Hindus worship several gods and goddesses. However, they always pray to Lord Ganesha first on any occasion. This is because he is believed to be the master of spiritual power and prosperity. He has expertise in 64 art forms comprising drama, creativity, knowledge, and more. He is also lovingly called Vighnaharta or Vighneshwara since he is believed to remove obstacles from our path.
Ganesha is also believed to be the consciousness and energy within a human being. Praying to him can kindle wisdom in an individual.
There are a few legends associated with why we pay our obeisance to Ganesha, the lord of all beginnings first.
According to one legend, Lord Shiva had once gone to meditate. Ma Parvati felt lonely and used her powers to create a boy with turmeric paste and breathed life into it. So happy was she with the child that she called him her son. She asked him to guard the entrance to the house and not let anyone in, while she went for her bath. When Shiva came back after his penance, he asked the boy to let him inside but was refused entry. This went on for a few times and Shiva lost his temper. He cut off the boy’s head. When Parvati came out, she was upset at what she saw and threatened Shiva that she would destroy the world unless she had the boy back.
Lord Shiva sent his ganas to bring him the head of the first living thing that they saw. They brought him the head of an elephant with one tusk. The lord fixed the head on the torso of the dead boy and gave it life. He named the boy Ganesha and promised his consort that Ganesha would always be worshipped first. Shiva also instructed his followers to do so.
The other legend is about a competition between Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya. Sage Narada once visited Kailash with the divine fruit of knowledge and immortality. Both the brothers saw the fruit and wanted to have it. When they started arguing, Shiva and Parvati told them that whoever went around the world thrice and got back would be declared the winner and eligible for the fruit.
Lord Kartikeya immediately set off on the mission on the peacock, his vehicle. Lord Ganesha pondered for a minute about what he should do as he knew his rat was slow and would not be able to compete with the peacock. He then went around his parents thrice with folded hands in salutation and stood before them. They asked him why he did so when he was asked to go round the universe. Ganesha replied that to him, his parents were the world. Both Shiva and Parvati were impressed with his intelligence and gave him the fruit. They also blessed him saying that he would always be worshipped first on any occasion.
Followers also attribute worshipping Lord Ganesha to a yogic belief. According to this, human life has two parts associated with it. One is spiritual while the other is material. The spiritual part is related to the human lifecycle from birth to death. The material part is related to fulfilling the desires and expectations of an individual. Both parts are controlled by the god.
References to Ganesh Atharvashirsha mention that Lord Ganesha resides in the root or muladhara chakra at the base of the human spine. The spiritual part and material parts of the human body are controlled by this chakra that is in turn under the lord’s control. This is one key reason why Lord Ganesha is worshipped before any other god.
Holy books such as the Shree Ganesh Nitya Aaradhana hold a group of important Ganesha prayers that you can read on a daily or weekly basis.