The Legend of Ganesha

Mysteries unraveled, lessons learnt, countless hours spent on rumination and with each passing year a new perspective gained on the original legend is a perception on Hindu festivals not to forget the goodness of all the food.

I love stories. Who doesn’t? Especially the kind that are passed on by previous generations over dinner table conversations. The person regaling the audience taking their own sweet time to build the momentum, creating anticipation, pausing at the most inopportune moments and finally wrapping it all up in a beautiful bundle. Mysteries unraveled, lessons learnt, countless hours spent on rumination and with each passing year, a new perspective gained on the original legend.

The Birth of Ganesha

There are several versions, at least four that I am aware of, of how Lord Ganesha was created, but the one that appeals to me the most is where Parvati creates him. Legend has it that Nandi, the bull and the bodyguard for Shiva is asked to not allow anyone inside the house whilst Parvati goes for her daily bath. Nandi, unable to refuse Shiva allows him in at his request. This causes anger and resentment in Parvati for she finds that she has no one as loyal to her as to Shiva. Not one to bow down, she goes on to create her own; a little young boy out of turmeric and asks him to guard the doors whilst she follows her ritual.

Hindu God Ganesha. Ganesha Idol.

Soon enough, Shiva arrives and expresses his desire to go inside his own house. The little boy, having been told otherwise refuses Shiva the permission for same. Angered, Shiva sends his entourage to fight the boy. In no time, Shiva’s army is defeated. Realising that this is no ordinary boy Shiva himself takes up his weapons and slays the the boy, chopping off his head. Parvati, by now having finished her bath returns to find her little boy slain and lying on the floor.

Deeply angered, Parvati vows to cause destruction everywhere for the wrong that has occurred. By now, Shiva whose anger has subsided, pleads with Parvati to calm down. She agrees to do so on two conditions; firstly asking that her boy be brought back to life and that he should always be prayed to first before offering prayers to any other God giving him the status of Ganapati i.e., ‘The Lord of all’. Shiva sends the Creator Brahma to bring the head of the first being he finds in the North direction and thus the elephant is the first to be found whose head is fixed to the little boy and he is brought to life.

The instinct to protect her own creation to such an extent that not only was she willing to pick cudgels up against the Creator and the Trinity but also, that they had to drop down on their knees is an extremely powerful message.

A similarity between all of us is our love for food. Legend has it that once brought back to life there were huge offerings made of coconuts, bananas, laddoos, modaks, undrallu, gujiyas. Having had a hearty meal, Ganesha was going on a ride on his Mooshika (mouse), perhaps an example of a simple existence, when he slips, somersaults and falls on the floor and his tummy splits wide open causing all the food to roll down on the ground.

maharashtrian festival food, sweet modak, made up of coconut

As a child I thought this a hilarious scene and I do not blame the moon for thinking so too. But, mothers! Parvati would not have any of it and, angered that her son was being laughed at and bullied by the moon she lands him a curse saying that, whoever sees the moon on this fourth (Chaturthi) of Bhadra (September) will be falsely accused or go through apaninda with repercussions.

At this point, all the Gods complained and requested a way out. So, Parvati agreed, saying as long as on this day, one took a bath, offered prayers and prasad to Ganesha along with listening to the story of Samantakamani, even if they did see the moon, the effect will be nullified.

Don’t you love the way mythology operates with so many get-out clauses?

The Story of SamantakaMani

One day, in Dwaparayug, Krishna, the cowherd was milking a cow when he sees the reflection of moon in the bowl of milk he begins to drink. Realising that he will soon be falsely accused he braces himself for the repercussions. (At this point I have always wondered, how Parvati asked to listen to the story even before it actually took place!) Never mind, it does get interesting.

Satrajit, a Yadava nobleman, father of Satyabhama and a devotee of sun- god was given the glorius Samantaka gem. Krishna had once asked Satrajit for the same and Satrajit had refused him. Instead, he gave it to his brother Prasenjit who wore it and went on a hunting expedition. Prasenjit dies after a scuffle with a lion in the forest. The disappearance of Prasenjit in mysterious circumstances makes all suspect Krishna as the culprit due to the Samantaka jewel. Krishna realises the reason for this accusation and decides to disprove everyone.

Closeup of Indian God and Goddess Sri krisna and Radha Idol for sale in the market

Krishna on reaching the forest, finds Prasenjit’s skeleton, a dead lion, and a few yards away a bear and his children playing with the jewel. Refusing to give the jewel to Krishna, the father bear, Jambavant fights for 28 days with Krishna and finally realises that he is fighting reincarnated Vishnu. He drops his weapons, gives his daughter Jambavati’s hand in marriage to Krishna along with the jewel.

Krishna returns the jewel to Satrajit. Satrajit, too realises his mistake and offers his daughter Satyabhama’s hand in marriage to Krishna who gladly accepts and all is well again in the world. Although, it began as difficult times eventually the episode was a blessing in disguise for Krishna.

The way I see it

His simple existence (no fancy chariots), his desire for food making him as mortal as all of us, his wit and ability for problem solving (remember the three rotations of his parents!), loved by one and all, isn’t he a true mascot of peace and harmony?

Do you share such stories with the younger generation? What new things could you share with us? Do write in the comments below.