Mooshika, the rat – Ganesha’s vehicle
See part 1
Ganesha, the elephant-headed Lord and the remover of obstacles, is one of the most revered Gods in the Hindu Pantheon. Also known as Ganpati, Vighnesha, Vinayaka and Pillaiyar, this son of Shiva and Parvati is worshipped by people from many cultures and religions across the length and breadth of the country and beyond.
Ganesha is known to be the Deva of intelligence and wisdom. He is also said to be a patron of the arts and sciences. This Gananayaka (Lord of the Ganas) is propitiated before the start of any ceremony or ritual and is also invoked as the Lord of Letters before the start of writing sessions.
Some of the earliest depictions do not show Lord Ganesha with a vahana at all. The Mudgala Purana talks of eight incarnations of the Lord, in which Ganesha has a mouse in five of them. As Vakratunda, he uses a lion as a vahana. As Vikata, he has a peacock with him and the Sesha (divine serpent) is present with him in his avatar of Vighnaraja. Jail philosophy also shows Ganesha with a mouse, elephant, tortoise, ram or peacock.
According to some philosophers, the mooshika appeared as Ganesha’s vehicle in India, somewhere around the 7th Century. The earliest mention of the mooshika is in the Matsya Purana, the Brahmananda Purana and then the Ganesha Purana. There is also mention of the Lord using an image of the mouse on His flag. The names, Mooshikavahana (mounted on a mouse) and Akhuketana (mouse flag) appear in the Ganesha Sahasranama.
Philosophical connotation of the mooshika
The term ‘Mushika’ is derived from the Sanskrit root, ‘mush’, which means, ‘to steal’. The rat is generally a destructive creature if not controlled. It robs people of crops and food. In other words, this is a destructive pest that causes a lot of trouble.
In philosophical terms, the human mind tends to be wavering, selfish and full of desires. Many of us do not hesitate to achieve our goals even if it means hurting someone. The mooshika here is the vighna or obstacles created by our own negative mindset and thought patterns.
Additionally, our thoughts multiply multifold when left uncontrolled. Like mice attacking in the night, they stealthily attack us in the darkness of our ignorance. Ganesh seated on the mouse signifies His crushing our negative thoughts when we surrender our lives to Him.
Our minds are extremely fickle and tend to run around here and there, completely leaving our control on it! Achieving control is a sign of great wisdom. The mouse at Ganesha’s feet signifies that He can bring our minds under his control and bestow grace and plentitude on us. Bowing to the Vighneswara’s also allows us to gain control over our minds, thereby, getting beyond our vighnas as well! The mooshika, staying at the Lord’s feet permanently, signifies the steady mind forever being in prayerful attitude, leaving aside all negativity and ultimately attaining bliss and oneness with Him.
The Mushika also signifies adundance. In symbolic terms, the mouse carries Lord Ganesha’s immense grace wherever he goes, including the hearts and minds of the devotees in which He resides.
Next Vahana: Peacock