Ganapati Atharvashirsa

The Sri Ganapati Atharvasirsa is a Vedic religious text dedicated to the Lord Ganesh. It is a late Upanishad that celebrates Ganesha as the embodiment of the ultimate Brahman. It is also referred to as the Sri Ganapati Atharva Sirsha, the Ganapati Atharvashirsha, the Ganapati Atharvasirsa, or the Ganapati Upanishad.

It is the most widely-recited Sanskrit text among devotees of Ganesha in Maharashtra. The entire text is written over the entrance to the temple hall in the ashtavinayaka Ganesha shrine at Ranjangaon. Ghurye notes its emergence in the early nineteenth century, corresponding to the rise of the Ganapati worship in Maharashtra among Brahmins centered in Pune.

Ganesha as the supreme deity

In the framework of Ganapatya devotion, Ganesha is regarded as the Supreme Deity, containing all other divine forms within himself. The Ganapati Atharvashirsa declares this in its opening passages :

Homage to Lord Ganesh. Om. Reverence to Ganapati. You are indeed the visible “That Thou Art” [tattvamasi]. You indeed produce the universe. You indeed sustain it. You indeed destroy it. You indeed are the all pervading reality. You are the manifestation of the eternal self [atman].

A variant version of this passage is translated by Chinmayananda as follows:

(O 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. Your are the Eternal Atman in bodily form.”

Identification with other deities and with Om

Ganesha is identifiable with all other deities and with Om. This is celebrated as follows in the Courtright translation:

You are Brahma, Visnu, and Rudra [Siva]. You are Agni, Vayu, and Surya. Your are Chandrama. You are earth, space, and heaven. Yor are the manifestation of the mantra “Om”.

A variant version of this passage is translated by Chinmayananda as follows:

(O 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).

Resides in the muladhara chakra

Some evidence that the work is of late origin with some Tantric influence is found in a passage which associates Ganapati with the Muladhara chakra. As translated by Courtright this passage reads:

You continually dwell in the sacral plexus at the base of the spine [muladhara chakra].

A variant version of this passage is translated by Chinmayananda as follows:

You have a permanent abode (in every being) at the place called “Muladhara”.

Bija mantra

This text provides a detailed description of Ganesha’s bija mantra ‘Ga’ . When this mantra is written using simplified transliteration methods that do not include diacritical marks to represent nasal sounds, it is written as ‘Gam’.

This bija mantra is also used in the Ganesha Purana which is generally dated as preceding the Ganapati Atharvasirsa. Courtright translates the passage as follows:

Having uttered the first letter of the word gana, ga, then I utter the nasal sound na which follows and appears beautifully like the crescent moon. This is your form. The ga forms the initial letter, the a forms the middle letter and the na forms the final letter. To utter this sound [i.e., gam] is to utter all sounds together.

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