The first prayer of a Hindu is always to Ganesha or Vinayagar. Vinayagar is invoked at the beginning of all ritualistic worship. Recitation of holy songs begin with the recitation of a Vinayagar mantra or song. Vinayagar also has a place in Buddhist temples and among the Jains. Vinayagar is also known as Vigneshwara or Vighnaharta, the Lord of; and destroyer of obstacles. When we do evil things or when the time is not right, He places obstacles in our path. When we take the correct path, He removes the root of our troubles. Vinayagar is one who drives away all sorrows, difficulties and miseries. He confers happiness and peace on his devotees. He is the master of the powers Buddhi and Siddhi.

Vinayagar is also one of the six Gods the worship of whom was popularized by Adi Shankara; the other five being Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, Skanda (Murugan) and Surya. This system was named Shanmatham (6 forms).

It is said that Ganesha was born when the eternal couple contemplated on Om (ஓம்), the Pranava mantra. Viewed sideways, Lord Ganesha resembles the symbol Om (ஓம்). That's why Ganesha is called Omkara and worshipped first.

Vinayagar Worship

Vinayagar worship is very simple. It is the most informal too. If we do not have a statue or picture of Him, no problem. We can make a conical shape out of clay, earth, wet turmeric powder or santhanam (sandalwood) paste and it becomes Vinayagar automatically. A simple offering of arukkampul (fresh green grass) is enough as an offering. There is a mythological story which reveals how the practice of offering of arukkampul to Ganapathi became a practise.

Once, the story goes, Parvathi and Parameswara were playing a game of dice with Nandiswara (Lord Siva’s vehicle, the bull). Although Iswara lost the game, Nandi declared Him as the winner. Enraged at this unfair decision, Parvathi cursed Nandi that he would be afflicted with an incurable disease. Nandi, seeking Parvathi’s forgiveness, explained that he gave the verdict in Parameswara’s favour because the latter was his master and his duty as a servant was to serve Him. Parvathi relented and said that Nandi would be freed from the curse if he offered to her son Ganesha what was most relished by Nandi. Nandi pondered for a moment and declared that what he loved most as a bull was fresh green grass. He would offer that to Ganapathi. That was how the practise of including fresh green grass among the offerings made to Ganapathi during festival occasions came into practise.