Ganesh is one of the most popular gods in India and for a significant part of the population living in Western parts of India especially Maharashtra it is the most revered deity.
People who are not familiar with Ganesh are intrigued when they look for the first time at his form with an elephant head.
In this post I will covering how did Ganesh get the famous elephant head and what is so special about him that he is one of the most widely worshipped gods in India.
Why does Ganesh have a Elephant head?
There are several stories linked to the birth of Ganesh but the one which is most widely accepted across India is the one where Maa Parvati is going for a bath but she realizes that Nandi who normally guards their home is not there. She creates Ganesh in the form of a little boy using turmeric and brings it to life using her powers.
She instructs Ganesh to not allow anyone inside the house while she is taking a bath. Just as Ganesh goes to the door he soon notices Shiva walking towards the house. Shiva is surprised to see a boy that he does not recognize at the door of his house and asks Ganesh to move away as he wants to go inside. Ganesh replies that he can’t let anyone inside and despite repeated attempts by Shiva he does not let him in.
After a while Shive loses his temper and strikes Ganesh with the trident on his head. The blow is so powerful that the head of Ganesh gets severed and he falls motionless to the ground. Hearing the commotion Parvati comes out and sees the lifeless body of Ganesh. She is overcome with grief and anger and takes on a ferocious form and decides to destroy the entire world. The gods get really anxious looking at this fearsome form of Parvati and approach Bramha to resolve the situation before everything gets destroyed.
Bramha approaches Parvati and manages to calm her down with the assurance that he will help bring Ganesh back to life. Bramha then instructs Shiva to go in the north direction and get head of the first animal that he encounters on the way. Shiva finds a white elephant and gets his head which is then placed on Ganesh and Bramha brings him back to life.
Bramha also gives a boon to Ganesh that no Vedic ritual or auspicious activity will be successful unless it is started by invoking the name of Ganesh at the beginning.
Why does Ganesh have a Pot belly?
Ganesh is always depicted with a big round pot belly and is usually seen with a plate full of laddoos around him. In fact one of his popular names is Lambodar which means one with a big stomach. There is an interesting story related to the insatiable appetite of Ganesh.
Kuber who is god of wealth had become very arrogant of the incredible wealth he possessed and one day he organized a lavish feast and invited Lord Shiva to impress him. Shiva decided to teach Kuber a lesson and said that he can not come as he is fasting but will send his little boy Ganesh on his behalf. Shiva told Kuber that Ganesh likes to eat a lot so he should arrange sufficient provisions. Kuber looked at Ganesh and though to himself how much exactly can a little boy eat.
Next day when the feast started Ganesh started devouring plates after plates of food at a fast pace. The staff serving the food were only focusing on Ganesh and could not attend to other guests. In some time Ganesh had eaten all the food that had been prepared. He was still hungry and asked for more food. Kuber told him that all the food he had prepared was already served to him. Ganesh got angry and said he is going to eat up his entire palace if he is not given more food and started eating the plates, chairs and tables.
Kuber now got really worried and rushed to Shiva. He explained the entire situation to Shiva and asked for his help. Shiva handed him a handful of puffed rice and told him that if he serves it humbly with true devotion to Ganesh his hunger will get over. Kuber did the same and was amazed when he saw that Ganesh felt full after eating that handful of puffed rice. He realized that Shiva had taught him an important lesson. If you are arrogant then no wealth in the world is sufficient for you but the moment you become humble you are happy with the bare minimum.
Why does Ganesh have a broken Tusk?
Again there are several stories related to why Ganesh has a broken tusk but the one that is most widely believed is related to the epic Mahabharat.
When Vyasa decided to write Mahabharat he asked Ganesh for help. Vyasa proposed that he will narrate the epic and Ganesh should help him write it down. Vyasa needed someone who could write tirelessly without stopping and can understand all the complex verse he was going to narrate. Ganesh was the only person he found suitable for the job. To ensure that the pen does not get finished before the epic is written completely, Ganesh broke off one of his tusk and used it as a pen.
Om Namah Shivay!
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