Image used with permission.
Basic Description: god
of prudence and sagacity, remover of obstacles.
Son of Shiva and Parvati, but born from only one of them. Always the first god worshipped at a temple service.
Alternate Names: Ganapati, Vighnesvara, Vinayaka,
Gajanana and Gajadhipa
Ganesha is the first god worshipped at every temple service and is usually
worshipped at the outset of any event. His birthday is also celebrated
with a festival that lasts for many days. As
the remover of obstacles he is invoked before any undertaking, his images are
seen everywhere on buildings, at the side of roads, and even in the dedications
of books. Since the rat is his riding
animal it is considered to be sacred and is not harmed.
Ganesha's most distinctive feature is his elephant head. He is usually
also depicted having four arms and only one tusk.
Birth/Head Myth: Shiva was in the habit
of surprising Parvati while she was bathing.
One day Parvati decided to create for herself a son to keep Shiva from
surprising her. She formed him out of
oils and dirt from her bath and set him to guarding the door. When Shiva came to surprise Parvati, he found
Ganesha there guarding the door. The two
fought and Shiva chopped off Ganesha's head.
When Parvati emerged from her bath and found her son dead, she was very
grieved and began to mourn. Shiva ,
feeling badly, took the head of the first creature he found and used it to
restore Ganesha to life.
Vishnu/Shanee Birth/Head Myth: Parvati wanted a child so badly she
petitioned Vishnu for one. Vishnu took
pity on her and formed her a son out of some of his own substance. When the child was born, all the other gods
and goddesses came to see him and to congratulate Parvati. Shanee however would not look at the child or
anyone else. Irritated, Parvati asked
him why and he explained that his wife, in a fit of jealousy, had cursed him
that whoever he looked at would die.
Arrogantly, Parvati bragged that her son was immune to this and insisted
that Shanee look at him. As soon as Shanee's
gaze fell on the boy's face his head flew from his body and reverted the
substance returned to Vishnu. Furious,
Parvati cursed Shanee with lameness and then began to wail loudly. Vishnu took the head of the first creature he
found and with the help of Brahma brought the child back to life.
Heaven/Hell Birth Myth: The gods realized that mortals were
avoiding going to hell by visiting the shrine of Somnath. As a result, heaven was getting overcrowded
and hell was without occupants. Not
knowing what to do, they brought the matter before Shiva , who sent them to
Parvati. Upon being petitioned, Parvati
began to rub her body and produced a son with four arms and an elephant's
head. This son would create obstacles
for those desiring to go to heaven and thus allow only the worthy in.
Shiva's Ego Birth/Head Myth: All the gods and sages came to
Shiva with the problem of how to create obstacles for mankind. They asked him to solve the problem since he
was the only one capable of creating a being that could handle it. So Shiva pondered how he could best fill this
request and while he was pondering, out of his great ego sprang up a beautiful
and radiant young man. When Parvati saw
him she was jealous and in her jealousy she cursed him to be ugly and fat and
the perpetrator of success and failure.
And instantly he took on the head of an elephant and his stomach became
fat. And thus the gods and sages were
provided with their answer.
Tusk Myth: One day Parasurama came to visit Shiva . When he tried to enter Shiva 's abode, Ganesha
stopped him and told him that Shiva was asleep and had asked not to be
disturbed. Parasurama was impatient
however, and tried to push past Ganesha and see Shiva anyway. Ganesha again stopped him and the two started
fighting. Ganesha picked up Parasurama
in his trunk and threw him. Parasurama
in response threw his ax at Shiva and it broke off one of Ganesha's tusks. It was at this point that Parvati entered and
seeing what Parasurama, had done to her son, she began to curse him. But Brahma intervened on his behalf and
promised her that the loss of a tusk would not hinder her son's power.
Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya both fell in love with Siddhi and Buddhi and
agreed that whichever of them won a race around the world, won the ladies. Kartikeya immediately started out, but
Ganesha remained at home. When Kartikeya
returned, Ganesha used his knowledge of geography and literature to prove to
Kartikeya that he, Ganesha, had completed the trip first. By the time the fraud was discovered by
Kartikeya it was too late.
Riding Animal: Mouse/Rat
Siddhi and Buddhi
Other References on the Karma-to-Grace website:
Rat in the Temple. Fire walker discovers
his penance was paid.
Winfried Neighboring Faiths . Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 1998.
Danliélou, Alain. The Myths and Gods of India . Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1991.
Thomas, P. Epics, Myths
and Legends of India. Bombay, India: D. B. Taraporevala Sons &
Co. Private Ltd, 1961.
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