Ganpati or Ganapati is also called as Gajanana which means the one with an elephant head. Out of all the Hindu gods we commonly know, I find his head very peculiar. Since he is what we call ‘our family god’ I have been very curious about his appearance since a kid. How did he end up with an elephant head? This is my most favourite part amongst all interesting Ganesha stories.
Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s wife and Ganapati’s mother wanted someone to keep guard as she went for a bath. She used turmeric paste that she has applied to her body and a moulded a son for herself. Some versions of this story say that she used her body dirt to make the body of her son.
She asked him to guard the doorway and not let anyone in until she asks him. As she goes for the bath Shiva appears at the doorway. In order to obey his mother Ganesh does not allow him to enter. Shiva becomes furious and beheads Ganesh.
Parvati finds out about it and becomes angry at Shiva. She demands Shiva to bring Ganesh to life. Shiva gives into Parvati’s demands and asks his Ganas – the soldier to get the head of the first animal they find. There was one condition though. It had to be facing north. (Love the kind of detailing our mythological stories have)
Parvati’s son was thus brought to life. He was now the one with elephant head.
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What’s with Ganpati’s big belly?
After the face, the next thing a person might observe is the big protruding belly. In different versions people say it means prosperity (that is what we plump people use as an excuse for being fat) and some say it represents the universe.
There is another longish story around Kubera, who is supposedly Ravana and Kumbakaran’s half brother. He was very pompous and arrogant because of the wealth he had accumulated. In order to exhibit his wealth he called Shiva and Parvati for a dinner treat. Since Mahadev or Shiva knew of his intentions he sent Ganesha instead.
Kubera, out of his arrogance declared that Ganesha can eat how much ever he wants. There won’t be any shortage. But Ganapati’s hunger at dinner was insatiable. He kept eating from the big platters that were served to him. Kubera was soon out of food. So Ganesha started eating his furniture and other things in Kubera’s house.
Kubera ran to Shiva for help. Shiva said, the only way to stop Ganesha was to feed him with a handful of rice with humility. Kubera did as he was suggested and succeeded in stopping him from eating up the house. He also learnt an important lesson. But because of eating so much in small span of time, Ganesha got a protruding belly.
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Why does Ganpati have one broken tusk?
Ganesha is also called Ekdanta – the one-toothed, because he has one broken tusk.
The story related to this has a reference to Mahabharata. Ved Vyas, was to write Mahabharata. He asked Ganesha is he would help him write it down as he narrates the epic story. Ganapati agreed instantly.
There was a condition though. Ved Vyas would continuously narrate the story. Ganesha has to first understand and only then write it and not take down mere dictations. Ganpati realised that this is no ordinary story and thought that no pen could be apt enough to write it down. He broke one of his tusks and started writing.
There are a lot of versions for this though. Some said he lost the tooth in a fight with Pashuram. Ganpati did not fight it out of respect for the weapon Parush (axe) bestowed to Parshuram by his father Shiva. Instead he took it on the tusk when Parshuram threw it on him while he was guarding the door.
Some say he broke the tooth because actual pen broke while writing Mahabharata and he was not supposed to stop while Ved Vyas narrated.
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There are so many stories about Ganapati that are very interesting but I cannot put them in one article. Do share your favourite ones. Happy Ganesh Festival everyone!