Ganesha, the beloved elephant-headed deity, has been a reason for joy in Indian households as he is widely known for prosperous beginnings and removal of obstacles. From his introduction in Rigveda, the sacred Hindu text to his depiction in popular culture like cinema, Ganesha’s stories have always fascinated us, most prominently that of his birth.
There are many stories out there that tell us about Ganesha’s origins. But the most popular one begins with God Shiva’s other half, his wife Goddess Parvati. Once when Parvati was taking a bath, she had asked Nandi to guard the cave’s opening so that nobody would disturb her privacy. But seeing Lord Shiva coming this way, Nandi undermined Parvati’s orders as Mahadev was her husband and let him through. Seeing Shiva in her private chambers without permission, Parvati was embarrassed. She knew that Ganas, Shiva’s followers would never obey her orders.
One day when Shiva was away, Parvati rubbed herself with sandalwood, turmeric, and oil. She scraped off the dried mixture which also contained a part of her. From that mixture, she created a human form and breathed life into it. She told the young boy that she was his mother and he was to guard her bathing chambers while she was bathing. He shouldn’t allow anyone to enter while she was bathing. Thus the young boy stood guard at the entrance of the cave.
Shortly after, Shiva returned from his journey and came to see his wife, he was astonished to see his path was blocked by a young boy. Shiva was unaware that the boy in front of him was his own. He warned the boy to let him through but he flatly refused and told Shiva that no one was allowed to enter. Seeing the boy’s persistence and the dismissal of his authority, Shiva was infuriated. True to his name, the destroyer, Shiva raised his trident and severed the boy’s head from his body in the battle.
Parvati arrived from the cave and saw her child lying lifeless on the ground with his head cut off. Her sorrow came out in the form of anger. She went blind with rage, threatening to destroy everything. Shiva felt a sudden loss when he learned the true identity of the young boy he killed. To pacify Parvati, Shiva asked his followers to bring him the head of the first living thing they see in the wilderness. They brought the head of an elephant calf as it was the first creature they had seen. Shiva placed the elephant’s head on his son’s body and with his powers, brought him to life. Parvati, overjoyed, held her son in her arms.
Many gods and goddesses were present there to see this miracle. In front of them, Shiva appointed him as the leader of his Ganas by naming him Ganesha which is a Sanskrit compound of the words Gana(Group of Shiva’s followers) and Isha(Lord or Master).
There have been speculations that Shiva put one of his Gana’s head on Ganesha’s body. But as time went by the tale was replaced with the myth of an elephant’s head. Whichever way Lord Ganesha might have come to life, he has blessed us with his innocent, witty, and adventurous stories.