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Ganesha in Mother Parvati's lap
Lord Ganesha has peculiar physical features with an elephant-head, protruding pot belly with a snake tied as a belt on the belly, a broken tusk and he has a small insignificant mouse (Mushika) as his vehicle. It is believed that Ganesha is very fond of foods like modakas, laddus, sweets and various other fruits.
Not only His physical appearance is peculiar but even the way He was born is quite unique.
How was Ganesha born?There are few stories in connection with Lord Ganesha's birth.
Long long ago, Lord Shiva was living happily with his wife Goddess Parvati in a beautiful home atop Mount Kailash - the abode of Lord Shiva. For sometime Lord Shiva was away from home on a duty of killing some demon and Goddess Parvati was all alone at home. One fine day, Lord Shiva was returning home victoriously and the message of His coming back to home was sent to God Parvati who was overjoyed and in view of giving Her husband a grand reception, She wanted to take a shower and dress-up Herself in Her finest attire.
Before taking bath, Her personal maids smeared turmeric paste over Her body in a traditional way and after few minutes, the maids scrubbed the half-dried paste from Her body. While they were scrubbed Her body, Goddess Parvati made a small figure of a boy with the warded off paste from Her body. On looking at the cute figure, Parvati Devi felt like giving Prana Sakti or life force to this cute image and thus She created a cute little boy who called Her mother.
"Dear Putra (son), guard the entrance gate and do not allow anyone to get inside while I am taking my shower", ordered Goddess Parvati to her newly created son before going for bath.
"Sure Mata (mother)", said the little one and guarded at the entrance gate.
It so happened that Lord Shiva arrived home at this moment and was surprised to see the little boy at the entrance. He wondered who this boy could be. And the little boy knew nothing about His father Lord Shiva.
"Stop there. Do not enter the house. This is my mother's order", said the little boy to Lord Shiva who was approaching him.
Initially, Lord Shiva spoke softly to the little boy and asked him to give way to enter the house. He also told the little boy that He is the husband of Goddess Parvati whom the little boy is considering as mother. But the little boy was sincere in performing his duty and did not allow Lord Shiva in spite of repeated requests of Lord Shiva.
Now Lord Shiva who is well known for His Roudram (anger), lost His patience, took out His sword and shouted at the little boy, "let me go inside or else I'll behead you".
"I'll not allow you to go in while my mother is having her bath", spoke the little boy bravely.
Lord Shiva couldn't control His anger and with one swift movement of His sword, cut off the head of the little boy which flew off.
Parvati Devi who got the message of this furious action of Her husband, quickly dressed up Herself and came out running. She burst out into tears at the sight of the lifeless body of Her dear created son.
"How could you kill our own son", screamed Parvati Devi at Lord Shiva and wept.
Lord Shiva realized His mistake and was filled with remorse. "Don't weep, my dear. I'll get back the life of our dear son", promised Lord Shiva. As the head of the little boy flew off to a great distance, the soldiers of Lord Shiva could not trace the head. In view of taking quick action, Lord Shiva ordered His soldiers, "get the head of that living creature which first comes across your way. According to a different view, Lord Shiva asks his soldiers to get the head of the living creature that sleeps with its head towards North. The soldiers who go in search and finds an elephant sleeping with its heads placed towards North.
The soldiers plunged into action and it so happened that first they came across an elephant. The soldiers brought the head of the elephant which was attached to the body of the little boy and then the peculiarly appearing figure was brought back to life. Everyone around rejoiced at the birth of this boy who had a strange figure with a human body and an elephant's head.
Goddess Parvati got used to this peculiar appearance of Her son and loved him dearly. And Lord Shiva too started liking His brave and intelligent son who could courageously protect his mother. And the little boy came to be known as Ganesha who birthday is celebrated every year as Ganesh Chaturthi on the fourth day in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada.
The story of Shiva and GajasuraThere is yet another prevailing story in connection with the birth of Lord Ganesha.
There lived an elephant-headed demon named Gajasura who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Once he did great Tapas (penance) to please Lord Shiva who appeared in front of the asura. Gajasura wanted to retain Lord Shiva in his belly and requested for the same. Lord Shiva who is popularly known as Bhola Shanker or the innocent one, was pleased with His devotee's penance, placed Himself inside the belly of Gajasura. On knowing about the happening, Goddess Parvati went to Lord Vishnu and sought for His help.
Lord Vishnu who is the Supreme director of this cosmic play had to stage a small skit to liberate Lord Shiva from asura's belly. Accordingly, He transformed Nandi, the Divine Bull and Lord Shiva's vahana / vehicle, into a dancing bull and Lord Vishnu Himself dressed as a flutist. The entire troupe gave an awesome presentation in front of Gajasura who was much pleased with the show and told the flutist that he shall give the flutist whatever he desires.
Now, Lord Vishnu in the form of a flutist replied, "Can you give me whatever I ask you?"
Gajasura who takes pride in the self, little could know the intention of the flutist and said, "Whom do you think, you are talking to? Ask for whatever you want and I shall give it you" promised the elephant-headed demon.
Seeing the opportune time, the flutist said, "In such a case, liberate Lord Shiva whom you hid inside your belly."
Now, Gajasura understood that this is the divine play and the flutist could be none other than Lord Vishnu. He bowed down before the flutist and as there is no other option than to tear his body to liberate Lord Shiva, he requested Lord Shiva to come out of his belly by tearing it open. Thus the brave Gajasura met with his death.
Before dying, Gajasura requested Lord Shiva that though he is dead, his head (the elephant head) should be remembered forever. Lord Shiva fulfilled his last wish and thus got the head of Gajasura fixed to the body of His (Lord Shiva's) elder son who popularly came to known as Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha who is too intelligent is believed to have two wives by names Siddhi and Buddhi. Because of his intelligence and courage, Lord Ganesha is entrusted as the Adhipati (head) of the Ganas and thus he came to be known as Ganadhipati or Gananadha or Ganesha. As per Hindu custom, appeasing the Ganas before starting any work is highly important. So instead of worshiping each and every Gana, their Adhipati i.e. Lord Ganesha is worshiped before starting any work to seek the blessings of not only Ganapati but all the Ganas.
Ganesha is one of the most worshiped god by the Hindus and almost every Hindu temple, you will find the idol of Ganesha in the entrance.