Ganesh — Vighna vinayak — the destroyer of obstacles.
There are many legends surrounding the Elephant God scattered around Vedic verses and the Puranas. Different versions of tales make sure that the fascination about Ganpati doesn’t dwindle. Some of the stories are as significant today as they were in the old times.
The Birth of Ganesh and the elephant head
Goddess Parvati, once alone at home, created Ganesh out of her cleansing paste, and told him to stand guard while she took a bath. Ganesh being devoted stood guard refusing to even let Shiva inside who was unaware of Ganesh’s motive.
Soon heavy battle ensued as both Gods refused to relent. Shiva in his anger threw his Trishul at the young boy, and his head was immediately cut off/severed and flung afar.
Parvati was aghast and bereaved when she saw her son lying dead at the hands of her husband. To console her Shiva sent out his army in search of the first head that can restore their son. They found the head of a dying elephant and the head was attached. He blew life into the young elephant headed god and blessed him with wisdom and strength.
Shani and the birth of Ganesh
Another story about the birth of Ganesh is that Parvati prayed to Vishnu for one year for a child. Lord Vishnu bestowed the goddess with a son, and all the Gods and Goddesses came together to celebrate the birth of the child.
Shani, the son of Surya (Sun God) was reluctant as he was cursed with a destroying glance. But at insistence of other Gods, he looked and immediately the child lost his head.
To save the child Shiva went looking for another head. He found a dying elephant who offered his head to the lord. Shiva immediately joined the headless body of the child with that of the elephant’s and Gajanan (One with the face of an elephant, another name for Ganesh) was brought back to life.
The Story of Vakratunda
Matsaryasur, a demon once meditated and chanted to Shiva to grant him immortality. Pleased with his devotion Shiva blessed Matsaryasur that he shall not be destroyed by any human, God or demon. Drunk with power and fearless of death, the asur soon conquered the three worlds — heaven, earth, and paataal.
He started to create problems for Srishti (creation) altogether. The gods prayed for mercy so they could be saved from the atrocities of the demon. Finally Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, took the form of Vakratunda and captured Matsaryasur.
In fear of Ganesh’s immense strength, Matsara begged for forgiveness. The Vakratunda form forgave him and set him free on the condition that he will not trouble the Gods again. Peace was restored once again in the three lokas.
Ganesh and the Cursed Moon
Ganapati was once offered a lot of laddus (modaks) and was unable to walk after eating all of them. He started to ride his Vaahan the Mooshak (mouse). Suddenly a snake appeared on the way. The mouse frightened by the snake started running away and Ganesh fell off.
Amused by all this the Moon mocked the young God. In anger Ganesh broke away one of his tusks and threw it at the moon, breaking it off, and cursed him that within 15 days the moon will fade away. He also said that whoever saw the moon on Ganesh Chathurthi would be mocked and falsely accused.
Terrified the Moon prayed to Shiva, who made the curse lighter and said that with the beginning of every month the curse will work and the moon will fade, and in the next 15 days the moon will get back its brightness.
The Pride of Kuber
Kuber, the lord of wealth, was proud and disdainful of Shiva due to his poverty and simple life. To mock him further he invited Shiva to eat at his palace at a feast with other Gods and Goddesses.
Shiva declined but offered that Ganesh (his son) go instead. Kuber was happy to accept, and invited the young Ganesh for the feast.
Ganesh asked for food as soon as he reached the feast. Kuber gave him tasty servings of dishes. Ganesh finished his food and asked for more. Kuber gave him a second helping and then a third. Soon all the food prepared for all the guests was over, and Ganesh still asked for more. Soon Ganesh had devoured all the food in Kuber’s kitchen and went for the food in the city. Kuber was aghast, and frightened that if Ganesh was not appeased soon, he will destroy the entire city. He ran to Kailash and begged Shiva for a solution.
Shiva told him to give a handful of roasted rice to Ganesh, but with humility and love. Kuber fell at Ganesh’s feet and gave him the offering, thus also burying his pride.
The Story of Kaveri
South India was stricken with drought and Agastya Muni started praying at Kailash to Shiva for relief. Shiva gave some of the holy Ganga water flowing from his hair to the sage to help south India. Agastya held the water in a pot and carried on his journey to the south.
The sage reached south india after a strenuous journey and stooped to rest. Unknown to him, the young Ganesh had followed him. Curious he took the form of a crow and tipped the pot. The water touched the land and blossomed into a river. And lord Ganesh blessed the land that the water will not dry again, hence saving the land and the people.
The place of origin of Kavery is called Taalkaveri. Kaveri is also called ‘Ganga of the south’ for the same reason.
Ganesh and his universe
Once the gods gave Parvati a Modak of wisdom and knowledge to give to her son, on the condition that it cannot be split. Parvati was in a fix and asked Shiva for help. The God and Goddess decided to test their children so they could be fair.
They asked both their sons, Kartik (also called Skanda or Murugan) and Ganapati to encircle the universe three times and whoever wins shall win the Modak.
Kartik immediately rode out on his peacock to encircle the universe. Ganesh simply rode on his mouse and took three rounds of his parents knowing that the two constitute the entire cosmology.
Happy with his love and devotion Shiva and Parvati gave the Laddu to the young Ganesh, who is known as the god of knowledge and wisdom.
Ganesh and Mahabharat
The great sage Vyaas wanted to write the epic Mahabharat and wanted someone to write it as he dictates. He prayed to Ganesh and pleaded him to write it as he dictates.
Ganesh agreed but on one condition. He said that he will write it only if the sage does not stop composing it. Vyaas was in a dilemma, nevertheless he asked the Lord that he agrees but on the condition that Ganesh promised to understand every verse before he wrote it down.
Rishi Vyaas made some complex compositions for Ganesh to write down, and as the God took is time to understand those verses before writing, the sage composed the next few lines.
Thus the epic was written.