By ancient tradition, the elephant-headed god, Ganesha, is always worshipped first in every ritual or festival. Being the lord of all things auspicious and successful, he is given pride of place at housewarmings, the beginning of a child's education, weddings, and in every temple devoted to other deities. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, represents wisdom, goodwill and most important, the art of living a balanced life. Many myths exist describing how he came to have an elephant's head on a rotund human body. But in concept, he demonstrates that an elephant and a mouse - always seen with him - can live happily together; that love of good food and profound spiritual knowledge can go together; that a corpulent person can still be a connoisseur of dance and music. He proves that the world is full of opposites which co-exist peacefully. As a personality, Ganesha has a pot belly, is short and is usually portrayed in a sitting position with one leg folded and the other touching the ground. Around his waist, there is a hooded snake. In his four hands, he carries a noose (human bondage to desires); an axe (destruction of all evil); a modak or sweet (joy) and a lotus (human evolution). His trunk, usually turned to the left, represents OM, the origin of the cosmic universe. Ganesha is the lord of all learning, the arts and of finer skills. He bestows achievement and success and is the guardian of all human endeavour. Ganesha is the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati. It is written in the Puranas that Parvati created him from the unguents and scents which she used on her body and set him to guard the house while she bathed. Shiva, on arrival, was stopped by the new addition to the family. In a fit of temper, he killed the child. Parvati was stricken with grief and demanded that her son be brought back to life. So angry was she that she fought with her husband and the armies of lesser gods and defeated them. She made Shiva bring the child to life by attaching the head of the first being which slept with its head towards the south. She also demanded that her son be the first god to be propitiated and the first to be mentioned in a literary work or at any celebration. Ganesha being an auspicious deity, icons of him were carried by many travellers and traders. Recognising him as a symbol of good luck, people of other countries and cultures also built shrines to him as in China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Turkey, Afghanistan, Nepal and Iran. Each of these countries has adopted him according to its own culture. In India, temples of Ganesha are found almost in every village. Famous sculptures can be seen at Hampi, in the Vijayanagar ruins in Karnataka; in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh; in Ellora, Maharashtra and other archaeological monuments. There are eight important temples situated in Maharashtra. These ancient shrines are famous for the natural rock formations which look like idols of Ganesha. These Ashtavinayakas attract thousands of pilgrims each year. Ganesha is credited with writing the Mahabharata at the behest of the sage Vyasa.