How Ganesha got the elephant head and the big belly??

Posted on: June 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm


is one of the best-known and most widely worshiped 

deities in the Indian subcontinent and world over.

The elephant-deity has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. Always portrayed with a mouse  his official carrier/ vehical (called Vahanam in Sanskrit ), his body and form has not only mesmerized devotees but also has been an inspiration for artists . 
"Celebrating Ganesha" 14"x11" © sandhyamanne 2010

"Celebrating Ganesha" 14"x11" © sandhyamanne 2010

He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshiped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. He is honored at the beginning of all Hindu rituals and ceremonies. Ganesha's head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality.

I grew up listening to a no: of mythological stories from my Grampa....I loved the way he narrated and would ask him to repeat them over and over..Here is one on how Ganesha got his elephant head.
"Abstract Saffron Ganesha" 10"x 8" © sandhyamanne 2010

"Abstract Saffron Ganesha" 10"x 8" © sandhyamanne 2010

Once goddess Parvati (Wife of Lord Shiva) wanted complete solitude and instructed her guards not to let anyone into her Palace. When the guards were adhering to her command, Lord Shiva came and wanted to enter the  Palace. unable to stop the Lord himself ,the guards let him go but this upset the Goddess.  So she decided to create someone who would not be afraid of anyone not even the Lord. So while bathing, she sculpted a boy out of the turmeric wrap of her body, gave him life and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her Palace. When Lord Shiva, returned, he was surprised to find a young boy denying him access. Lord Shiva known for his short temper struck off the boy's head in rage.
When Parvati came to know about the indecent, she broke down in utter grief. So to soothe her, Shiva sent out his soldiers to fetch the head of any sleeping being facing the north. The soldiers found a sleeping elephant and brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored his life and bestowed a boon that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any new venture.


Another story I often heard from  grampa was how Ganesh got his big belly..

"Content" 14"x11" © sandhyamanne 2011

"Content" 14"x11" © sandhyamanne 2011

Once Lord Kubera, the god of riches, invited Lord Shiva and Parvati for dinner, to show off his wealth. Lord Shiva and Parvati knew his intensions and refused the invitation.
But they suggested he could invite their son Ganesha instead. Ganesha took up the invitation and went for the dinner. Kubera with all his pride of wealth treated him with all exotic and rich food. Ganesha started eating. He ate and ate and ate. He ate so much that soon Kubera had to deploy his entire army to feed him. Soon the food in the palace was over and, Ganesha started eating the furniture, pillars and everything that he laid his hands on. A scared Kubera rushed for help to Lord Shiva to somehow stop his son. Shiva advised him to feed Ganesha a handful of rice but with humility. It was only this cup of rice that fully satisfied Ganesha's hunger.
Ganesha  belly grew soo big after this that he is also called Lambodara (Pot bellied or hanging belly). Ganesha's belly represents the brahmanda, the entire universe and its illusory quality to encompass everything good or bad. 

There are many such stories about Ganesha, which I plan to post here..These are mythological stories passed on from generation to generation..and sometimes even have multiple versions across the Indian subcontinent.

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