Ganessa’s mythology came to be nested within that of Ssiva and Parvati. The theriomorphic past, where animals are gods, has been sufficiently sanskritized and brahmanized for Ganessa, with all his associations as Ganapati, leader of the dwarf demons of Ssiva, to become pan-Indian, losing ancient tribal and regional origins. Ganesa even transcended his association with Siva, for all Indians are likely to have his image in their business or on a family shrine. The most important features of his mythology involve his birth story, how he came to have an elephant’s head, how he received the power to remove obstacles, and how he became the god of wealth.
An account in the Linga Purana gave one version of his origin. The asuras and the rakshasas performed sacrifices and austerities and received a boon from (Siva by which they were able to defeat the devas (gods) in battle. Indra and the other gods complained to Ssiva and prayed that he would create an obstacle for the asuras and rakshasas. Siva created from himself a being, Vighneshvara, the lord of obstacles, who would place all sorts of objects in the way of the asuras and rakshasas and frustrate their attempts to gain merit from their sacrifices and austerities, thereby decreasing the effectiveness of their boon. Vighneshvara came from Ssiva’s amshas, a part of his power, that was placed in the womb of Parvati. As soon as Vighneshvara was born, he obstructed the wicked and aided the righteous.
The account of Vighneshvara’s birth in the Siva Purana acknowledged other versions but utilized an interesting device to both affirm them and give a new version, saying that in different ages (kalpas) of creation there have been different origins of Vighneshvara. Then it continued to tell about the origin of Vigh- neshvara in the Sveta-kalpa (a long ago cosmic age). In that kalpa Parvati’s companions, Jaya and Vijaya, tried to convince her that she needed her own servant. And when Siva intruded into her bath, she decided to create a gate-keeper (dvarapalaka) from a little dirt from her skin. In so doing, she created a formidable being, Vighneshvara. The next time that Ssiva attempted to burst in upon his wife, Vighneshvara prevented him—even driving him away with a cane that left a few cuts on (Siva. Furious, Siva sent his Bhutaganas (demons), who were also promptly defeated. The gods, including Vishnu, tried to gain Ssiva’s favor by defeating this upstart. Parvati saw the gods ganging up on her son and sent two fierce goddesses to help with magic. They protected Vighneshvara from injury by using maya (“magic,” “illusion”) to misdirect the aim of the god’s weapons. Then Vishnu, lord of maya, confused the goddesses, and they returned to Parvati. At that moment Siva attacked Vighneshvara and easily cut off his head. Of course, the meddling sage Narada appeared to tell Parvati about the death of her son, and Parvati created a thousand fighting goddesses to punish the slayers. The gods were suffering pitifully, so Narada and other sages raced to Parvati and begged that she end her revenge. This she did as soon as her son was brought back to life.
In all versions of this myth, Ssiva sent attendants to find a head, and one of a dead elephant was brought back. That head had only one tusk (eka-danta) and would make Vighneshvara into the elephant-faced god (gajanana), Ganesa. When Parvati saw her restored son, she took him before the assemblage of gods,
Ganesa, son of Siva, is worshipped for protection and as giver of wealth and remover of obstacles. (TRIP)
presided over by her husband Ssiva, and presented her son. Ssiva promptly apologized to all and gave Ganessa command of his demon forces (ganas), acquiring a role that gained him the title Ganapati. Thus this version accounted for the origin of Vighneshvara, Gajanana, Ekadanta, and Ganapati, all different names of Ganesa, without compromising Siva as Lord of Yoga, asceticism. He was both father of Vighneshvara and still chaste.
Three Puranas offered another version (Varaha, Matsya, and Skanda Puranas). This version made Vighneshvara a material aid in the operation of karma. The gods, immortals, and sages noticed that both good and bad actions involved the same effort. So they went to Kailasa and asked Lord (Siva to create some force that would make bad actions more difficult. While Ssiva was contemplating their request, he looked at his wife Parvati, and that look produced a radiant youth with all of Ssiva’s akashic (psychic) qualities. But Parvati (referred to in these works by her other name, Uma) was excited by Ssiva’s creation and cursed their son so that he would not become a temptation for all the female inhabitants of heaven. She cursed him with an elephant’s head and a huge belly. Even so, Ssiva gave him his names: Ganessa Vinayaka (the guide, the remover), Vighnaraja (king or lord of obstacles), Son of (Siva, Chief of the Vinayakas (guides) and of the ganas (demons), Ganapati.
One of the alternate versions involved Parasu-Rama. Ganapati was guarding the entrance to Kailasa while his father Ssiva was sleeping. Meanwhile the sage Parassu-Rama came there and tried to go inside. When he was continuously denied entrance by Ganapati, Parasu-Rama cut off one of Ganapati’s tusks. Thereafter he had only half a tusk on his right side.
Ganapati has a prominent place among Hindu deities as the god who removes all obstacles. This is a natural extension of his strength as an elephant. He is worshipped as Vignesvara, the remover of all obstacles. A puja (ritual worship) is done to him by breaking a coconut at the garbagriha (inner sanctuary) of the temple. Any activity should begin with a prayer to Vignesvara to remove all the obstacles in the way of accomplishing it. The form of Ganapati with his huge ears, trunk, and big belly is philosophically interpreted by Hindus as symbolizing openness of mind for acute receptivity and alertness.
In temple images, Ganapati (Ganesa) is most often found in ensembles with Ssiva and Parvati. He has a large rat for his vehicle and, in many images, one broken tusk. His image is almost obligatory for businesses, since he has become the god of wealth.
See also Ganapati; Parvati; Siva