Shri Ganapati Atharva Sirsha


This Atharvasirsha is a part of Atharva-Veda, one of the four Vedas which constitute Hindu Scriptures. It is also evident from the name that the text pertains to Ganapati.

The text ends with the words "Upanishad ends here". Thus. though it is an Upanishad, this fact is not appreciated by many. Generally it is considered as a hymn to Lord Ganapati. The fact that it reveals the true nature of Ganesa as Brahman is thus overlooked. During the analysis of the text we shall see that Ganapati is both Transcendental and Immanent Ganapati is Brahman manifested.

From the words "These are the words of Atharvana" (mantra 21) - one may think that Atharvana Rishi is the author of this Upanishad. It may or may not be so, because:

  • Usually the name of the author is not found in the body of many of the Upanishads, and
  • Vedas are said to be of Divine origin.
Atharvana may also mean a knower of Atharva Veda. The state- ment may even mean "Thus speaks Atharvana Veda'' as Atharva Veda is also called Atharvana Veda.

Mantras are numbered here according to the convenience. Individual sentences forming a mantra are termed as 'Upamantras' for the sake of clarity.

The Upanishad starts with an invocation, "Om I Salutations to Lord Ganapati".

Though this is a common phrase for salutation to Lord Ganapathi, it has a profound meaning. Let us consider the words one by one.

"Om !" - as per tradition, a Hindu starts any religious act by first chanting "Om". One may ask "why stick to a tradition?"

He can be given an appropriate answer by asking a counter question, "why do you say 'hello' before starting a talk on phone ?". Saying "Om" is just like that. Om stands for Brahman. Brahman itself is not a proper noun. If you say only "Brahman" it means "the biggest - the big". So while invoking the Lord, if you say "Om" it is like drawing His attention to oneself. By addressing Him thus whole-heartedly one does get a subtle response and then he can proceed further.

'Namah' - the word means 'Salutation' or 'adoration'. It is a corrupt form of the phase 'Na-mama' which means 'not mine'. In the sacrificial rituals, the oblations are offered into the sacrificial fire by saying "Agne idam na mama" • 'This is not mine'. It is as good as saying, "0 Lord ! what I am offering is not mine. There is nothing that is mine. Everything including my body is all yours". Thus while saying 'Namah', we should have an attitude of surrender. But, as it happens to be, the same word is used for casual greeting like saying, "Good morning". So while invoking God one is likely to miss the deeper significance of the word 'Namah'.

When you just say "Good morning" your mental disposition is not readily visible. It may be anything ranging from an attitude of reverence to an attitude of callousness. Same is the case with other modern forms of greeting. Therefore, as per our custom, the posture of 'Kritanjalih' Is recommended for invoking God. It consists of bowing down, with hands folded to form a bowl, with the attitude of supplication. This posture helps the mind to develop the attitude of surrender. That is why the word 'Kritanjalih' appears two or three times in the Bhagavad-Gita.

'Ganspati' - Though the hair splitting of the word 'Gana' in Ganapati is not necessary at this stage, it is better to know what exactly the word means, right now. It will help us to under- stand better the phrase 'Sarvam idam' occurring so many times in scriptures, and particularly in the first mantra of this text. Further, unless one becomes familiar with the words now derived in this exercise, it will be difficult to appreciate the deeper meaning of the symbolic language employed in the ninth mantra.

No doubt, they words derived here may not be in vogue; this exercise should be considered as a logical research to serve a particular purpose. 'Gana' is a word, coming from its root 'Gan' which means 'to count'. Let us see the meaningc of two other words 'Ganya' and 'Aganya' as derived from the same root. 'Ganya' means 'limited' and 'Aganya' means 'Infinite'. Everything in creation is, as we know, limited—Ganya—while Ganapati, Who according to scriptures is of the form Om*. is Infinite — Aganya. So it will be more logical to call Him as 'Ganyapati', the Lord of 'Ganya'—that is the Lord of everything in creation. Ganya is a more comprehensive word which includes everything sentient and insentient, perceptible and imperceptible, or rather 'Sarvam idam'— everything in creation—in the language of scriptures. But gross human intellect cannot comprehend imperceptible things and beings in the creation.

Human being can take cognizance of only what is perceptible. And because the perceptible alone can be counted, it is quite natural to consider an assemblage of perceptible things and beings as 'Gana'. It therefore follows that the Lord of the finite things is addressed as 'Ganapati'. whereas, strictly speaking. He is the 'Ganyapati', Lord of everything in creation — both perceptible and imperceptible. However, the wise people know very well that Ganyapati's overlordship cannot be affected just because He is named Ganapati ! Further, as the Formless has taken this form to uplift the humanity, it is in the fitness of things from the view point of a common man to name that Form as Ganapati. There- fore, this Upanishad which is useful for all, at all stages of spiritual evolution, invokes the Lord by the popular name Ganapati, before starting the text. After all, at the dawn of true spiritual knowledge all the names and forms dissolve their differences in the Truth.

After the invocation the mantras start:

  1. 0 Lord Ganapati! You alone are the visible manifestation of the Essence of the words 'That thou art'. You alone, are the Doer. You alone are the Creator and the Sustainer (of the universe). You alone are the Destroyer. Verily You alone are all this - 'idam sarvam' — in the creation, because You are Brahman. You are the Eternal Atman in bodily form.
  2. I am speaking the scriptural truth. I am speaking the truth experienced by me.
  3. 0 Lord Ganapati! please protect me, protect the speaker, protect the listener, protect the giver, protect the sustainer, protect the one given to study, protect the disciple, protect from the west, protect from the east, protect from the north, protect from the south, protect from the above, protect me from below, protect me from all sides protect me from all sides.
  4. You are the embodiment of speech. You are the bliss absolute. You are the embodiment of all the powers of Brahman. You are existence - knowledge bliss and one without the second. You are manifested Brahman. You are the embodiment of scriptural knowledge and the immediate knowledge of oneself.
  5. O Lord Ganesh! This whole world has sprung up from you. This whole world rests on you. This whole world is coming to you. You are the earth, water, fire air and space. You are the four arms of speech.
  6. O Lord Ganesh! You are beyond the three gunas (Satwa, Rajas and Tamas). You are beyond the three bodies. (Gross, Subtle and Causal), You are beyond the three conditions (waking, dreaming and deep sleep). You are beyond the three periods of time (past, present and future).
  7. 0 Ganapati ! all the three powers (required for crea- tion, sustenance, and destruction) are Yours. (With these three powers) You have a permanent abode (in every being) at the place called 'Muladhara'. Yogis devoted to Sakti-upasana constantly meditate on You (as Lord of these powers).
  8. 0 Lord Ganapati ! You are (the Trinity) Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesa. You are Indra, You are fire and air. You are the sun and the moon, You are Brahman. You are (the three worlds) Bhuloka, Antariksha-loka, and Swargaloka, You are Om. (that is to say. You are all this).
  9. One should first utter the first syllable g in the word 'gan' followed by 'a' the first of alphabets, add an : (a nasal m indicated by a dot above the line). then adorn it by a crescent (also a nasal), prefix Om to it. And this represents (0 Lord Ganapati !) Your terrestrial form endowed with gunas.
  10. This is Ganesha — Vidya. The inspired sage behind this is Ganaka. Nicrt-gayatri is its metre. Ganapati is the Deity (of this mantra).
  11. Om Gam ! My salutations to Lord Ganapati."
  12. We have heard about Ekadanta; we meditate on Vakratunda. May the Danti inspire us (to meditate).
  13. "One who constantly meditates on Him, Who has one (right) tusk. Who has four hands. Who holds a noose (in His upper right hand) and a goad (in the left). Who holds a delightful thing in His (lower left) hand, Who has held the fingers of His (right lower) hand in a posture bestowing the blessing. Whose banner bears the insignia of knowledge. Who is red in colour. Who is pot-bellied, Whose ears have the form of scuttle. Who has worn red clothes. Whose body is smeared with red sandle paste, Who is adored with red flowers. Who is compassionate towards His devotees. Who is self-effulgent. Who has manifested even before the beginning of the world as the One beyond Prakrit! and Purusha, (Purushottama)-the Yogi who thus meditates on Him is the best among the Yogis.
  14. My salutations to Vratapati, my salutations to Ganapati, My salutations to Pramathapati. My salutations to Lambodara, Ekadanta, Vighnanasin, Shiva-suta, and salutations again and again to Varadamurthi.
  15. Whoever meditates on this Atharva-shirsha becomes fit to become Brahman. He gains happiness everywhere. He is not tormented by any of the obstacles. He becomes free from (all sins including) the five great sins.
  16. One who chants this in the evening destroys all sins committed during the day. One who chants this in the morning destroys all sins committed during the night. The one who chants both in the morning and evening becomes sinless. One who chants everywhere (and all the time) encounters no obstacle, and gains all the four types of human accomplishments, viz. religious merit (Dharma), wealth (Artha), desired objects (Kama), and liberation (Moksha).
  17. This atharva-shirsha should not be taught to an unqualified student. He who does so due to any temptation will incur sin.
  18. May one achieve the fulfilment of all of his desires by repetition of this thousand times.
  19. One who bathes Ganapati by this Atharva-shirsha becomes a renowned orator (in due course).
  20. One who fasts and practises Japa-yoga on the fourth day of lunar fortnight, gains knowledge.
  21. Thus says Atharvana.
  22. One should know Brahman, and Adimaya along with its veiling power. (Then) he has nothing to fear at any time.
  23. He, who worships (Lord Ganapathi) with blades of Durva-grass becomes as rich as the God of wealth, Kubera.
  24. He, who worships with parched grain, becomes famous and successful; he becomes a very intelligent person.
  25. He who worships with thousands of modakas. gets his cherished desires fulfilled.
  26. One, who performs sacrifices by offering wood together with ghee as oblation, gets everything. He gets every- thing.
  27. One, who makes eight good natured persons proficient in Atharva-shirsha becomes as glorious as the Sun.
  28. By undertaking this Japa during the solar eclipse, or by sitting on the banks of sacred rivers, or by sitting in front of an idol (of Ganapati), a Sadhaka gets whatever that is promised in these mantras. (In particular) he becomes free from obstacles, free from all defects and free from all sins.
  29. He (who has this knowledge) becomes all-knower. He becomes all knower. Know this to be true. Thus, the Upanishad.

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