Stories from Ancient India: How Lord Ganesh got an Elephant’s Head

One day Goddess Parvati wanted to be alone and have a bath, so she instructed the bull Nandi who was Lord Shiva’s personal guard to ensure that no one could enter the house while she was bathing. Just then Lord Shiva wanted to meet Parvati. Seeing him, the Lord of Mount Kailash, Nandi immediately allowed him into the area where Parvati was bathing. When Parvati came to know about this, she was furious about the fact that the guard she had ordered to do her work was more faithful to her husband than to her.

In retaliation, she took the turmeric paste from her body and with her powers, created a child whom she wanted to be faithful only to herself and no one else. She named the child Ganesha. At this point in time, no one knew about the creation of this child as Shiva was away from Mount Kailash then.

Soon, the child was guarding the Parvati’s room and did not allow anyone to enter the room as ordered by Parvati. Meanwhile, Lord Shiva entered their home and made his way to Parvati’s private chambers. Following orders, Ganesha stopped the great lord with a loud “Stop! You cannot enter my mother’s private chambers”

Shiva was amazed both at the audacity of this child who was stopping him from entering his own home and with the fact that this child, whom he had never seen before was calling his wife Parvati his mother.

“Who are you to stop me from entering my own home? Do you even know who I am?” Shiva roared in anger.

“I don’t know who you are, but I can’t allow you inside since my mother has forbidden me from doing so” replied Ganesha.

Furious, Lord Shiva sent his army or Gana Sena to attack the child. But Ganesha who was no ordinary child was born with immense strength and he soon defeated the army easily. Shiva then looked at other avenues to reason with the child. He used the services of Lord Brahma who came in the form of a peaceful Brahmin and tried reasoning with Ganesha using the religious texts, but Ganesha did not budge. Then Shiva mobilized the army of the gods or Devas, but the child routed them too easily. Enraged beyond reason, Shiva then goes behind Ganesha when he is battling others and cuts off his head.

“Motherrrrr” Ganesha screams and dies on the spot. Hearing the noise, Pravati rushes from her private apartment and sees the carnage before her. Seeing her child, her creation dead in front of her puts her in a great rage and she moves into her destruction mode threatening to destroy the entire universe. Seeing this makes all the Gods assembled there very nervous and scared and Brahma decided to intervene and asked her to reconsider her decision

“I will not destroy this universe only on two conditions – one my child be brought back to life and two Ganesha will be worshipped and propitiated before any other Gods” Parvati put down her conditions.

In order to console his wife and stop the world from being destroyed, Shiva agreed to the conditions and sent for his servants and soldiers.

“Go forth and bring to us the first head of any creature you come across which is sleeping with it’s head pointed in the northern direction” Shiva ordered his soldiers and they soon set out to do their Lord’s bidding. The Ganas spread out to search for a creature with its head to the north and soon find an elephant sleeping with its head to the north.

They then bring the elephant’s head back to Lord Shiva who attaches it to Ganesha’s body and with his divine powers, soon brings him back to life. Ganesha soon gets revived and Lord Shiva proclaims him his own son and also the leader of his army, hence his name as Ganapati (Lord of the Ganas). He further proclaims that Ganesha will be foremost of all Gods and will be the first God to be worshipped as well as before anyone undertakes any new undertaking.

This is how Lord Ganesha came into existence, why we worship him first and why he is also called Ganapati

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