Ekdantam Mahakayam Lambodharam Ganananam |
Vighnanasakaram Devam Herambam Pranamamyaham ||
With one tooth, a great body, a big belly, an elephant’s face, he is the destroyer of all obstacles; a God to whom we bow with all our devotion.
Our beloved Ganesha represents wisdom, discriminative authority and fidelity with his elephant head. The fables of how Lord Ganesha got the elephant head are both intriguing and epic.
One goes as –
It was a beautiful spring morning at the Kailash mountain, when Lord Shiva was away for saadhana and Devi Parvati was about to take a bath. She instructed Nandi to guard the door and not let anyone in. But when Shiva returned, Nandi allowed him to pass through the gates. Angry with this slight, she decided to find someone who would be more loyal to her.
As she prepared for her bath the next day, Parvati created Ganesha – a body with turmeric paste and mud, breathing life into it. Adoring him as her own son, she instructed Ganesha to guard the door. “Do not let anyone enter” – she said to Ganesha who agreed nodding his innocent head. When Lord Shiva arrived, Ganesha confronted him and did not allow him to enter his own home. Lord Shiva, furious with rage ordered his army to destroy the child. When they failed to do so, Shiva violently struck Ganesha with his trident, severing his head.
Enraged Parvati vowed to invoke all yoginis to destroy the entire universe. Lord Brahma pleaded to her to not do so. She agreed on one condition that Ganesha is brought back to life. Shiva asked his clan to bring back the head of first creature lying with his head facing north. They returned with a giant elephant head which Shiva placed on Ganesha’s body and brought him back to life.
Another story from Brahma Purana suggests a different version. Pravati longed to bear a child and observed a yearlong fast to please Lord Vishnu to grant her a son.
Content with Parvati’s penance, Vishnu announced – “I will reincarnate myself as your son.” And Ganesha was born. Thrilled parents invited all Gods to visit Kailash and bless the new-born. As everyone blessed Ganesha, Shani was hesitant to look at his face. When he did look at him upon Parvati’s insistence, Ganesha’s face fell off. Both parents were stunned in silence with grief.
Lord Vishnu rushed to the banks of Pushpa Bhadra River and brought back the head of a young elephant which was joined to Ganesha’s body, reviving him back to the life.
Yet another famous fable is that of a mighty Asura named Gajasura who bore an elephant head. A devotee of Shiva, he observed stern ‘Tapa’. Pleased by his repentance, Shiva asked for his request.
He replied – “Lord, I want you as inherent part of me and desire you to inhabit my stomach.’ Shiva obliged.
Unable to find her husband anywhere, Parvati felt dejected and seeked Lord Vishnu’s help. He assumed the appearance of a flutist and transformed Nandi into a dancing bull. Staging an exhilarating performance, he enthralled Gajasura. Gajasura asked him what he wanted in return.
“Liberate Shiva from your stomach” – He commanded. Realising that he is no ordinary flutist, Gajasura released Shiva and asked for forgiveness. Gajasura pleaded Shiva –“I only want to be remembered lovingly for my elephant head after my death.”
Shiva acknowledged Gajasura as his devotee, and replaced his son, Ganesha’s head with Gajasura’s elephant head.