Ganesha is one of the most popular and loved of the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Everything auspicious starts with invoking his name. Here’s a selection of wonderful books that I’m sure will delight readers and storytellers of all ages, and would brighten your collection of books on Hindu mythology and Indian culture. All of them well illustrated, entertaining and promises interesting reading.
This rare collection of Hindu mythological tales for young readers features 17 stories about Ganesha – ‘Ganesha’s Head,’ ‘The Broken Tusk,’ and ‘Why Ganesha Never Married’ – including one from Mongolia, where Ganesha entered the Buddhist tradition. Full of entertaining pen-and-ink illustrations, it also includes a pronunciation guide, glossary, and a prefatory discussion on Hindu mythology.
This book makes a great gift for someone at the threshold of a change or venturing into a new territory – entering a new job, new house, new business, or kicking off a new relationship. It comes in a box, and contains tales of Ganesha’s powers as a protector, beautifully decorated with 30 illustrations, and includes mantras, prayers, sacred symbols, songs and instructions on conducting a Puja.
Author Amy Novesky retells the authentic version of how the Ganesha got his elephant head as told in the ‘Brahma Vaivarta Purana‘. Belgin K. Wedman’s lovely illustrations reminiscent of classic Indian miniatures add to the beauty of the book. The narration is direct and suitable for read-alouds to small children. This is indeed a beautiful book to possess.
Once Ravana performed a sadhana and received as reward a jyotirlinga from Shiva himself. Shiva told Ravana to carry the jyotirlinga to his land with the caveat that wherever Ravana would place it, it would remain stuck there for ever.
So Ravana carried the jyotirlinga with great care. He held back every physical urge such as eating or attending to calls of nature and walked almost 4,000 kilometres from Kailash to a place called Gokarna in Karnataka. Since he had been walking without food or rest, he felt weak and he wanted to ease himself. Unable to eat any food, he must have sustained himself on water alone and his bladder must have been bursting. But he would not keep the jyotirlinga down either. And he would not be able to make water — an unclean act — while holding the jyotirlinga with his hands.
Presently, he saw a cute and innocent-looking cowherd boy. Ravana said to the boy, “Hey you, come here.” The boy came. Ravana said, “If you hold this for five minutes, I’ll give you a pearl necklace. Just hold it, don’t keep it down. Understand?” The boy agreed. Ravana gave the jyotirlinga to the boy and turned around to ease himself. His call of nature done, he turned around to look. What did he see? The boy had kept the jyotirlinga down and, of course, it had sunk into the earth as per the caveat. Then Ravana looked up. In place of the cowherd, it was Ganapati standing there, in his true form with a grin on his face.
Ganapati did not want Ravana to take the jyotirlinga to Lanka, because if he did, he would have become superhuman. Even today if you visit Gokarna, you will see a small hole in the rock through which you have to put your finger and feel the jyotirlinga. Ravana got so furious he knocked Ganapati on the head so hard that his head was dented. That is why you will also find a Ganapati statue with a depression in his skull at Gokarna.
For these thousands of years that day of Ravana-Ganapati encounter has come down to us as Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganapati, one of the most popular gods from India, is the one who mastered all the knowledge that was in the land. Even today when a child commences his education, the first thing parents do is invoke Ganapati, the scholar-deity. He is believed to like food. Usually scholars are skinny, but Ganapati is a well-fed, smart scholar, who outwitted Ravana.
Stories relating to birth of Sri Ganapati are found in purana’s with varying details. However one story in particular, which I will try to narrate here, is vary popular. Almost everyone of us has heard this story with great enthusiasm when we were children. This narration appears in the Rudra Samhita of Shiva Purana.
Once, Parvati wanted to have guards to her private chambers. But in Kailasa all the attendants were servants of Lord Shiva. So she thought of creating a attendant of her own. She created a child out of the scurf of her body and gave it life. She called the boy as her son, since he has appeared from her body. She gave him a danda (a stick) to hold. She ordered him to guard her house and not to allow anyone inside.
Lord Shiva came soon and wanted to enter the house. The boy rudely prevented Shiva in doing so. By looking at this shivagana’s got angry and attacked boy. The boy defeated all of them and placed his danda before Lord Shiva stopping him to proceed further. At this behavior of the boy Lord Shiva got vary angry and took his fierce form of Rudra. He then with his shoola beheaded the boy. Seeing this act of her husband Parvati out of motherly affection and grief started lamenting. At the same time she got angry towards rudragana’s who attacked her little child. She created powerful shakti’s and ordered them to attack gana’s. The gana’s unable to face the powers of Durga surrendered to their Lord, Shiva.
Lord Shiva trying to console his grieving consort Parvati, asked her what to do. She demanded her husband to resurrect the child and bless him. Shiva ordered his attendants to go north and bring the head of any creature they can find at first. When Shiva beheaded the boy the head was gulped by one of his gana. They found an elephant and brought its head. The elephant head was then grafted to the body of the boy. Lord Shiva blessed the boy as his son too and made him adhipati (master) of his servant gana’s. He was thus called as Ganapati. News of this strange event spread everywhere and all devata’s, rishi’s, gandharva’s came to see Ganapati. Lord Vishnu and Brahma also blessed him. Shiva again graced Ganapati by making him always to be first honored in all activities thereafter. This is how Ganapati became first venerable (prathama vandita) by all gods and humans alike.
Similar to above story, the event of Sri Ganesha’s marriage is also wonderful. The story goes as following. Once in Kailasa Loka, an argument took place between both brothers Ganapati and Shanmukha. The argument was about who to get married first among the two. Both were able and come of age, seeing this Lord Shiva called for a competition on both. He will be married first who circumambulates the earth and return back to Kailasha. Kumara left for the task immediately riding on his vahana (vehicle) the peacock. Whereas Ganapati thought for a while and started doing pradakshina to his father and mother Shiva Paravati. Entire creation is present in Shiva and Parvati, so Ganapati didn’t bothered doing the instructed task literally. This pradakshina of his father and mother was more than circumambulating of any material object.
Both his parents Lord Shiva and mother Parvati pleased by the intellect of their son, blessed Ganapati. Soon Sri Ganesha accepted the two daughters of Viswarupa Prajapati, Siddhi and Buddhi as his consorts. Beautiful description of this marriage is given in the purana.
The variation occurring and different versions of the same event in various scriptures is due to kalpa-bedha. Similar events take place with variations in different kalpa’s. In the next post we shall see the story of Lord Ganesha from another purana.
Lord Ganesh is here. And this year, the Ganesh festival is bringing forth astonishing tales of people’s gracious love for the Lord of Wisdom. Meet Raj Kumar Shah. Taking worship of the Vighnaharta to a whole new level, he has virtually converted his house into a temple adorning a large number of various forms of the God. Each one as exquisite as the other, the idols number well over 2,000.
A chartered accountant by profession, Shah got his first idol way back in 2004. In the past eight years, he went on adding the idols one by one carefully selected and installed. The Lord can be seen in various poses, right from one engrossed flying a kite, in a joyous mood on a swing to a one busy with a computer or musing over a move while playing chess.
The 42-year-old CA has Ganesh everywhere in his house. His house name plate has a Ganesh itched on it; even a night lamp in his porch is shaped as the Lord.
Ask him how his craze for collecting the idols took off and he says, “I have always liked to collect things. When I was young, it was greeting cards, and in the past few years, I have drawn my attention on Ganesh idols. It’s not just plain craze, it’s a question of faith that gets me emotionally involved and motivated. As such, I have never tried to calculate the value of the collection.”
Seema, his wife, assists Shah in collecting and preserving the idols. “We have specially made cabinets in silver, other metals, marble and wood, each having several sections. These are used to place the idols,” she said.
When asked where did they find the unique idols, Seema proudly says, “It’s an on-going search, wherever we go we try to bring home at least one Ganesh idol, and each time its a different shape and form.”
Shah has spent around eight years collecting the idols. Shah’s hobby has the whole family captivated now. The children are also equally enthusiastic about their father’s hobby. Son Rajat says, “I present my father with a distinctive Ganesh idol on his birthdays and other occasions. In-fact I have developed a liking for this whole idol-collection thing.”
Shah’s younger brother Rachit, 9, makes Ganesh idols with clay. “My younger son has made some Ganesh idols with playing dough. I keep them with our idol collection.” Although most of the collection has been brought from Indore, it has idols from almost every part of the country. “We have idols from Andaman, Sikkim, Kashmir, Udaipur and Mumbai,” said Seema.
Each member of the family has its own favorite pose of Ganesh. Young Rachit likes the one in which the Lord is posing as farmer with bullock cart. “My favorite is the cricketer Ganesh,” said Rajat, while Seema’s likes the one resting on a wooden cot. Raj Kumar Shah’s favorite is the one with mother Parvati.
The Matsya Purana says that Ganesha (lord of the ganas or hosts) was lovingly moulded by his mother Parvati out of the scented scrapings of bath-paste and oil from her own body. The Varaha Purana has it that Ganesha sprung from the radiance of his father Shiva’s luminous gaze. A popular legend recounts how Parvati’s “baby shower” for her handsome son turned into a terrible tragedy when the malefic gaze of Shani or Saturn fell upon the child, causing its head to burst into a thousand pieces. This resulted in a unique identity for Ganesha or Ganapati as an elephant-headed, corpulent personality who loves his modaks and laddoos. The elephant is regarded as wise and mature in Indian lore, hence Ganapati’s formidable intellect continues to inspire men of letters.
The story of how Ganapati came to possess the privilege of being the foremost among the devas is variously told in the Puranas but the broad consensus is that both his powerful parents granted him this boon in different contexts.
That he should be worshipped first by all humans and celestials is a dictum followed to this day by the devout as well as the ritually casual. Commencing a pilgrimage or any new venture with an invocation of him is a time-honoured tradition handed down to us by our ancestors. The first invitee to a wedding is always Ganesha.
Modern variants involve the collection of Ganesha figurines to tastefully decorate our homes.
Inherent in these practices lies an instinctive belief in the power of Ganapati to grant kaaryasiddhi or success in our efforts. He is the Vighna-nashak or remover of obstacles and is therefore famously saluted as Jai Mangalmurti (Victory to the auspicious being). Bringing Ganesha home and keeping him in it, figuratively speaking, is to usher peace and prosperity into our homes. Great powers are attributed to this lovable deity.
A hymn venerates him as parabrahma roopam or verily the Supreme Absolute:
Ajam nirvikalpam niraakaaram ekam
Niraanandam aanandam advaita poornam
(He is the unborn, formless, unique embodiment of the supreme, the absolute, the infinite and the complete. He is bliss.)
One may offer garlands and sweets to a bejewelled, richly clad Ganesha at a large temple this Ganesh Chaturthi. Or one may dip one’s head in hasty obeisance to a vazhi pillaiyar (Tamil term for the roadside Ganesha peeping out of niches in boundary walls).
Our prayerful sentiments are beautifully captured in the celebrated hymn, Bhadram Karnebhih (from the Ganapati Atharvashirsha): May we always hear and see auspicious things; may we live our entire lifespans healthy even as we praise the lord, who guides our thoughts and deeds and protects us from evil.
Holding on to anger, they say, is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. However, eventually, you are the one who gets burned in the process.
A story goes that one day, Ganesha was invited to a big feast. Since he was very fond of sweets, he ended up consuming much over his normal capacity.
When he noticed that his stomach had bloated unusually, he felt guilty of having eaten too much. Since he did not want anyone to catch him in his embarrassing condition, he grabbed hold of a snake and wrapped it over his stomach to disguise his bulging belly.
He waited for night to fall so that he could start on his journey home, hoping that nobody would see him. Unfortunately, the moon caught sight of him on his way and could not resist mocking an already shy Ganesha, bursting into fits of laughter.
When the moon did not stop, Ganesha got angry and cursed the moon, saying that he would be invisible from that day on.
When that happened, the moon realised his mistake and begged Ganesha to forgive him.
Since Ganesha could not revoke his curse, he proclaimed that the moon would grow thinner each day and remain invisible on one day of the month. The day, known as amavasya, is considered inauspicious in our country.
This legend of Ganesha reminds us to be kind in our actions and forgive those who ask for it.
Power can be self-destructive. Hence, with great power comes a great responsibility.
For an elephant, the trunk is the most important part of his body. It enables the animal to pick up food, collect water, breathe and also communicate with each other.
The elephant, when angry, also uses its trunk to punish miscreants.
If you observe the trunk of Ganesha on any idol, it is always rolled up in a certain fashion. This suggests that he controls the power he wields.
While it is important to possess power, which can come from wealth, intelligence or one’s success, it is equally pertinent to have control over it.
It is human to crib and complain about what we don’t have. But this story of Ganesha shows you how to make the most of what you do possess.
The winner of the challenge, they said, would earn a miracle fruit — a fruit which would provide supreme knowledge and immortality to its owner.
The challenge was that both of them had to run three times around the world. Whoever came first would earn the fruit as a gift.
As soon as the task was announced, Kartikeya left immediately. He rode his peacock and left on his world tour. On his way, he halted at every sacred place, praying and seeking their blessings.
On the other hand, Ganesha stood there and put on his thinking hat. He looked down at his stout body and his vehicle — the rat. In his head, he was sure that no matter how hard he tried, it would be impossible to compete with his brother.
He collected his thoughts and turned to face his parents. When Shiva asked why he did not start on the journey, he replied: “To me, my parents are my world. I would prefer circumnavigating you thrice.”
Needless to say, when Kartikeya returned, Ganesha was already smiling because he knew he had won the race.
This story tells us how we must not fret over our physical weaknesses or limitations, and instead use our wisdom and intelligence to overcome difficult situations.
- Is Lord Ganesha Married? (mylordganesha.com)
- Story of Ganesha as Gajanana and Lobhasura (mylordganesha.com)
An art teacher from Sangamner, Anil Kamble, has claimed that he has created the world’s smallest Ganesh idol. The idol is smaller than a mustard seed, approximately .68 mm in size, measured with the help of a micro meter screw gauge and a travelling microscope.
Kamble, who was recently in Pune and has done his Applied Arts and procured an arts ‘teachers’ diploma from the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya, said, “The weight of the idol is 0.022 miligrams. I have not used any magnifying glass or lens while creating this idol and all body parts, including the idol’s left hand and the ‘modak’, are clearly demarcated,” he said, adding that the idol has been made using the glue M-Seal.
“25% of the proceeds will go an organisation working against female foeticide, while another 25% will go to the Sangram Mukbadhir Vidyalaya and Niwasi Matimand Vidyalaya in Saykhindi,” he said.
If the popular Khairatabad Ganesha in Hyderabad stands at 58 ft, the 86-ft Dondaparthy Ganesha in the city towers over every other idol in the state. The Dondaparthy Ganesh, this time in Krishna avatar playing flute, isn’t going to give up the title of being the tallest idol any time soon, claim the organisers. Appal Raju of the organising committee said that it took them a month to prepare the gigantic idol. “Artistes from Kharagpur toiled hard to give finishing touches to the idol. It’s going to be the biggest crowd puller in the city, drawing 50,000-70,000 enthusiasts. We will also auction the Ganesha prasadam (108-kg laddu) for charity,” he said.
More than 2,000 big and small idols are being installed this time at various pandals with the organisers battling it out to come up with innovative ideas. Notable among them are the ‘bangle Vinayaka, ‘eega Vinayaka, spiderman and Krishna Vinayaka, Ganesha in train and another one playing chess and another a green Ganesha.
The gold and silver merchants’ association’s youth Vinayaka utsava committee set up a Ganesha made of one lakh colourful glass bangles near Kurupa market. Ranga Rao, chairman of the utsava committee, said that 25 artistes from Chirala prepared this special Ganesha in 10 days. “We got the bangles from Kolkata. It’s definitely going to be cynosure of all eyes this year,” he claimed.
Leaving no stone unturned to woo the 600-odd Maharashtrian families settled in the city, the Maharashtra Mandali has set up its own pandal. “We miss the festivities back home in Mumbai and Pune but we try to make up by having our own Vinayaka pandal. Gujarati and Bengali communities also participate in the celebrations,” said Mahadeo Rao Shinde, president of Maharashtra Mandali.