in Ubud, Bali.  Musica is at the bottom right.


At the Yoga Barn, Ganesha dressed up for a temple celebration.


Ganesha on the grounds of Nick’s on Jalan Bisma in Ubud, Bali.

When you come to Bali, expect to see Ganesha everywhere.

Aloha and sampai jumpa, Renée

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

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