Lord Ganesha: From a fierce fighter to Lord of the People

Lord Ganesha

Ganesh Chathurthi is round the corner. There are so many tales around one of the most lovable and celebrated gods. One such is in Siva Purana on the birth of Ganesha. In fact, one of the meanings of Ganesha is “Lord of the People.”

Siva Purana says that he is not the son of Siva and Parvathi. He is the creation of Parvathi alone who breathes life into a figure to protect her precious privacy.

The story goes this way. Parvathi, also known as Uma and Gowri, was upset that Siva constantly yearned for her attention. And she badly needed time for herself. She had a ritual of taking bath in a pond daily along with her close confidants Jaya and Vijaya. Every time when she goes for a bath, Siva would pop up and strike a conversation. This upset her often as she could neither relax nor spend some time with her confidants.

In short, she wanted some ‘me time’ – defined as time spent relaxing on one’s own terms as opposed to working or doing things for others. It is seen as an opportunity to reduce stress or restore energy.

When Siva’s constant chatter got on her nerves, she asked Jaya and Vijaya on what she should do. They suggested appointing a powerful bodyguard at the gates of the house with clear instructions not to allow anyone in. But that did not work as most guards were appointees of Siva and they let the master through.

Then Parvathi comes up with a plan. She decides to create someone on her own. She mixes the Kumkum on the body with sweat and tears to create a figure. And lo ! He turned out to be a handsome boy of about 6 years. Jaya and Vijaya were both wonder-struck and fell for the beauty of the boy.

The boy immediately asked his mother as to why he was created and his duties. Parvathi told him that he would be her personal bodyguard and should not allow anyone in without her issuing a gate pass.

Done, said the boy. Jaya and Vijaya reminded her that any bodyguard should be suitably armed. Parvathi agreed. Picking up a bamboo stick, Parvathi breathed a mantra into it and gave it to the boy and told him that with this bamboo, he would be able to fight and defeat anyone.

Minutes later, as expected of Siva, he turns up. He was astonished to find a young lad with a bamboo stick at the entrance. “Who is this charming lad with a bamboo stick in his hand”,  Siva asked his rudra ganas (the ferocious army of Siva which does not know of any rules). None of them had an answer.

Siva approached the boy with a smile and asked him: “Young handsome boy, who are you?”

The boy does not give an immediate answer. Looking up and down Siva, he wonders who this strange-looking guy with an equally strange-looking hairdo, dressed in fancy clothes with a snake around his neck and a moon on his head is.

The boy mockingly lets out a chuckle and tells Siva: “Stranger, first tell me who you are.”

Normally a short-tempered Siva would have gone wild. But he found the boy so cute that he just let out a smile and said: “I am the master of this house. Move aside boy and let me in.”

Boy: “I am not aware of any such master. Moreover, I cannot imagine you as a master.”

Though slightly rebuked, Siva again does not get angry. He tells his rudra ganas to go and convince the boy.

The rudras approach the boy and ask him the same question that Siva had asked: “Who are you cutie.”

Boy: “First tell me who you guys are?”

Rudras: “We are the followers of Siva.”

The boy again chuckles and says: “I thought your master was a strange guy, but I find you all stranger and weird”.  And he sarcastically adds: “But I must admit that you are all ‘handsome’. Have you all looked at yourself in the mirror of late?”

Mocked at by the young lad, the Rudras let out a roar of laughter, but refrain from any attack as they fall for the charm of the boy.

They go back to Siva to say that they could not succeed; at the same time, they could not tweak at the ears of the lad as he looked so sweet.

An angry Siva admonishes his army of rudras and taunts them saying if there was anyone with a spine among them. He then asks the rudras to finish off the adamant lad.

The Rudras let out a roar and put their matted hair forward – a sign of attack – and rushed towards the lad who smiled and asked them to come and face the bamboo music. With his bamboo staff, he beat them black and blue and many fled the scene.

Hearing the commotion at the gates, Parvathi tells Jaya and Vijaya to find out what was happening. They rush back to tell Uma (Parvathi) that her son has just beaten the Rudras and is still guarding the gates with a smile. Uma feels proud that her creation is so strong and true to his promise.

After the Rudras get defeated, Siva himself enters the battlefield. When he tries to gatecrash into his own house, the young lad gives Siva one whack on his foot.  

It is at this time when Siva gets angry and decides to attack the boy. But the boy defends himself valiantly and keeps Siva engaged. At one point, he uses the staff to disarm Siva of his mighty trishul (trident). Siva then summons his son Subramania, who is known for his combat skills to join the battle. (in some puranas, Subramania is younger to Ganesha, but here, he is depicted as elder to the lad).

Subramania in vain uses all his skills, and tells his father that the boy has some strange powers.

Hearing all this commotion, Vishnu and Brahma call on Siva and ask him if he needs any help. Siva nods, but Brahma, looking at the charming lad, says that he will use his persuasive skills to end the standoff.

Brahma approaches the lad and tells him in a sweet tone that he should allow Siva in as he is the master of the house.

The lad looks at Brahma and wonders who this man with four heads and long beard was. He catches Brahma’s beard and pulls it hard saying if he wanted to avoid any beating at this age, he would need to flee at once. Brahma just does that – flee.

The clever Vishnu tells Siva that the lad cannot be defeated in ordinary warfare and there is a need to use Maya or trickery to confuse him. Vishnu then uses Maya to create four mirror images of himself and then attacks the lad. But the little one uses his staff to show Vishnu his place.

Vishnu then rushes to the war room and chalks out another plan. He tells Siva that the lad’s power is in the magical staff. “We need to somehow remove it from his hands,” Vishnu tells Siva.

At this point, both Siva and Vishnu try to battle it out with the lad. After many moves, the staff gets separated and the lad remains still. Before he could go to pick up the stick, Vishnu uses the Sudarshana Chakra to remove the head of the lad.

Here the story takes a new turn. Some say that Vishnu did not actually remove the head of the lad, but using Maya, he makes his brain dysfunctional. With his staff missing and a brain that suddenly stopped functioning, the kid remained motionless.

At this point, Jaya and Vijaya rush to Uma and tell her how her beautiful creation was cheated and defeated in war by her husband and Vishnu.

Uma gets wild with rage, lets down her hair and rushes to the scene with blood-shot eyes and a wild roar that shakes the three worlds. Her anger threatened to scorch the three worlds and the devas started to shiver in fear.

Uma picks up the headless torso of the lad and puts it on her lap, getting more wild with rage and looked around trying to get an answer on who perpetrated the crime.

While Vishnu managed to vanish from the scene, Siva did not know what to do.

Siva gently approaches Uma and asks her what she needs to cool her anger. She replies that the lad should be brought back to life.

It would have been easier for Siva to refix the chopped-off head of the lad, but by then a few Rudras had fled the scene with the head.

Instead of losing time trying to find out where the head is, he tells his remaining Rudras (some say Brahma) to find out any living or dead person facing north and bring his head.

The Rudras soon come across a one tusked dead elephant and brings its head back to be refixed on the lad.

Some pundits say that it was an over-sized head of a person who had immense knowledge of the Vedas and a very sharp memory. He had a long nose and a wide jaw, almost resembling an elephant’s head.

Anyways, once the lad was brought alive, Uma cooled down a bit but was not completely satisfied. She called him Ganesha or the Lord of the People. It is also said that she told the lad that only he will be seated on her lap. “You are my Gana”, she said, meaning that you will be my guard, my favourite.

Vishnu and Brahma soon join. It is customary to bless the ‘new-born’ and Siva tells Uma that Ganesha will be worshiped ahead of all the Gods in any ritual or homa.

Vishnu blesses Ganesha with immense knowledge and the power to grasp anything in a jiffy.

Brahma tells Ganesha that he will be known to remove any obstacle of his devotees and hence known as Vignanashaka or Vinayaka (some say that naughty lad wanted the power to create obstacles too and hence Vinayaka).

The Rudras fall at the feet of Ganesha and bless him this way: “We are known for our burning hunger and appetite. May you be blessed with food always. You will love any form of food.”

 A satisfied Uma blesses him saying while Siva will be known as Umapathi, you will be known as Gowri Ganesha (Gowri is another name of Parvathi). “You will be loved by the people in various forms and figures and people will never stop offering food to you”.

These days there is a debate whether Ganesha’s trunk should face right or left. This debate is meaningless because Parvathi has blessed her son saying that he will be loved by the people in ANY form. This is quite evident during Ganesha festival.

I bow my head before Lord Ganesha. 


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