Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com depicts the stories related to the life of the god of power and wisdom.
Editor's note: This story was first published in September 2016, but legends never get old :)
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The chubby, gentle, intelligent, elephant-headed Ganesha or Ganapati is one of the most popular Hindu gods. He is the remover of obstacles and the one whom worshippers first acknowledge when they visit a temple or embark on a new venture. With his broken tusk, Ganesha wrote part of the epic Mahabharata.
The elephant god has always fascinated sculptors, painters and writers alike.
Seen in the illustration above is one such tale: Lord Shiva and Parvati assumed the forms of elephants and were wandering about many forests. Their names were Matanga and Matangi. Their child was Ganesha.
If his appearance has captivated most painters, what has most intrigued them about Lord Ganesha is his vehicle, the tiny mouse.
There are many stories about how such a creature came be the elephant god's mount.
One such story says many people came to Lord Shiva and Parvati's house to see their new child. Everybody gave some gifts. The Earth gave a mouse as Ganapati's vehicle.
Ganesha certainly has a sweet tooth!
On one of his birthdays, he was visiting households, accepting offerings of sweet puddings. Having eaten a good number of these, he set out moving on his mouse at night.
Suddenly the mouse stumbled -- it had seen a snake and panicked -- and Ganesha fell down. His stomach burst open and all the sweet puddings came out. But Ganesh stuffed them back into his stomach. Then he caught hold of the snake and tied it around his belly like a belt!
The moon had a hearty a laugh at the incident. An angry Ganapati pulled out one of his tusks and hurled it at the moon. He also cursed that no one should look at the moon on Ganesha Chaturthi. If anyone did, s/he would be cursed with ill repute, he declared.
However, if someone gazed at the moon by mistake, the only way s/he can be freed from the curse is by repeating or listening to the story of how Lord Krishna cleared his character regarding the Syamantaka Jewel. This story is quoted in a holy book, the Shrimad Bhagwatwam.
The gods too have sibling rivalry!
Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya once had a fight about who was older. The matter was referred to Lord Shiva for the final decision. Shiva decided that whoever would make a tour of the whole world and come back first to the starting point had the right to be the older brother.
Karitkeya took off immediately on his vehicle, the peacock, to make a trip around the world.
But the wise Ganesha walked around his divine parents and asked for the prize.
Lord Shiva said, 'How can I give you the prize you did not go around the world?'
Ganesha replied, 'But I have gone around my parents. My parents represent the entire universe.'
Thus the dispute was settled in favour of Lord Ganesha, who was thereafter acknowledged as the older of the two brothers.
Ganesha is the god of ganas or groups: like groups of elements, groups of senses, etc.
He is the head of followers of Shiva or the celestial servants of Lord Shiva. That is why he is also called Gananayaka.
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