Today 9th September 2014 will be celebrated across India as the Ganesh Visargan Day i.e. the day when the idol of Ganesha will be immersed in flowing water in the belief that he will re-unite with his parents, the great Lord Shiva and Parvati. We had the opportunity to celebrate Ganesha festival for the first time ever in Sweden on 29th August in Malmö thanks to Skåne Hindu Center (SHC). At that time, I had prepared a presentation with a short story of Ganesha and its importance in our lives. One of the ideas was to get children and adults alike to understand the story and learn the moral values from it. I was not able to present it on that day as we were running late with different things but below is the story. Hope you enjoy it.
Shiva is ‘shakti’ or power, Shiva is the destroyer, the most powerful god of the Hindu pantheon and one of the godheads in the Hindu Trinity (Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the sustainer and Shiva – the destroyer). Known by many names – Mahadeva, Mahayogi, Pashupati, Nataraja, Bhairava, Vishwanath, Bhava, Bhole Nath – Lord Shiva is perhaps the most complex of Hindu deities.
Shiva is also the great ascetic, abstaining from all forms of indulgence and pleasure, concentrating rather on meditation as a means to find perfect happiness. Parvati/Shakti is an inseparable force of Shiva. Shiva’s wife is Parvati, often incarnated as Kali and Durga. Both live in Kailash Mountain (a part of Himalaya mountain range in India). Shiva is always meditating on Kailash mountain. Lord Shiva has a very faithful servant named Nandi (who is a bull). He is always by his side and ready to do whatever Lord Shiva asks him to do.
One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt.Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband Shiva’s Bull, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati mata was a bit surprised and angry when Nandi disobeyed her commands. Of course Parvati wanted somebody on whom she can rely and also provide her company when Shiva is away meditating.
So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and breathing life into it, she created Ganesha, declaring him to be her own loyal son. And next time she wanted to take a bath, she asked her loyal son Ganesha to stand on duty. As Ganesha was made by Parvati Mata out of turmeric paste while preparing for bath, Ganesha had never seen his father Shiva/Mahadev. So again it happened that one day, Parvati mata was taking a bath and Lord Shiva came back from his meditation. And Lord Shiva wanted to go inside the house.
But Ganesha immediately resisted and told Shiva that Parvati was taking bath and he will not allow Shiva to Enter. Shiva found it very strange that he cannot enter his own house and some strange boy is telling him to leave! When all the persuasions failed, furious Shiva ordered his army to destroy the boy, but they all failed! Such power did Ganesha possess, being the son of Devi Parvati herself!
Low and behold, everybody standing against Ganesha were defeated. Even Lord Brahma and Vishnu were defeated! This surprised Shiva. Seeing that this was no ordinary boy, the usually peaceful Shiva decided he would have to fight him, and in his divine fury severed Ganesha’s head, killing him instantly. Nothing can stand in front of Lord Shiva when he gets angry!
Hearing about this Parvati became very sad and started crying. She was so enraged and felt insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation! All gods prayed and pleaded that she reconsider her drastic plan. She said she would, but only if two conditions were met: one, that Ganesha be brought back to life, and two, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods. Shiva agreed and sent Brahma out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature he crosses that is laying with its head facing North.
So who did Brahma find? Lord Brahma found an elephant who was the first creature and as ordered by Lord Shiva, Brahma soon returned with the head of the strong and powerful elephant, which Shiva placed onto Ganesha’s body. And then Brahma gave life to the body of Ganesha with the head of an elephant. Low and Behold! Lord Ganesha was born. And he is always the first lord to pray in any occasion. So now Parvati mata had both her promises fulfilled, Ganesha was alive and he is the first lord to prayed for on any occasion. Due to this, Ganesha also has the name “Vignharta” – Destroyer of hindrances in ones life.
Breathing new life into him, he declared Ganesha to be his own son as well, and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods, and leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati. Ganesha was not only blessed by Shiva and Parvati but also all the gods present. The story by itself is very charming, shows the love of a mother for her child, shows the greatness of Lord Shiva and shows a son’s dedication to his mother’s commands! Going apart from the literary view, the story has a deep spiritual reverence.
The story shows that however powerful one is, he/she is not invulnerable. Ganesha had to loose his human head. The human head of Ganesha shows the concept of “Ego”. People small and big all have Egos. And the Ego grows with power. Sometimes it grows to such lengths that one is not able to recognize the supreme paramathan (supreme lord) who is the creator and destroyer of everything.
Lord Shiva chopping off Ganesha’s human head signifies that no matter how powerful, we are, we need to severe our ego. If we don’t do it ourselves, the Lord will do it for us. Ganesha was fortunate enough to get another head but not everybody is so fortunate. So we need to lower our ego and delve ourselves into bhakti of the lord to attain Salvation.
Hope I have been able to correctly narrate the story and its importance. Would be nice to have your suggestions and comments. And last but not the least, “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Adhu Laddu Chorya, Pudya varshi Lahukarya, Ganpati Bappa Morya”!
Jai Ganesh Deva.