Yes, now of course we all know that Ganesh is the remover of obstacles, everybody and their yoga teacher knows that! But lets cover ground in some of those other little known secrets about Ganesh, so you have something to woo the crowd with at your next yoga party.
Ganesh is the son of Shiva the Destroyer and Parvati. A lot of family pressure, right? He also has an older brother Kartikeya, god of war and victory, which doesn’t make anything easier for our gentle remover of obstacles.
Parvati, Ganesh’s mother, was hanging out at her and Shiva’s mountain home one day when she tried to go visit her husband only to be blocked by Shiva’s head attendant, Nandi. Apparently, Shiva was in one of his deep meditations again and wanted for no reason to be disturbed. Parvati, as you can imagine, was deeply hurt and felt very lonely being ignored by her husband. She made the decision to have someone who would be there anytime she needed and would only respond to her. So, right then and there she collected some clay from the ground and molded the most handsome young man she could image, the next moment she breathed life into him and lo and behold, handsome Ganesh was born.
We take it all for granted that Ganesh has always had an elephant head, but it wasn’t always that way! Oh no, Ganesh was quite a looker in his early years. So much so that he was extremely arrogant of his looks. Soon after his creation Parvati requested Ganesh to guard her side of the mountain while she bathed. As she was away, Shiva came out of his deep meditation and, as any good husband would, went to go visit his wife unaware of the newly created Ganesh. Suddenly he was confronted by a handsome young man telling him he couldn’t see his wife….. you can imagine how furious Shiva was. There was a quick battle and in the process Shiva beheaded Ganesh. After learning who he really was, Shiva decided to bring him back to life and told his entourage to bring the head of the first sleeping being they found with it’s head facing towards the North. Well, the first thing they found was an elephant, so Shiva attached the elephant head to Ganesh’s body, then proceeding to save Ganesh from his pride over his body, he increased his weight to make him the chubby deity we know and love today.
The Broken Tusk
We have all seen it, but it may have not struck you why our elephant-headed friend has a broken tusk. One day, as Ganesh was guarding his father who was in one of his deep meditations, a family friend came to visit. It was Parashurama an incarnation of Vishnu who is known for his serious temper. Ganesh was a little perplexed because he was told to not let anyone disturb his father in meditation, however here was a serious VIP in the house. Unable to disobey a direct order from his father he blocked Parashurama’s way, and as a result Parashurama lost his temper and threw an axe at Ganesh. Ganesh knowing that the axe was a gift from his father allowed the axe to hit him out of respect. The result: a broken tusk!
You might wonder why Ganesh is truly one of the most popular hindu gods while there are many other of the same status or position that are far less well known. Well, that isn’t because of good marketing! Ganesh was actually the recipient of a boon (a wish) from another god. The boon granted him to be more revered and worshiped than even his father, and he would be the first god to be acknowledged when entering a temple. Modern day translation: most shared and posted god on all of Facebook!
That Sweet Ride
Now, most people may not know this, but almost every Hindu god has a vehicle or trusty steed. If that is the case, then what is Ganesh’s vehicle? Well, have you ever noticed that tiny mouse that always seems to be in the pictures with Ganesh. Yup, that’s his trusty steed! But, what Ganesh lacks in physical power he certainly makes up for in brains. During a bet, Ganesh and his brother Kartikeya challenged each other to see who could go around the world 3 times the fastest. As Kartikeya jumped onto his huge bird of a vehicle and flew at records speeds to get around the world and win the challenge, Ganesh was left on the ground. Nobody had ever given him a vehicle to ride, so he quickly asked his father for some form of a vehicle to ride upon, to which Shiva gave a tiny mouse. Ganesh, knowing this mouse could never carry him started brainstorming. An idea came to him and he went up to his parents, walked around them 3 times and announced he had won the challenge, because parents are the highest respected members of any family they are respected as symbolic of the world. Shiva was pleased that he won his challenge, and forever after he was revered for his incredible intellect.
Our last fun fact is about Ganesh’s writing ability. He was actually the scribe who hand-wrote the entire Mahabharata poem. The great sage Vyāsa requested Ganesh to write the poem as he dictated, knowing this would be a huge project Ganesh agreed on one condition, Vyasa must recite the entire poem un-interrupted, without pausing or taking a break. The great Vyāsa agreed to this request however found a loop-hole to give himself a break, he would give Ganesh incredibly difficult complex passages so Ganesh would be forced to ask questions giving the tricky Vyāsa the time to rest when needed.