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Ganesha & Family

Skanda and Ganesha

Skanda and GaneshaSkanda or Kartikeyan is an extremely popular Hindu deity among south Indians. He is the brother of Lord Ganesha. In south he is also known as Murugan. Riding the peacock, popularity of Skanda has spread across the globe like his family members. In places with Tamil population his reputation is that of an important deity. He is also worshiped by Buddhists.

Like most Hindu deities Murugan is also known by many other names like Senthil (the clever one), Shadhanana (the one with six faces), Guhan (the one who lives in a cave), Dhandapany (the one with a club) and many more. The devoted text for Lord Kartikeyan, the Skanda Purana, is considered as the largest text in the Mahapurana (a collection of eighteen religious Hindu texts). There are different versions of Skanda’s birth according to the Puranas. When Shiva lost his first wife and began to lead a life of an ascetic, a demon Taraka started creating havoc in the world. It was believed that only a son borne out of Parvati and Shiva could destroy Taraka. Shiva’s first marriage to Shakti happened with great difficulty and hence his second marriage was out of the question. Parvati, a reincarnation of Shakti, fell in love with Shiva. With the help of Narada and Manmatha, Parvati married Lord Shiva. Kartikeyan (Skanda) was born after the marriage and he destroyed Taraka. Another story of Kartikeyan’s birth is equally popular. When Shiva and Parvati went to live in Gandhamadana, they decided to have a son. The purpose was to destroy the demon Taraksur. While they were procreating their energies joined. The emission and the combination of the energies created a ‘Urjha’. On instruction of Indra, Agni stole the ‘Urjha’. The Urjha emitted so much energy that Agni could not handle it and deposited it in the Ganges. The Urjha cooled off in the river and deposited as six fragments. The fragments were deposited in a place called Sara Vana covered with reeds. Six babies were born out of the fragments. Meanwhile goddess Parvati cursed Indra, Agni and the Gods for stealing the Urjha. When Agni told her what he had done, Parvati found the babies and combined them into one. Kartikeyan was born.

It is debatable whether Skanda is the elder one or not. In north, Kartikeyan is considered to be the elder one while in south he is known as the younger one. There are many anecdotes surrounding Ganesha and Skanda. The ancient Mahapuranas mention many stories of Ganesha and Skanda in their childhood and prime. The childhood stories mostly revolve around the sibling repartee and competition over who was the better son. Although Lord Ganesha is more popular than his brother, the powers of Kartikeyan can’t be ignored. Kartikeyan is an important part of the most powerful Hindu family in the Indian culture.

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Shiva- Father of Lord Ganesha

Shiva- Father of Lord GaneshaLord Shiva, who is an important part of the holy trinity, is the father of Lord Ganesha.  He is one of the most important God’s in the Hindu culture. Shiva is known as the destroyer. While the word has negative connotations, here it simply means that Lord Shiva destroys the rotten to create something new. It is this cycle of destruction and creation that makes life possible. Shiva is considered a learned sage who leads a life of an ascetic on top of mount Kailasa, along with his wife Parvati. He is worshipped as a lingam also in many temples of India. The lingam constitutes the female and the male reproductive organs which reflect that Shiva constitutes the process of reproduction to sustain life. This fact further strengthens the belief that Lord Shiva is responsible to complete the circle of life. Apart from a lingam Shiva is also depicted as immersed in meditation or as a dancer (Natraja). He is also shown in rage slaying demons.

The Shiva Sahasranama lists many names of Shiva which mostly mean pure, destroyer or the auspicious one. In Mahanyasa, he has ten thousand names (Dasha Sahasranama). There is a dedicated sect of Hinduism for Lord Shiva called Shaivism (the other sects of Hinduism are- Smartism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism). Followers of Shaivism consider Lord Shiva as the Supreme Being.

In his depiction, Lord Shiva is shown with three eyes, the Ganges flowing out of his hair and a crescent moon on his forehead. He also has ash smeared all over him. He holds Trishul and a Damaroo (a small drum). He also has a snake coiled around his neck.

Each of these artefacts and attributes mean something. The third eye was opened by Lord Shiva to destroy Kama (desire). The ash smeared over the body of Shiva denotes that he has forsaken all material pleasures to attain spirituality. The crescent moon denotes the waxing and waning phenomena of the moon through which the time cycle evolves. This reflects the control of Lord Shiva over time. The sacred Ganges considered as the holiest river in India has made its abode in Shiva’s head. The serpent around the neck denotes eternity and knowledge.

As Lord Ganesha’s father, Shiva is the one who declared that Ganesha would be considered the most powerful God after the holy trinity and Parvati. Lord Shiva also endowed Ganesha with wisdom and knowledge and also placed the head of an elephant on him. Some legends have it that Ganesha was given the head of an elephant by Shiva because Shiva found him too alluring. The relationship between Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha is that of immense mutual respect. The mighty father and son (along with Parvati) form the most respected and worshipped in the Hindu culture.

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Ganesha and his wives

Ganesha and his wivesThe marital status of Ganesha has been under discussion for long. He is known as the leader of the Brahman, after his father Lord Shiva instated the title on him. In some paintings and idols Lord Ganesha is depicted with his wives or consorts. Some devotees of Lord Ganesha believe that the female companions depicted in the paintings and statues are not his consorts but his servants or dasi. Another theory is that the qualities of Ganesha (intellect, wisdom and prosperity) are often personified as women who are shown with him. These differences in theories can be explained on the basis of regional diversity. The belief of Ganesha being unmarried is popular in the southern region of India while the concept of his wives holds ground in the northern region.

The scriptures dedicated to Lord Ganesha (the Mudgala Purana and the Ganesha Purana) contain descriptions of Lord Ganesha with his wives. The story cites that Lord Ganesha expressed the desire to get married. His parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, searched the universe for a bride for Lord Ganesha. No woman agreed to marry Lord Ganesha because of the head of an elephant. This made Lord Ganesha very upset. Finally Lord Shiva and Parvati went to Lord Brahma for a solution. Lord Brahma along with Lord Ganesha performed a ‘yagya’. At the end of the ‘yagya’, Brahma created Siddhi and Riddhi and called them his daughters. Lord Brahma asked Lord Ganesha to marry them.

The Shiva Purana also mentions Riddhi and Siddhi as Lord Ganesha’s wives. The story of the marriage is different from the story given in the former scripture. According to the Shiva Purana, Skanda (brother of Ganesha) and Ganesha desired to marry the beautiful daughters of king Prajapati. They were asked to compete in a race if they wished to marry Riddhi and Siddhi. The race was to encircle the world thrice and the one to do it in the least time would win. Skanda hopped on his vehicle, the peacock, and set out while Lord Ganesha stood up and went aounr his parents three times. On being asked why he had done so, Lord Ganesha answered that his world constituted of his parents. Impressed with the wisdom and the clever approach to win the race, Prajapati gave the hand of Riddhi and Siddhi to Ganesha. The Shiva Purana further mentions the birth of Kshema and Labha, sons of Ganesha.

Riddhi is interchangeably called Buddhi, though some texts mention Buddhi separately. Scholars believe that these female characters are nothing but shaktis of Lord Ganesha. In Hinduism every divine being consists of male and female avatars. While Vinayaki is the female avatar of Lord Ganesha, it is believed that Riddhi and Siddhi are also the same.

Siddhi means spiritual power and Riddhi denotes prosperity. On the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi or any occasion involving praying of Lord Ganesha, it is important to invoke Riddhi and Siddhi as well. Although prosperity and spiritual power are qualities of Lord Ganesha, it is only after invoking the names of his wives that these qualities come to the devotees.

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Ganesha and his relationship with other deities

Ganesha and his relationship with other deitiesLord Ganesha is one of the five most powerful Hindu deities. Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and Brahma are the other four deities. While Lord Ganesha’s relationship is that of a son to Lord Shiva, this article examines the relationship of Lord Ganesha with the other three prime deities.
Durga is the wrathful incarnation of Goddess Parvati. Brahma created the ‘asura’ (demon) Mahishasur and granted him the boon that he could only be destroyed by a female goddess, who can overpower every male deity. Mahishasur became blinded with the power and started to create havoc. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva decided to give each of their powers to Parvati. She donned the avatar of Durga and destroyed Mahishasur. Since Durga is an avatar of Parvati, by that virtue Lord Ganesha is Durga’s son. The bond between Durga and Lord Ganesha gives true meaning to the incantation of the Ganesh stuti during the ritual of Durga puja. The festival takes place over ten days and ritually the banana tree holds spiritual significance. The plant is given in the charge of Lord Ganesha who is supposed to take care of it. This exemplifies the relationship between Ganesha and Durga.
When Parvati created Lord Ganesha out of her scurf, her intent was to create him for guarding the gates. Over time she became fond of Ganesha and started to love him like her son. One day when Ganesha was acting as per his mother’s instructions and was guarding the gates, Lord Shiva appeared. He had been meditating atop Mount Kailasa and was unaware of the new member of the family. When Lord Shiva was stopped at the gates of his own house, he was enraged. Shiva beheaded Ganesha in a fit of rage. When Parvati realized what had happened she became extremely angry. Her anger posed a threat to the entire universe. Lord Shiva was unable to control her anger and asked for help from other deities. It was Lord Vishnu who came forward and got an elephant’s head for Lord Ganesha. He gave the elephant’s head to Lord Shiva. The relationship between Lord Ganesha and Lord Vishnu was hence established.
When Lord Ganesha expressed the desire to get married, his parents decided to search for a girl for him. Unable to find a suitable bride for him they went to Lord Brahma with their problem. Lord Brahma realized that the elephant’s head of Ganesha made him unappealing to women and hence they were not willing to marry him. However, Brahma knew of the wisdom and the power of Lord Ganesha and decided to hold a ‘Yagna’ (ritual) for him. After the Yagna got over Brahma created Riddhi and Siddhi and asked Ganesha to marry them. Riddhi and Siddhi were Brahma’s daughter and hence by that virtue Brahma is Ganesha’s father in law.
All these references are anecdotal and mentioned in Shiva Purana. The relationship of Ganesha with other deities has not been explored specifically but has been mentioned indirectly in scriptures as part of stories of Lord Ganesha.

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