Ganesha (also known as Vinayagar or Ganapati) is one of the most important gods in Hindu mythology and he is also worshipped in Jainism and Buddhism. For the Ganapatya Hindu sect, Ganesha is the most important deity. Ganesha is highly recognisable with his elephant head and human body, representing the soul (atman) and the physical (maya) respectively. He is also the patron of writers, travellers, students, commerce, and new projects (for which he removes obstacles from one’s path) and is rather fond of sweets, to the slight detriment of his figure.
Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati and he is the brother of Murugan (or Subrahmanyan), the god of war. He was created by his mother using earth which she moulded into the shape of a boy.
Parvati is a form of Devi, the Parashakti (Supreme Energy). In the human body, She resides in the Muladhara chakra as the Kundalini shakti. It is said that when we purify ourselves, ridding ourselves of the impurities that bind us, then the Lord automatically comes. This is why Shiva, the Supreme Lord, came unannounced as Parvati was bathing.
Nandi, Shiva’s bull, who Parvati first sent to guard the door represents the divine temperament. Nandi is so devoted to Shiva that his every thought is directed to Him, and he is able to easily recognize the Lord when He arrives. This shows that the attitude of the spiritual aspirant is what gains access to Devi’s (the kundalini shakti’s) abode. One must first develop this attitude of the devotee before hoping to become qualified for the highest treasure of spiritual attainment, which Devi alone grants.
After Nandi permitted Shiva to enter, Parvati took the turmeric paste from Her own body, and with it created Ganesha. Yellow is the colour associated with the Muladhara chakra, where the kundalini resides, and Ganesha is the deity who guards this chakra. Devi needed to create Ganesha, who represents the earthbound awareness, as a shield to protect the divine secret from unripe minds. It is when this awareness begins to turn away from things of the world, and toward the Divine, as Nandi had, that the great secret is revealed.
As Shiva was away on his meditative wanderings, Parvati set her new son as guard while she bathed. Unexpectedly, Shiva returned home and, on finding the boy, and outraged at his impudence in claiming he was Parvati’s son, Shiva called for his gang of demons, the bhutaganas, who fought ferociously with the boy. However, the youngster easily held his own against such fearsome adversaries and Vishnu was forced to intervene in the form of Maya and, whilst the boy was distracted by her beauty, the demons, or Shiva himself, lopped off his head.
At the commotion, Parvati ran from her bath and remonstrated with Shiva for so summarily killing their son. Repentant, Shiva ordered a new head to be found for the boy and, as the first animal available was an elephant, so Ganesha gained a new head and became the most distinctive of the Hindu gods. As a reward for his great courage in fighting the demons, Shiva made Ganesha the leader of the bhutaganas, hence his name.
A story which explains the god’s association with intelligence and wisdom is his competition with Murugan to be the first to marry. They set up a challenge that whoever could first encircle the Earth would also find a bride first. Not wasting a second, Murugan swiftly mounted his blue peacock and immediately shot off around the world. Ganesha on the other hand, casually sauntered over to his parents’ house, embraced them and quoted the line from the sacred Vedas: “he who embraces his parents seven times (pradakshinas) gains the merit of encircling the world seven times”. Declared the winner, Ganesha promptly married not one but two daughters of Prajapati: Buddhi (Wisdom) and Siddhi (Success), with whom he had two sons: Kshema and Laabha.
Ganesha also has something of a reputation for greediness. One day, after eating a few too many modakas (sacrificial cakes), Ganesha decided to take a ride on his giant rat, Kroncha, to aid his digestion. However, the rat was surprised when he came across a large snake and, jumping back with fear, he threw off his mount. Ganesha landed on his full belly and it burst on hitting the ground. The cakes from his stomach rolled left, right and centre but Ganesha, unperturbed, carefully gathered them in, stuffed them all back into his belly and wound the snake around his midriff to keep it closed. Symbolic of Ganesha’s ability to overcome all obstacles, the snake, the cause of the accident in the first place, therefore provided the remedy for the damage it had caused.
Continuing on his night-ride, Ganesha suddenly heard a thunderous noise from the heavens. This was the laughing of the Moon and his wives, the twenty seven Constellations, unable to contain themselves on seeing Ganesha wrapped in a snake. Outraged, Ganesha broke off the end of one of his tusks and hurled it at the laughing Moon who, hit full in the face, was struck black. Without the light of the moon, the dark nights became the haunt of thieves and villains until honest people had had enough and pleaded with the gods to restore the silver light. The gods asked Ganesha to forgive the Moon but only a partial forgiveness was given. Consequently, only periodically, on one night, would the Moon give his full light and then he would slowly waste away.
An alternative explanation of Ganesha’s broken tusk is that of Krishna throwing his axe at Ganesha after he blocked his entrance to the private apartments of his parents Shiva and Parvati. Ganesha allowed the axe to hit and break his tusk so that no-one could say that the axe, which was in fact his father’s, was not a fearsome weapon. Yet another but less picturesque explanation of Ganesha’s broken tusk was that he snapped it off in order to transcribe the epic poem Mahabharata, dictated by the sage Vyasa who wished to preserve the story for all time. This version explains Ganesha’s association with writers and intellectuals.
Interesting Stories of Lord Ganesha for Kids
Kids may not be interested in the long pujas and worship procedures of Lord Ganesha. However, you can introduce them to various stories that surround this mythological deity and let them be awestruck by how wonderful some of them are.
1. The Story of His Birth
Let’s begin from the start with the lord Ganesha’s birth story.
Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati would stay on Mount Kailash, making it their abode. Most of the time, Shiva would be out fulfilling other responsibilities while Parvati was alone at the mountain.
One day, on such a similar occasion, Parvati had to go to take a bath and did not wish to be disturbed by anyone at all. Parvati ended up making a statue of a child from turmeric and breathed life into him. She called the child Ganesha, and he was absolutely loyal to her. She asked him to guard the home while she took a bath. Yet again, Shiva showed up and proceeded to enter the house. But this time, he was stopped by Ganesha who refused to move aside. Shiva did not know who this unknown child was so he asked his forces to destroy the child. But Ganesha had the powers bestowed on him by Parvati and defeated Shiva’s army. Shiva, known for his extreme fury, lost control on his temper and ended up beheading Ganesha.
When Parvati stepped out and saw the dead body of her creation, her fury knew no bounds. She lashed out at Shiva and threatened to destroy the entire universe as a consequence of those actions. Now, the universe was the responsibility of Bramha, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma witnessed the wrath of Parvati and apologized on behalf of Shiva to her, advising her to not destroy the universe. Parvati relented on the conditions that Ganesha be brought back to life and be worshipped as the primary God. Shiva, too, realized the mistake he committed in his rage and apologized to Parvati. He advised his troops to go into the forest and get the head of the first animal they spot. Incidentally, they came across an elephant and brought back his head. This was then placed over the body and Shiva brought him to life, also accepting him as his own son. This is how Ganesha was born as we know and is now worshipped as the god of gods.
As much as this story talks about the birth, it teaches us an important lesson on how anger can cause harm to our near and dear ones and how necessary it is to rectify our mistakes as soon as we can.
2. The Story Of The Missing Conch
This is a wonderful story that showed how even Lord Vishnu had to relent to Lord Ganesha’s antics.
Vishnu was known to have a conch with him that he kept with himself at all times. One fine day, he noticed that the conch was missing and it was nowhere to be found. This got him extremely annoyed and he rallied all his powers into finding the conch.
As the search for the conch was on, Lord Vishnu suddenly began hearing the sound of the conch emanating from a distance. He began searching for it in that direction and soon realized that the sound was coming from Mount Kailash itself. As he reached the mountain, he found out that the conch had been taken by Lord Ganesha and he was busy blowing it. Knowing that Lord Ganesha will not relent easily, he sought out Shiva and asked him to request Ganesha to return the conch back to him.
Shiva said he, too, didn’t have any power of Ganesha’s wishes and the only way to appease him is to perform a puja for him. So, Lord Vishnu did do that. He set up all the necessary elements for the puja and worshipped Ganesha with his heart. Seeing this, Ganesha was extremely pleased and he returned Vishnu’s conch back to him.
The story quite interestingly reveals the fun side to Lord Ganesha and his antics. Furthermore, it teaches us about humility by showing how God as great as Vishnu, did not hesitate to worship Ganesha.
3. The Story of Shiva’s Failed Battle
Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha have many stories together. However, this story goes beyond the relationship between father and son and teaches a very important lesson.
When the elephant head was procured and Ganesha was brought back to life, Shiva heeded Parvati’s wishes and made it a rule that before beginning any new endeavor, it was necessary to worship Lord Ganesha and get his blessings. However, Shiva forgot that the rule applied to him as well.
On one such occasion, Shiva was heading out to war with the demons and proceeded to take his entire army along with him for it. But, in the rush of leaving for the battle, he forgot to worship Ganesha first. This led to them facing many problems even before reaching the battlefield. On the way to the location of the battle, the war-carriage wheel was damaged and the progress came to a halt. This seemed like divine intervention to Shiva and he suddenly remembered that he had totally forgotten to worship Ganesha before heading for battle.
Stopping all his troops, Shiva proceeded to set up the puja then and there and completed the rituals worshipping Ganesha. With Ganesha’s blessings, Shiva proceeded ahead and he and his army were successful in defeating the demons completely.
This just goes to show that no matter who you are, once you have created a rule, it applies to everyone equally.
4. The Story Of Ganesha’s Wisdom
Lord Ganesha is called the god of knowledge and wisdom and there is a spectacular story that illustrates why it is so.
Ganesha had a younger brother called as Karthikeya. Both would get along well but, just like all other siblings, they would have moments of arguments and fights. On one such day, Ganesha and Karthikeya both ended up finding a unique fruit in the forest and grabbed it together. They refused to share it with each other and started claiming the fruit for themselves.
When they reached Mount Kailash and presented this predicament to Shiva and Parvati, Shiva made a proposition. He recognized the fruit and said that this fruit is known to grant immortality and extensive knowledge when eaten by the rightful bearer of it. To choose who gets it, Shiva proposed a challenge. He asked Ganesha and Karthikeya to circumvent their world 3 times. Whoever would do so first and return to Mount Kailash, would be the rightful owner of the fruit.
Karthikeya immediately hopped onto his pet peacock and flew speedily to complete three revolutions across the Earth. Ganesha was a little stocky compared to Karthikeya and his pet was a rat who couldn’t fly. Having listened to Shiva’s proposal properly, Ganesha started walking around Shiva and Parvati and completed three circles around them. When asked by Shiva, Ganesha replied that Shiva had asked them to circumvent their world. And for Ganesha, his parents were more than the world. They were the entire universe.
Shiva was touched and impressed by Ganesha’s wisdom and saw him as the rightful owner of the fruit.
Not only does this story give a great example of how using your wisdom can help resolve a situation smartly, but it also teaches that your parents should be given the respect and love they deserve.
5. The Story Of Parvati’s Wounds
This wonderful story is a great example of how the entire world is a single unit.
Ganesha was known to be a mischievous child and he would indulge in a number of naughty activities. One time, he came across a cat while he was playing, and proceeded to mess around with it. He picked up the cat and threw it on the ground, pulling its tail and having fun with it, while the cat meowed in pain. Ganesha failed to notice it and played around until he was tired and then came back home.
On reaching Mount Kailash, Ganesha was shocked to see Parvati lying down outside the home, with wounds all over her body, and crying in pain. Ganesha rushed to her and asked her who did this. To which Parvati replied that Ganesha himself had done this to her. The cat was actually a form of Parvati, and she wanted to play around with her son, but Ganesha treated her unfairly and ruthlessly and his actions on the cat have reflected on his own mother.
Ganesha was utterly sorry for his behaviour and took an oath to treat all animals in a gentle manner with care and affection.
This story gives a very important lesson that does unto others as you would want others to do unto you, and this also includes animals.
6. The Story Of Kubera’s Downfall
Kubera was a renowned God who was very popular for being the wealthiest of them all in the entire universe. He had a treasure trove of wealth and would hoard everything to himself with pride.
One day, he invited many guests over for dinner, including Shiva and Parvati. But they both could not attend the dinner, so they sent over Ganesha as their representative. Ganesha noticed how Kubera’s behaviour was and he decided to let his antics loose. He began devouring the dinner speedily and ended up finishing all the food leaving barely anything for the other guests. Yet his hunger was not satiated. So he ended up entering Kubera’s wealth collection and start eating all the gold and wealthy items. Still unsatisfied, Ganesha then proceeded to eat Kubera himself, who ran to Mount Kailash for protection.
Shiva, seeing the reason behind Ganesha’s doing, offered a simple bowl of cereals to Ganesha. He ate them and immediately was satisfied. Kubera learned not to amass wealth greedily and agreed to distribute it amongst everyone.
The story shows how greed and pride can be harmful to a person and it is necessary to be considerate towards everyone.
7. The Story Of Kaveri’s Creation
It begins with the wish of a sage called Agastya who wished to create a river that would benefit the people staying in the southern lands. The Gods heeded his wish and presented him with a small bowl containing water. Wherever he would pour the bowl, the river would originate from there.
Agastya decided to create the origin beyond the mountains of Coorg and proceeded to travel there. On the journey, he got tired and began looking for a place to take some rest. Just then, he came across a small boy who was standing alone. He requested him to hold the pot of water while he went and relieved himself. The boy was Ganesha himself. He knew what the pot of water was for and realized that the location he was at was perfect for the river, so he set the pot down.
When Agastya came back, he saw the pot on the ground and a crow attempting to drink water from it. He shooed away the crow, who flew away but not before tipping the pot on the ground. This resulted in the river originating from that place itself, which is now called the Kaveri river.
Sometimes, things may not always work out in the way we wish them to. Nevertheless, what happens does happen for a good reason.
8. The Story Of Ganesha’s Single Tusk
There are many versions that explain this but this Bal Ganesh story does it best.
As legend has it, Mahabharata is Ved Vyas’ creation, but it is said to be written by Lord Ganesha himself. Ved Vyas approached Ganesha so that he could transcribe the epic story as he narrated it to him. The condition was that Vyas had to narrate it without break and Ganesha would write it in a single go.
As they progressed in writing the story, there came a point where the quill that Ganesha was using to write it down broke and he had no other quills with him at that moment. Ved Vyas could not stop narrating the story since the condition was already set in stone for him. Without wasting any time, Ganesha quickly broke off one of his own tusks and fashioned it into a pen, using it to continue writing the epic without interruption. This allowed the epic to become a holy one and Ganesha and Vyas ended up completing it together.
This story of Ganesha shows very clearly how necessary it is to be disciplined and determined to complete a task once you have accepted to complete it, no matter what happens. A personal sacrifice might also be necessary to complete something epic.
9. The Story of The Lunar Curse
This story follows right after the proceedings of Kubera’s dinner.
After eating to his will, Ganesha’s stomach had become terribly large and he got a potbelly. Walking around with it became difficult for him and as he moved, he ended up losing his balance and stumbled and fell down. The moon, who was watching all of this, began laughing at Ganesha’s predicament. Seeing the moon humiliate him, Ganesha cursed the moon, making it completely invisible. The moon, realizing its mistake, began pleading to Ganesha for forgiveness. Relenting to his incessant apologies, Ganesha then decided to set in a cycle where the moon appeared and disappear every 15 days.
Another story wherein the moon was cursed by Ganesha also involves a snake. One day, Parvati made Ganesha’s favourite food, modak. Ganesh stuffed himself with as many modak as he could. Later that night, he went out on his vehicle, the mouse, who could hardly take Ganesha’s weight with all the modak he has eaten. Suddenly, upon encountering a snake, the mouse stumbled, and Ganesha got thrown over. As soon as he hit the ground, his stomach burst and all the modak fell out. He quickly grabbed all the food and stuffed it back into his stomach, and to hold it, he held the snake and tied it around his waist. This story also explains why some idols of Ganesha have a snake around the stomach. Upon seeing this, the moon couldn’t help but laugh his heart out. Ganesha got extremely angry and cursed him, saying nobody will see the moon on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, or else they will be accused of doing something wrong.
One should never laugh at somebody else’s problems or deformities. This is impolite and is not a sign of good behaviour.
10. The Story Of The Sweet Kheer
Ganesha once entered a village in the form of a boy, holding some rice in one hand and milk in the other. He began asking for help to make some kheer but everybody was busy.
He reached a poor woman’s hut who agreed to make the kheer for him. As she mixed it together and set the pot to cook, she fell asleep and the boy went out to play. On waking up, she realized the kheer had cooked and was extremely delicious.
She was too hungry and couldn’t resist it. But before eating the kheer, she took out some of it in a bowl and offered it to Ganesha’s idol and then began eating the kheer. No matter how much she ate, the pot never emptied. When the boy returned, the woman gave him the entire pot and confessed that she ate before him because she was hungry. The boy replied saying he ate it too when she offered the bowl to the Ganesha idol. The woman began crying at his feet and Ganesha blessed her with wealth and health.
Before taking care of your own needs, make sure to worship God and keep something aside for others as well.