Lord Ganesha as We Know Him

September 1, 2011

Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated all over the country with religious fervour. The festival is celebrated when the Chitra Nakshatra falls on the Chaturthi Tithi (fourth day ) in the first half of the Bhadrapada month, the day on which Ganapathi is believed to be born. According to scriptures, the Ganapati we invoke today is potbellied, has a long nose, small eyes, large ears, is short in stature, has a face of an elephant and has four hands. He holds a pasha, ankusha, modaka and kapitha (a fruit ), in that order, in his hands and drapes around his waist. He ties snake around his potbelly, legs, arms, hands and neck as ornaments and has a mouse for his vehicle.

Lord Ganesha teaches a lesson of harmony and reconciliation through his physical appearance. Just introspect the contrasts in Ganesha which in turn teaches us about the need for co-ordination, for instance, small eyes on larger head.
Ganesha having a mighty body, selected the small mouse as his vehicle. Meanwhile, both serpent and mouse live together with Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha has no barriers. The most revered among gods, Ganesha has donned all possible roles and adopted forms, so much so that the thought of the lord sets ones imagination on fire. But how many of us know the real Ganesha, except perhaps the story of how he got his elephant head ? in this month of Ganesha Chaturthi, I share some intresting Ganesha tales with you, on the condition you narrate them to your friends, even your parents, so that more people get to know and love him and not just worship him for selfish reasons. my Ganesha is no cosmic bell who answers to the ringing of a temple bell, every time a devotee wants a favour from him.


The curse on the moon on Chaturthi day

Why is it that we are asked not to see the moon on Ganesha Chaturthi day? As the story goes:

On Ganesha's birthday, his mother Parvati, knowing her son's weakness for food, especially sweets, had arranged a huge feast, and Ganesha unable to restrain himself, ate and ate, enjoying every morsel of the modaks, pedas and other 21 goodies. He stuffed himself so much that his belly was ready to burst and he found it difficult to get up and walk. He mounted his vehicle, the mouse, and as they were trudging along the moonlit path, the little mouse trying to balance his overfed master, a snake tried to slither past them, tripping the mouse and toppling Ganesha. As the elephant god fell, his stuffed belly opened up and all the goodies fell out. Ganesha quickly picked them all up and stuffed them back into his stomach. He then took the snake which was the cause of all this trauma and tied it around his waist as a girdle to hold his potbelly. And the rodent and the lord continued their journey.

The silent of the night was interrupted by incessant laughter. Ganesha looked up into the skies to see the moon and his 27 star wives laughing at the sight he made.

Angry, Ganesha broke his trunk and aimed it at the fickle moon. As soon as the trunk hit the cackling Chandra, it lost all its luster. Ganesha moved on. When a tear fell on Ekadanta, he heard the moon crying and apologizing in repentance. The lord agreed to tone down his punishment. "You'll shine, but never steadily. You'll wax and wane," he declared and went on to utter the curse that whosoever saw the moon on Chaturthi day, would be misunderstood, disgraced and a bad omen would befall upon him. In fact, it is said that once lord Krishna happened to glance on the Chaturthi moon and found himself being accused of theft. But then, that's another story !

Food, Lord Kubera and Ganesha

Kubera, the lord of wealth, was extremely proud of his riches and to display the same, he invited all the gods for a lavish dinner including baby Ganesha.

Even before all his guests could come in for the dinner, Ganesha was hungry. Lord Kubera smiled. There was food of all kinds to satisfy every palate, and in abundance, he informed the child god. After all, he thought to himself this party was being hosted to show off. Accompanying Ganesha to the kitchen, Kubera magnanimously asked him to help himself. Once the elephant god began eating, he couldn't stop himself. Not only did he finish off all the food in the kitchen, but even threatened to eat up Alkapuri, Kubera's abode and swallow the lord of wealth.

Horrified, Kubera ran to Ganesha's father, Shiva and falling at his feet, begged him to do something. Shiva then gave a hand full of grain and some durva (grass) to Ganesha, to eat. Immediately, the son was satiated and Ganesha grinned as he felt his full belly.

Kubera stared at the father and son in amazement. Ganesha looked at the disbelief written on Kubera's face and said "Just a handful of grain fed with love and eaten with devotion, is more satisfying than your lavish dinner." Kubera understood his foolishness and asked for Ganesha‘s forgiveness. The benevolent child god smiled. And all was well.

The competition between brothers

Once, lord Shiva and Parvati decided that it was time for their sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya to marry. But who should marry first? So Shiva and Parvati held a competition between the two brothers - whoever circled the universe first, would be married off first. Kartikeya boarded his vehicle, the peacock, and flew off without wasting a second.

While Kartikeya was already on his way to encircling the universe, Ganesha, much to his parents' surprise made them sit down on a flowered deck. He sang their praise and offered them sweets, rice, grains, coconuts and flowers. And when he saw them looking pleased and smiling, he started walking around them, circling their deck, chanting shlokas in their praise. Both Shiva and Parvati, though happy with their son's adulation and devotion, wondered what this was all about and why Ganesha was wasting his time instead of putting in an effort to win the race. After all Kartikeya and his peacock had taken off a long time ago and Ganesha with his mount, the mouse was already at a disadvantage as they would be very slow.

Ganesha continued encircling his parents and when he completed seven rounds, he stood before them and announced; "I have won! Where's my bride?" Shiva and Parvati told him that there was no question of him winning as he had not even started the race as yet.

Ganesha smiled. “You are my entire universe," he told his parents. "Even the Shastas and the Vedas say that." He explained quoting, "Seven revolutions around one's parents in a single day by a devoted son are equivalent to one revolution of the universe." Shiva and Parvati were proud of their son's knowledge and conceded that Ganesha had won the race.

Preparations were made for his wedding to two sisters - Riddhi (wisdom) and Siddhi (success). Ganesha was not only married, but he was even the father of two sons - Labha (highest wealth) and Kshemba (protector of wealth). When his brother Kartikeya flew back on his peacock and realized how easily Ganesha had won the race, he is said to have been so enraged that he decided to remain a bachelor and retreat to a mountain far away, from his family. However another folk lore says that even Kartikeya married to two girls - Valli and Devasena.

But nobody will ever forget how Ganesha used his wit and knowledge to win and turn his disadvantages into major advantages.

So, remember and do not forget, if you want obstacles out of your way, if you want your venture to be a success, worship Ganesha first. He'll take care of the insurmountable.

By Deepak Shet
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Comment on this article

  • Shaleen, Mangalore

    Sat, May 26 2012

    Devaki, Shekhar Moily,

    Being from same religion/ doing same practices, if you not find the true reason behind it means, you are not hurting others sentiments but showing your ill-literacy and ignorance towards your religion. Problem with you people is you haven't read your holybook!!! Go read it first.

  • Raghav, Banglore

    Wed, Oct 19 2011

    Really nice about topic discussed and given valid understandings.

  • Shekar Moily Padebettu, Padebettu/Udipi

    Thu, Sep 08 2011

    I fully agree with your points.Total confusion.Now a days there are plenty of
    groups,Dharmas,rituals,Pseudo/fake Sadhus,preachings etc leading us in a wrong way.But bottom line is we are no where.Which one to be believed,which one not to be believed.Totally in a mess.Someday says that is good,another man says this is good.We the one who run after everything for nothing,final result is despair.As you said this is not to hurt anybody's sentiments.Only personal feelings.Believe strongly in yourself first and then if you want believe any one of the God you believe most.Jai Ho

  • Mohan H Naik, Mangaluru

    Fri, Sep 02 2011

    Devaki ,It may be a an isolated case with you. But our epics and mythology has inspired many great souls including Mahatma Gandhiji. I remember, reading stories of suras and asuras in child hood, I learnt about good and bad. All these readings/stories imprinted a beautiful picture in the mind. I agree with you, if you look with scientific point of view, everything looks untrue. But what is true for one is also untrue for others and vice versa. So lets just follow, what seems to be true to our heart and do not hurt fellow human beings, even though, they opine the other way.
    One may also enjoy the freedom to contemplate almighty, the way he wishes, lets not forget this ultimate truth.
    We do not loose anything by participating in their joy. But, other hand the joy of sharing happiness just can’t be expressed.

  • Tamizhselvam, Ayyampetai

    Thu, Sep 01 2011

    Dear Devaki Gurupura, it is your understanding of Hindu philosophy that is rife with confusion and error. The gods are nothing more than manifestations of different aspects of Brahman, as represented in folk mythology. The essential philosophy of Hinduism is that the universal, transcendental, and supreme spirit embodied in Brahman is manifested in each and every one of us. The practices of devotion, meditation, and yoga are meant to awaken us to the fact that we all emanate from that one source. This is why the caste system is absolutely wrong and must be destroyed. We must learn to love each other as we do ourselves. That's it. There is no 'confusion' in Hindu philosophy.

  • Aryan B, Mangalore

    Thu, Sep 01 2011

    Devaki Gurupura, Mangalore/Bombay
    I fully agree with you . Very sensible thoughts..But faith always makes one (even people well educated) blind to find the truth...At the end of the day let's not hurt the sentiments of the particular religion..

  • Devaki Gurupura, Mangalore/Bombay

    Thu, Sep 01 2011

    Nice topic and article.Being Hindu we must know the fact that these Gods are Epic,born from mythology.Our religion is full of confusion and 33 crore Gods and Goddesses fighting for own glory and place for dominion ! What about us ? our end and where do we go?This is my personal feeling and not intend to hurt anyone. I am 46 years old and came to the point that all these ceremonies and poojas take us nowhere !

  • Nancy, Gurgaon

    Wed, Aug 31 2011

    WOW Nice article. I had heard d last story from my grand parents but some were new... I would tell the same stories to my frnds now... Thanks

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