Ganesha - God of New Beginnings, Success and Wisdom
Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular Gods in our Hindu culture. He is known to be the destroyer of obstacles and devotees worship him at the onset of any important work. He is one of the most distinctive Gods with an elephant head and a human body. Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati and is the brother of Kartikeya and Ashok Sundari. He is also the God of prosperity and fortune.
There are several stories in regards to his birth. In one of the stories he is born from Shiva and Parvati in a forest. Parvati was elated after her son's birth. She invited all the Gods to come and see the child's face but forgot to call Lord Shani. That is why Shani's evil eye fell on him and his head was burnt. This is when Lord Shiva replaces his head with an elephant head.
In the second story Shiva and Pravati visit a forest and happen to see an elephant couple joyfully playing with each other. Lord Shiva and Parvati also take forms of elephant and decide to stay in the forest for a while. During their stay in the forest Lord Ganesh is born.
This story is the most popular story about Ganesha's birth. Once Goddess Parvati and her friends Jaya and Vijaya were bathing in her apartment. Parvati had asked Nandi to stand outside the house and guard it. She told him not to allow anyone to enter until they finished bathing. However Shiva came unexpectedly at the door. Poor Nandi requested Shiva not to enter the house but Shiva did not listen. He entered the house. Parvati was furious after that. She wanted a personal guard now who will not let anyone enter the house without her permission not even Shiva. This is when she created Ganesha out of the dirt she rubbed off during her bath. She created a very handsome boy and gasped in joy looking at her son. Ganesha asked what shall he do for his mother. Parvati asked him to be a guard and stand at the entrance. She told him not to allow anyone. Shiva again turned up unexpectedly and wanted to enter the house. Lord Ganesha didn't let him. Shiva did not know then that he was created by Parvati and thought him to be some random person. Lord Ganesh also didn't know that Shiva was Parvati's husband. He did not allow Shiva to enter the house. Shiva turned angry and the fire from his third eye burnt Ganesha's head. When Parvati saw this she turned furious. Her rage and anger started burning the whole Universe. To calm her down and restore balance in the Universe Lord Shiva makes Ganesha alive again by replacing his head with an elephant's head. Lord Shiva was guilty and apologized for his anger. He then declared Ganesha as the chief of all Gods. He announced that all the worship and rituals should only begin by praying to Lord Ganesha first. Only after worshipping him the prayers would reach other Gods.
Ganesha is also known as the God of intellect. Once Ganesha and Kartikeyan argued who will marry first. This is when their parents Shiva and Parvati decided to conduct a competition among them. They told both of them that whoever goes around the entire world and reaches Kailasha first will be the first one to marry. Lord Kartikeyan immediately left Kailasha with the aim of covering the Universe first. However Lord Ganesha just circled his parents 7 times and said he has won the race. When Parvati and Shiva asked he said that it was written in Shastras that circling your parents 7 times is as good as moving through the whole world. Lord Shiva was impressed with his intellect and he won the race. Hence he was married to two beautiful sisters Buddhi (embodiment of Wisdom and intellect) and Siddhi (Embodiment of spiritual growth and success). He later had two sons from them Kshema (prosperity) from Siddhi and Labha (Fortune) from Buddhi.
Lord Ganesha is portrayed as a half Elephant and half-human god. He is shown to have a pot belly which indicates that he is fond of eating. Modak is his favorite sweet and is offered to him during his worship. He s shown riding his divine vehicle Rat which signifies swiftness. However Ganesha is shown having only one tusk. There are different stories on this as well. Let us discuss a few.
In one of the stories Ganesha defeats a demon named Gajamukh and loses his tusk while fighting him. Gajamukh had become invincible after taking boon from Shiva. He started misusing his powers. That is when Shiva asked Ganesha to fight him. Ganesha won the battle however lost one of his tusks during the fight.
Ganesha is also the one who wrote the famous Hindu epic Mahabharata. Rishi Ved Vyas approached Ganesha requesting him to write Mahabharata on his behalf while he recites it to him. Ganesha agreed however gave him one condition that he should not stop even for a second while reciting. Vyasa agreed however he also put a condition that Ganesha needs to understand first whatever he is writing and then move ahead to the next stanza. Ganesha also agreed. Vyasa started reciting and didn't stop even once. He was so fast that Ganesha's pen broke while penning down the story. Ganesha realized his mistake that he underestimated the sage's intellect. To apologise Ganesha broke one of his tusks, and started writing with that as a gesture of respect.
Ganesha Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is one of the most celebrated festivals in India and is celebrated with full passion and vigor. It is celebrated as Ganesha's birthday.
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