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Ganesha & Family

Ganesha’s relationship with his parents

Lord Ganesha was a by product of the dirt and perspiration of Goddess Parvati. The reason Parvati breathed life into Ganesha was because she wanted a companion who shall drive away her boredom. After spending significant time with him, she became as fond of him as she would have been of her own son. Goddess Parvati wanted to take a bath and asked her son Ganesha to guard the door. As Lord Shiva attempted to walk in after days of meditation, Lord Ganesha obeyed his mother’s instruction and didn’t allow Shiva to enter. In a fit of anger, and not knowing who Ganesha really was, Shiva beheaded Ganesha. After Parvati’s explanation, Lord Shiva gave Lord Ganesha an elephant’s head and brought him back to life.

According to mythology, the initial interaction doesn’t depict a strong parent-son bond between Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha. It is depicted that the bond between Parvati and Ganesha developed over a period of time and became stronger with time. Shiva was oblivious of the existence of Lord Ganesha. After witnessing his grief stricken wife, Lord Shiva realized the bond that Parvati had developed with her son. In his quest to revive Lord Ganesha, Shiva developed affection for his son. Although many versions of the birth of Lord Ganesha exist, this story is the most popular one and shows the evolving nature of the bond the Shiva-Parvati share with their son Ganesha.

According to the scriptures, a competition between Ganesha and his brother Skanda was held to see who shall win the divine sweet of wisdom- the Modaka. Goddess Parvati asked her sons to encircle the world three times. The one who shall be the fastest will be declared the winner and get the sweet. Skanda went off on a journey to cover the three worlds while Ganesha simply went around his parents three times. When asked the reason behind his action, Lord Ganesha answered his parents Shiva and Parvati constitute the three worlds for him. This depiction of sincerity and devotion won him the sweet of wisdom.

One day, Parashurama, an avatar of Vishnu, went to pay a visit to Shiva. He met Ganesha along the way and was asked to explain his purpose to meet Lord Shiva before he proceeded further. Known for his short temper, Parashurama hurled his axe at Ganesha. Lord Ganesha knew that the axe was a gift given by his father to Parshurama. Out of respect for his father’s gift, Lord Ganesha allowed himself to be struck by it and in turn lost one of his tusks. The respect for his father’s gift made Lord Ganesha endure pain.

The above stories strengthen the fact that Ganesha shared a strong bond with his parents that was built on respect and affection. These are two of the most popular instances that reflect this relationship in an apt manner. For the God of wisdom and knowledge, it was indeed all about loving his parents…

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Ganesha’s relationship with his wives

The marital status of Lord Ganesha is uncertain based on mythological texts. Lord Ganesha is the Lord of the Brahmins and hence by this virtue a celibate. The vedic mantra- Aum, is believed to be the mantra to lead Brahmins and is synonymous with Lord Ganesha. His celibacy is more commonly known in the South of India (states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerela). Since Lord Ganesha was created out of Goddess Parvati alone and not Lord Shiva, he was born out of the female desire to procreate. Hence the relationship of Lord Ganesha with his mother is believed to be unique and special. This devotion and respect is the reason Lord Ganesha is believed to have never found a woman as perfect as his mother.

However, particularly in northern India, Ganesha is believed to have consorts. He is believed to be married to Brahma’s daughter Buddhi and Siddhi. “Buddhi” means intellect and “Siddhi” means spiritual power. Since Lord Ganesha is believed to be the Lord of wisdom and spiritual knowledge, the consorts are befitting.

The scriptures that are dedicated to Lord Ganesha (the Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana) depict the presence of Siddhi and Buddhi. According to the Ganesha Purana Lord Brahma was performing a ritual in honour of Lord Ganesha and offered his prayers to him. Two of the offerings were his daughters, Buddhi and Siddhi that Lord Ganesha accepted graciously as his wives. Various deities offered gifts to Lord Ganesha in his honour but Lord Brahma offered what was born from his mind. It is also mentioned in the Ganesha Purana that Narada (the son of Brahmin) suggested the nuptials of Ganesha with Riddhi and Siddhi, to Brahma. Some ancient texts indicate that Siddhi and Riddhi are avatars of Shakti, but the Matsayapurana contradicts this claim. The Brahmavaivartapurana also mentions Lord Ganesha’s marriage to Pushti (another name for Siddhi).

Siddhi and Buddhi are known as Siddhi and Riddhi in Shiva Purana. As per the Shiva Purana, Lord Ganesha won his consorts as a prize during a race with his elder brother Skanda (Lord Kartikeyan). The race was declared by their mother Parvati who promised the winner an auspicious marriage that will bring him prosperity. The race was to travel the universe three times. Skanda mounted on his peacock to encircle the world. Lord Ganesha went around his parents instead. For his guile, Lord Ganesha was married to Riddhi and Siddhi.

The consorts of Lord Ganesha are an extension of his existing virtues and accentuate the same. Riddhi accentuates prosperity and intellect and Siddhi highlights spiritual power of Lord Ganesha. It is believed that whoever receives the blessings of Lord Ganesha is also blessed by his wives. Hence one may say that Lord Ganesha’s consorts complete him.

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Parvati- the mother of Ganesha

The mother of Lord Ganesha, Parvati is also known as Gauri or Shakti. She is considered the most powerful Goddess in the Hindu religion. All the other goddesses are considered either avatars of Parvati or manifestations of her. Her famous and most worshipped incarnations include Durga, Kali and Chandi.

Parvati is the daughter of the king of Himalayas and the second wife of Lord Shiva. She is a reincarnation of Lord Shiva’s first wife- Shakti. Legend has it that after Shakti killed herself; Shiva went on a destruction rampage. He destroyed those responsible for Shakti’s death and then went to the Himalayas to meditate. On insistence of Narada, the king of Himalayas- Himavan, ordered his daughter Parvati to take care of Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvati fell in love with Shiva. With Manmatha’s help, Shiva fell in love with her. With Shiva, Parvati is depicted with two arms but when alone her idol is shown with four to eight arms. Her vehicle is the tiger or the lion.

The name Parvati literally means “She of the mountains” (since she is the daughter of Himavan). She is also known as Shailaja, Haimavathi and Shailaputri, which mean the same. According to the Durga Saptashati, Parvati has 108 names. The Lalita sahasranama lists over 1,000 names of Parvati. The contradictory names Parvati is known with Uma (the fair one) and Kali (the dark one) reflects her birth as Shakti and subsequent re-birth as Parvati. The opposite colours also depict the opposing nature of Parvati. One form of her is the placid and patient Uma while the other form, Kali, is capable of donning the destructive hat to remove obstacles.

Since Shakti was the goddess of power, Goddess Parvati also shares the attribute. She is the physical manifestation of Adi Parashakti. It is this quality that makes her omnipresent among all beings. Whether it is gods, the animals or the humans, power is necessary. She is worshipped by even the holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
There is no explicit mention of Parvati in the Vedic texts or a dedicated scripture for her. There is a mention of Parvati in the Kena Upanishad, the Puranas and the poems of Kalidasa.

Parvati is also the mother of one of the most powerful and important deities in the Hindu religion, Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha may be the son of Shiva and Parvati but the Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana and the Mudgala Purana, credit the birth of Lord Ganesha to Parvati only. Lord Ganesha was created by Parvati out of turmeric paste to guard the gates while she took a bath. After spending considerable time with the boy she got attached to him and considered Lord Ganesha as her son. After Ganesha was beheaded by his father it is believed that Parvati turned to Kali in her anger. It was because of her wrath that Shiva resurrected Lord Ganesha by giving him the head of an elephant. Ganesha is also known as Umaputra (Son of Uma) and Heramba (mother’s beloved).

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Ganesha and his children

Lord Ganesha is more popularly known as a celibate and as the king of Brahmins. But the Mudgal Purana talks about his marriage to Brahma’s daughters – Riddhi (prosperity) and Siddhi (wealth). The Shiva Purana has evidence of Lord Ganesha having two sons. Not just the scholars but the different scriptures dedicated to Lord Ganesha quote different versions about his bachelorhood. There are some temples that have idols of Lord Ganesha placed with his wives and sons.

Lord Brahma conducted the wedding of Lord Ganesha’s to Riddhi and Sidhi. In due course of time Kshema and Labh were born. It is also known that Lord Ganesha had a daughter called Santoshi Ma,. Santoshi Ma is known as the goddess of satisfaction. Even though the myth is popular, there is no evidence of Ganesha’s daughter in any scripture. As mentioned the birth of Lord Ganesha’s son is given in the Shiva Purana.

Kshema was born to Lord Ganesha and Riddhi. He is known as the God of prosperity. Labh was born to Siddhi and Lord Ganesha. Labh is the God of profit. Labh is also known as the giver of the biggest profit and Kshema is the protector of that bounty. Kshema is also known as Shubh (auspicious). Ganesha (wisdom) and Riddhi (Intellect) created Shubh (auspiciousness) and Ganesha (knowledge) and Siddhi (Spiritual wellbeing) created Labh (Profit). Intelligence as a quality can only be auspicious or work in favour of anyone, if guided with wisdom. Therefore Lord Ganesha is called the Lord or the owner of the attributes that his sons and wives have. Matsaya Purana refers to Kshema and Labh as Lord Ganesha’s helpers.

When we say that Lord Ganesha is the lord of wisdom, wealth, prosperity, knowledge and profit, we can see that the members of his family mean each of these words. The mantra recited on Ganesh Chatturthi invites Lord Ganesha with his wives (Riddhi and Siddhi) and his sons (Kshema and Labh). The mantra (Om Sri Ganeshav Namah, Riddhi Siddhi Shubh Labh) means that we invite Lord Ganesha with his whole family to bless us. Devotees believe that if Lord Ganesha comes alone he will not stay for long and would go back to his family. So the invitation to the entire family makes Lord Ganesha stay with his devotees.

The story of Lord Ganesha’s sons may be debatable but the attributes of Kshema and Labh are a reflection to that of Lord Ganesha.

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