Origin of Ganesh
Perhaps the most popular story regarding Ganesha’s origin is the one derived from the Shiva Purana. Mother Parvati once wanted to take a bath and created a boy from the dirt of Her own body, asking him to stand as a guard outside while She bathed. In the meantime Lord Shiva returned home to find a stranger at His door, preventing Him from entering. In anger, Shiva cut off the boy’s head, upon which Parvati was stricken with great grief. In order to console Her, Shiva sent out his troops to fetch the head of anyone found sleeping with his head pointing to the north. They found an elephant sleeping thus and brought back its head.
Shiva then attached the elephantine head to the body of the boy and revived him. He named the boy Ganapati or commander of His troops, and granted Him a boon that anyone would have to worship Him (Ganesha) before beginning any undertaking.
Mystery of Ganesh
Once there was neither Being nor Nonbeing. There was neither Form nor Formlessness. Then, That which was hidden within Itself, That One, stirring, emerging, coming to be. From Itself to the Formless to the Form. Immutable, changeless, everywhere, pervading all, yet not physically such is the mystery. Suddenly an ancient note piercing the darkness. A song whose birth stirred the slumbering, summoning an eternal mystery to awaken. Emerging from deep within the hidden cave, the human heart, Ganesha’s truth flows from the icecave of the infinite. Housed within our gated dwelling, Ganesha the guest loved and longed for. That which has no form, can take a form. That which has no name, can take a name. From the formless to form, and back again and again and again. The wheel of time gathers speed, and somewhere between fact and legend, vision and myth, we ask, “Who is Ganesha? There are those who lovingly sing his praises. There are those who worship and adore him. There are those who represent him in art and literature. There are those who tell stories about him. There are those who chant his glory. There are those who seek his darshana. There are those who invoke and invite his blessings. The thinkers think, the scholars scholasticise, the devotees worship. But what is Ganesh’s hidden meaning? There is a long and hoary lineage of seekers, scholars, sycophants, who have attempted to plumb the mysteries of the elephant-headed one. Anthropologists, Artists, religious Aspirants, Historians, Indologists, Linguists, Philosophers, Religionists, Sociologists, and contemporary devotees of Ganesha are but some of the most recent representatives of this enquiry. Each group has attempted, and continues to attempt, to make sense of this enormously popular deity. Seemingly incongruous facts simultaneously coincide. Ganesha embodies: An enormous popularity that transcends sectarian and territorial limits; a seemingly rather late, yet dramatic, full-blown appearance into a religious pantheon; a confusing, conflicting, yet interesting and intriguing mythology; and an elephant’s head atop a plump human body! To further complicate the picture is the fact that the physical representation of Ganesh offers more iconographic variations than does that of any other Indian deity. Couple this with the fact that Ganesha literature is rife with a seemingly endless number of stories on an unexpectedly limited number of themes. O Ganesha, who are you really? Tell the others what you want, tell them anything, but between you and me, who are you really?