It’s been an intense week, and today, I want to tell you a story. Because stories inspire, uplift and transport. This story is thousands of years old. It’s the story of one of my favorite beings: Ganesha.
Ganesha is the God of good fortune, and the most loved and revered in the Hindu tradition. He’s the Remover of Obstacles - you call on him to help make your path smoother and bring you luck. I consider him a friend as I talk to him most days and feel his energy dancing around me (little known fact: Ganesh loves to dance). I have called on him many times to help me in challenging situations, especially those times when I don’t feel safe. I have a picture of him on the dashboard of my car, and one on my fridge. Because, well, those are two places where things can go wrong, if you don’t have the proper guidance!
I also painted him twice, as you can see below and in my store.
The popular mantra repeated to call him forth is: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha.
In the Hindu tradition, Ganesh is in every household (whether in sculpture or painting), generally at the entrance of the house. He's more present in the everyday life than any other God. In fact, every ceremony starts with an invocation to Ganesh. He’s also very popular in the West because of his amazing appearance: the body of a man with the head of an elephant.
Here’s the story of how he got his elephant head, as it was told to me:
Ganesh is the son of the Goddess Parvati and the God Shiva. Shiva is one of the main deities of Hinduism, along with Brahma and Vishnu. He is regarded as pure space, limitless and transcendent. He's mighty, to say the least. Parvati is the Goddess of love and devotion, one of the many forms of Shakti, the Divine Feminine energy that is at the source of the Universe. So quite some good genetics going on there for Ganesh (though some sources say Parvati created him herself out of turmeric paste, while Shiva was gone on another one of his battles…)
Before Ganesh’s birth, Shiva had to leave to fight a war against some evil demon. Business as usual. Maybe a little longer than usual: Shiva was gone for 20 years. To his defense, he was kept prisoner in the stomach of the demon...
Upon his return home, Shiva goes right to Parvati's chambers and stops suddenly when he sees a young warrior in front of his wife’s door. The warrior sees him and, thinking he’s here to attack the Goddess, draws his sword. Shiva tries to tell him who he is, but the young man doesn’t believe him. An epic sword battle ensues, and Shiva chops off the head of the young warrior. Alerted by the commotion, Parvati, who was in her bath, comes out and screams in horror:
“Shiva! You cut the head of our son! What did you do?! Fix this or I’ll never speak to you again!”
Shiva was more terrified than he’s ever been in front of any demon. And he must have said something stupid at that point, because Parvati got so mad that she decided to destroy the whole universe! Which, by the way, she’s totally able to do. And thus starts summoning all the forms of Shakti to get the job done. Brahma, the God of Creation, was not too happy about it, understandably so. He promises to bring Ganesh back to life if Parvati doesn’t destroy the whole universe.
So Shiva goes to get the head, but it's nowhere to be found. I know, weird. He looks around in desperation, there is not much time left to be able to resuscitate his son and avoid complete destruction! So he orders his soldiers to go out and bring back the head of the first being they see lying dead with its head facing North (why such a request, I do not know). They bring back the massive head of an elephant.
As you can imagine, Parvati was far from happy with this. She tells Shiva: “What have you done? An elephant head? All of the other Gods will make fun of him! He will never be taken seriously as a God!"
So, to appease Parvati, Shiva and Brahma promise her that he will be the most revered God of all. Shiva gathers all the Gods and makes an announcement:
“From now on, Ganesh shall be the most adored and revered of all the Gods. He should be the first to be honored at the beginning of all ceremony, from now to the end of time. I am Shiva, and so it shall be.”
Brahma was in on this too, so the other Gods really didn’t have much choice. And, as they soon discovered, Ganesh was a God very easy to adore and all started loving him.
And so, many centuries later, Ganesh is still the most loved of all the Gods.