Lord Ganesh is worshipped with great enthusiasm throughout India and in Indian communities abroad. Also known as the god of knowledge and the remover of obstacles or Vighneshwar, Ganesh is often worshipped by his devotees before they start a new project
HOW GANESH OBTAINED HIS ELEPHANT HEAD
There are many legends that explain Lord Ganesh's elephant head. One common legend is this:
Goddess Parvati wanted to take a bath but there was no one around to stand guard for her. She created an idol of a boy using turmeric paste, which she had prepared to wash her body with. Using her powers, she infused life into the idol. The boy was none other than Ganesh. Parvati instructed Ganesh to not let anyone enter the house. After some time, Ganesh saw Lord Shiv coming towards the house and stopped him. This infuriated Shiv. He tried to convince Ganesh that he was Parvati's husband and to let him go inside the house, but Ganesh had been given strict instructions by his mother. This angered Shiv and eventually, Shiv severed Ganesh's head using his trishul. When Parvati saw her son's dead body, she got very angry. She asked Shiv to bring her son back to life. But the powerful trishul that Shiv had hurled at Ganesh had sent his head so far away that all attempts to find the head were futile. That's when Lord Brahma asked Shiv to replace Ganesh's head with the head of the first creature he came across. Shiv's army started its search and came across a dying elephant. The army took the elephant's head and joined it to the body of Ganesh. Thus, Ganesh got his elephant head.
GANESH, THE SCRIBE
Hindus believe that the Mahabharat has been composed by Maharshi Ved Vyas, but was written by Lord Ganesh. It is believed that Vyas started writing the Mahabharat all alone, but he soon realised that it would be a very tiresome job to write the complete epic. He asked the gods for help but no one fit his criteria for a perfect listener and a perfect writer. Lord Brahma then recommended Ganesh's name.
Vyas requested Ganesh to write down the poem at the speed of his dictation. Ganesh agreed to do it, but lay down one condition - that Vyas would narrate the poem uninterrupted without pausing. Vyas agreed but he also put forth a condition - that Ganesh would need to understand each and every poem before he wrote it down. Vyas thought this would give him a break between the non-stop dictation as he would have to repeat the difficult verses for Ganesh. Thus the dictation of the Mahabharat began. In the process of writing it, Ganesh's pen broke, but that did not stop him. He broke off the tip of his tusk and started writing again without any kind of interruption. The Mahabharat was thus completed and Ganesh lost the tip of his tusk.
GANESH AND THE CURSE OF THE MOON
Very often, our grandparents tell us not to look at the Moon on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. Here's the legend associated with this belief:
The modak, a sweetmeat, has always been Ganesh's favourite food. During one of the days of Ganesh Pooja, Lord Ganesh received a huge amount of modaks from his devotees. Ganesh stuffed himself with all the sweets and then thought of going on a ride to digest all the food he had eaten. He got on to the mouse, his vehicle, and took off. It was a moonlit night. Suddenly, a snake crossed their path and scared the mouse. The mouse stumbled and Ganesh fell. Ganesh's stomach burst open and all the modaks came out. But Ganesh stuffed all the modaks back into his stomach and tied the snake around his stomach to keep it intact. Suddenly, Ganesh heard someone laughing. The Moon had seen the entire incident and couldn't help but laugh. Ganesh got really upset and took off his tusk and threw it towards the Moon. He cursed the Moon that if anyone looked at it on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, he or she would be in trouble for an entire year. This legend also explains how Ganesh got the snake around his waist.
THE GOD OF MANY NAMES
Lord Ganesh is known by many names and each name has a legend behind it. One of his names is Chintamani. Here's the legend behind this name:
King Abhijit had a rude son called Gana who tortured innocent people for no reason at all. Once, Gana decided to hunt in the Kadambvan forests. Sage Kapilmuni lived in these forests and invited Gana and his soldiers to share his meal with them. Gana was impressed with the amazing reception and food offered by the sage. Gana asked Kapilmuni for the secret behind such delicious food and his ability to present so much food in a fraction of a minute. That's when Kapilmuni told Gana the story of Chintamani - a jewel that fulfils all the wishes of its owner. It was given to the sage by Lord Indra. Hearing about the qualities of the jewel, Gana decided to take the jewel away from the sage. He asked Kapilmuni to hand it over but the sage refused. Angered by this, Gana forcefully seized the Chintamani.
Upset and heartbroken, Kapilmuni called upon Lord Vishnu for help, who asked him to ask Ganesh for help. After Ganesh heard the entire story, he and Gana fought a war in which Gana was killed. Ganesh returned the Chintamani to Kapilmuni, but Kapilmuni tied the Chintamani on Ganesh's neck and praised him by saying that henceforth, Ganesh would be referred to as Chintamani.
GANESHʼS LESSON FOR KUBER
Kuber is the god of wealth. Legend goes that Kuber was very proud of having acquired so much wealth and became egotistic about his position as the treasurer of the gods. He once decided to invite all the gods for an extravagant feast. Kuber planned to invite Lord Shiv as his first guest, as he was a keen devotee of Shiv. But Shiv couldn't attend the event and when Kuber kept insisting, Shiv asked Lord Ganesh to go in his place.
Ganesh accepted the invitation and on the day of the feast, Kuber told Ganesh he could eat as much as he wished. Ganesh wanted to teach Kuber a lesson in humility and so he kept eating till all the food was over. He then told Kuber that his hunger was still not satisfied and demanded more food. By then, Kuber was helpless as there was no food left. He was worried that Ganesh would swallow him if he didn't get more food! Kuber ran to Shiv for help, but seeing Ganesh already with Shiv, Kuber learnt his lesson and asked for forgiveness for his egoistic behaviour.
THE STORY OF DURVA
Once upon a time, there lived a devil called Analasur who used to trouble the people on Earth. To deal with Analasur, all the gods approached Lord Ganesh for help. Analasur tried to kill Ganesh, but Ganesh swallowed Analasur. This led to a tremendous burning sensation in his stomach. Ganesh could not bear it. The gods tried their best to relieve the burning sensation but they failed. A sage came by and offered a bundle of 21 durvas (leaves of a particular tree) to Ganesh. This relieved his burning sensation and since that day, the durva leaf has been dear to Ganesh and is offered to him during poojas.
Once upon a time, Lord Ganesh and his brother Kartikay were arguing on who was the older sibling. They went and asked Lord Shiv for an answer. Shiv told them to travel around the Earth and whoever came back first would be the older child. Both the brothers agreed. Kartikay mounted his vehicle 'the peacock' and flew off. Ganesh stayed where he was and went around his parents. Both Shiv and Goddess Parvati were confused and asked Ganesh for an explanation. Ganesh told them, "Parents symbolise the Earth and my parents mean the world to me. That's why I walked around you." Both Parvati and Shiv were impressed by Ganesh's wise comment and thereafter, Ganesh was recognised as the older and wiser brother.