Mahodara is listed as the third incarnation of Lord Ganesha in Mudgala Purana. Ganesha took this form to defeat the demon who went by the name Mohasura. Mohasura represents delusion or confusion caused by attachment and attraction to material possessions.
Lord Shiva often used to meditate in forests detaching himself from the material world. Once, he had gone into a meditative state for ages. No one knew when he would return to the physical world. Meanwhile, the gods required Lord Shiva’s guidance. They went to Kailash mountains and asked Goddess Parvati to intervene.
To invoke Shiva, Parvati took an alluring form. Due to this, Shiva woke up to the material world. Later, Parvati had cast aside the ‘alluring’ form. The abandoned energy came together and turned into a demon, Mohasura.
After some time, the demon came into the company of sage Shukracharya. The sage was always at war with the gods. He wanted to avenge Tarakasura, who was killed by Ganesha’s brother Kartikeya.
Acting upon Shukracharya’s advice, Mohasura prayed to Surya, the Sun god. He pleased the Sun god and achieved a boon from him. Empowered, he conquered the three worlds. Mohasura was known as DaityaRaj(King of Demons).
Gods had to leave the heavens to save themselves from Mohasura. Humans were terrified of his wrath. Everyone was running for their lives under Mohasura’s hellish rule. Helpless, the gods went to Surya, asking for guidance. Surya advised them to invoke Mahodara. Thus, they appealed to Mahodara, pleading to him for their rescue.
Hearing their prayers, Lord Ganesha materialized as Mahodara. He assured them that he would restore the balance in all three worlds. Sitting on Mushaka, he went to battle Mohasura. The demon was somewhat astonished to see an elephant-headed deity had come to battle him. Both of them were created by Parvati. They fought tooth and nail. It was impossible to tell who would win. Eventually, with his wisdom, Mahodara got the upper hand in this fight.
As Mohasura started losing the battle, Shukracharya told him to surrender and ask for forgiveness. He submitted to Mahodara. But Mahodara did not budge. Mohasura promised to keep away from Swargaloka(heavens).
Mahodara accepted his apology and pardoned him for his sins. He sentenced Mohasura to remain in Patal Loka(netherworld) for the rest of his life. Ganesha gave the heavens to the gods. People could carry on with their lives without worry. By defeating Mohasura, he restored peace on earth. Sages, gods, and men were singing the praises of Lord Ganesha’s win.
This story shows us how attachment to material things could cause great disorder in our life.
Symbolism of Mahodar
Mahodara, the Sanskrit word, translates to a big belly. It points to the big belly of Ganesha. In many texts, sculptures, and devotional music, he is described with his vast frame. The full belly shows a satisfied and relaxed state of mind.
It is also said that a person with a potbelly owns wealth and also enjoys good health. He doesn’t lead a stressful life.