In this article, I will be recounting some of the most famous as well as some of the lesser known stories about Lord Ganesha; how he got his elephant head, how he got the mouse as a vahana (vehicle) and how he came to be known as Ekadanta.
Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. His mount is Mooshak, a mouse. In his hand, he carries his favourite delicacy a Modak, a rice ball with a sweet filling made from coconut and jaggery. He is the destroyer of obstacles and the God of wisdom. No ritual commences without seeking his blessings first, as he paves the path for success. According to some Itihasas, he is married to Siddhi and Buddhi and in others, he is known to be celibate.
The Birth of Ganesha
Once, Parvati set out to have a bath. She made Nandi, Lord Shiva’s vehicle, stand guard in front of the door. Shiva then came home. Nandi being faithful to Shiva, naturally let him in. Parvati was displeased. She wanted someone who was faithful to her as Nandi was to Shiva.
Parvati set out for her bath once again while Shiva had gone to do meditation and yoga. Before going to bathe, Parvati rubbed her skin until it became red. With the dirt that fell from her body, she formed a beautiful boy and breathed life into it. She then instructed the boy to stand outside and to not let anyone in. Shiva, having returned from his yogic activities was surprised seeing a young boy standing in front of his own house. At first, he requested the boy to move aside, but the boy did not. Furious, Shiva sent his army of Ganas, which the boy defeated with ease. Then, Shiva himself marched with his trident and chopped the boy’s head off. Hearing the commotion, Parvati rushed to the scene outside and wept and wailed. Shiva, after calming down, realized his mistake. He ordered his Ganas to head north and to bring the first creature they come across. The Ganas brought an elephant head and Shiva attached it to the boy’s body. The boy came back alive. The Gods showered numerous blessings on the boy. He was named the head of the Ganas. That is why he is named Ganesha.
The reason why Ganesha loves Modak
As I explained before, Modak is a rice based sweet with a coconut and jaggery filling. The reason why Ganesha loves Modaks is this story: Once, the divine family was invited for a meal at Devi Anasuya’s house. The devi declared that she would serve food to others only after Ganesha’s hunger was satiated. As expected, Ganesha kept asking for more food. At the end of his meal, he was given a Modak. After eating it, he let out a loud burp of satisfaction. This also caused Lord Shiva to burp 21 times. Parvati was surprised by the sight and asked Devi Anasuya for the recipe. She also declared that Ganesha’s devotees must offer 21 Modaks for Ganesh Chaturthi; one Modak for each burp that Shiva let out.
Another version says that Parvati’s mother loved to make food for her grandson, Ganesha. Since Ganesha’s hunger could be easily satisfied, she thought of making Modaks since it took less time to make.
One of the Puranas states that a Gandharva named Krauncha was cursed to become a mouse because he accidentally stepped on a rishi’s foot. Due to his large stature, Krauncha the mouse
started wreaking havoc everywhere. Ganesha then caught a hold of him and as for his punishment, he would be Lord Ganesha’s vahana (vehicle). Once Ganesha sat on the mouse, it was too heavy for Krauncha to bear. He begged Ganesha to become lighter in weight so that he could carry Ganesha easily to which Ganesha readily agreed.
Another version talks about how an asura named Gajamukhasur was turned into a mouse after Ganesha defeated him.
Ganesha is also known as Ekadanta which means “one tooth” but here, “one tusk”. Again, there are two versions of how Ganesha has only one tusk.
Vedavyas wanted to find a scribe who could write the Mahabharat continuously without stopping. He did intense penance to Lord Brahma who advised him to pray to Lord Ganesha and to request him to become his scribe. Vedavyas did as he was told. Ganesha agreed to do the job but on the condition that Vedavyas would never pause or take a break. Vedavyas set a counter condition that Ganesha should write every verse that was being recited only after he fully understood it. This allowed Vedavyas to take a breath in between. Ganesha began writing. As he wrote, his quill broke and instead of finding another quill, he broke his own tusk and used it as a pen to continue writing.
In the second version, Ganesha was asked to stand guard at the door by Lord Shiva, who wanted some peace and quiet to himself. He did not wish to see anyone during that time. Parashurama (Lord Vishnu’s avatar) visited Kailash. He was stopped by Ganesha at the door of Lord Shiva’s house. A fierce battle commenced between the two. In a fit of anger, Parashuram threw his axe at Ganesha. Seeing that the axe was a gift that his father had given to Parashuran, Ganesha refused to defend himself as a mark of respect towards his father.
There are many stories about Ganesha which we may not know such as the fact that Ganesha had eight incarnations so that he could conquer demons who were manifestations of negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, greed, and so on.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Lord Ganesha. Thank you for reading!
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