Story of Lord Ganesha

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Ganesha and the moon

Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is the god of prosperity and well-being. To mark the birth of Lord Ganesha, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in many parts of the world. Lord Ganesha is also popularly known as Vighanharta and Ekdanta. It was on the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi, that Lord Shiva declared that his son, Lord Ganesha is superior to all gods and shall be worshipped before any of the gods are worshipped. It is from here that the practice of worshipping Lord Ganesha before beginning any new venture started. In India it is commonly said, “Shree Ganesh karo”. This phrase means that we are seeking the blessings of the supreme god for prosperity.
In this article particularly we shall be focusing on a different angle of the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. We shall be talking about the connection between Lord Ganesha and the moon. Also the article would talk about why one should not see the moon on the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. It is believed that if one sees the moon on this festival, he/she will become prey to false allegations for the rest of the year. There is an interesting story that has its roots deep in the Indian mythology which describes why we shouldn’t see the moon on this day. The story also gives a solution to redeem this curse.
Lord Ganesha is very fond of sweet dumplings or modaks as they are popularly known as. On one of his birthdays, he was roaming all over his house accepting the sweet dumplings offerings. After having a large number of dumplings he set out on his vahana – the mouse. On their way, a snake appeared suddenly on the path and scared the mouse. As a result the mouse stumbled and Lord Ganesha fell. His stomach burst open and all the dumplings came rolling out. Lord Ganesha collected all the dumplings, filled them into his stomach and tied the snake around his waist.
On seeing this sight, the moon in the sky started laughing out loudly. Lord Ganesha became very angry. Since he didn’t have any weapon, he pulled out one of his tusks and hurled it towards the moon. He also cursed the moon that nobody would watch him on the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi. If anyone does so, he/she would earn a bad name and would be surrounded by false allegations and ill-reputation. But just in case you see he moon unknowingly, you can be freed from the curse by listening to the story of how Lord Krishna cleared his character regarding the false allegation of stealing Syamantaka jewel.
So here goes the story of Lord Krishna!
King Satrajit secured the Syamantaka jewel from Lord Surya after a great deal of meditation. He did not part with the jewel even when Lord Krishna assured him that the jewel would be safe with him. Once King Satrajit’s son, Prasena wore this jewel and went to the jungle. Unfortunately he was killed by a lion in the jungle. On seeing this, Jambavant (of the Ramayana fame) acquired the jewel by killing the lion. He gave the jewel to his son so that he could play with it. When Presana did not return, Lord Satrajit blamed Lord Krishna of killing Presana in order to acquire the jewel.
Lord Krishna was determined to remove this stain from his character. He decided to find the jewel. On his search, he found the jewel in Jambavan’s cave. Jambavan thought that Lord Krishna is some intruder and he attacked Lord Krishna. The war went on for 28 days. After 28 days, Jambavan’s body was terribly weakened from the hammering he got from Lord Krishna. It was then that he recognized him as the mighty Lord and offered the jewel to him. In addition to the jewel, he also married his daughter, Jambavati to Lord Krishna. They happily returned to the kingdom and the jewel reached King Satrajit, who repented his false allegation. When King Satrajit realized his mistake, he offered his daughter Satyabhama to Lord Krishna for marriage and also the jewel. Although Lord Krishna married Satyabhama, he never accepted the jewel.

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The Female Ganesha Avatar

In Hinduism every divine being has the male as well as the female form. That is, every divine deity has a male and female avatar signifying the circle of life. The male avatar denotes the mental state of power while the female avatar denotes the physical state of power or ‘shakti’. For instance Lord Vishnu’s shakti (female avatar) is known as Vaishnavi, Lord Indra’s shakti is Indrani, Lord Brahma’s shakti is Brahmini and so on. Lord Ganesha’s female shakti is called Vinayaki, according to the Matsaya Purana and the Vishnu-dharmottara Purana. The Vana-Durga-Upanishad refers to the female form of Ganesha as Ganeshvari.

The female form of Ganesha came into prominence in the 16th century when a separate sect of religious group called the tantric emerged. The popularity grew as this sect preferred worshiping the female avatar of Ganesha more than the dominant male form. Tantric practitioners believe that the female form is the source of generative powers. While the male is responsible for implanting life, the female nurtures and nourishes it. In metaphysical theory, the female was considered the source of all material resources that is responsible for continuity of life.

The Puranas mention Malini, the elephant headed companion of Goddess Parvati. She is believed to be the nursemaid of Lord Ganesha. Therefore some scholars think that the female avatar of Ganesha is nothing but an exaggerated description of Malini.

The birth of the female avatar Vinayaki is mentioned in the Matsaya Purana. It is believed that the demon Andhaka wanted Goddess Parvati to become his wife. He tried to take her by force from Lord Shiva, who injured the demon with his trident. Andhaka had a boon that when blood dripped from his body and touched the ground, every drop would turn into a new Andhaka. The only way to stop this was to not let the blood touch the ground.

Parvati called out to the other deities and asked them to fight the demon along with their female forms. So Indrani, Vaishnavi and Brahmani came forward to fight Andhaka and absorb the blood before it touched the ground. It was Lord Ganesha’s female form, Vinayaki, who finally drank all the blood which helped the deities to destroy Andhaka.

Over the years, the debate has been afloat among sages, whether mental potential is more important over tangible and material resources. The sages, who believed that mental strength held more importance, associated themselves with Vedic practices and worshiped the male form of Lord Ganesha. The group that veered towards material resources worshiped the female form Vinayaki and practiced tantric activities. So the female form, Ganeshvari, also gained popularity.

The stories and the references are debatable as there isn’t any concrete evidence supporting the same. The acknowledgement of the female form of Ganesha happens on the occasion of Vinayaki Chatturthi. It occurs on the fourth day after the new moon appears.

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Ganesha and the River Kaveri

There are many stories which involve Lord Ganesha. From the stories of his birth to the stories of his powers and later destruction of demons, these stories not just make up for an interesting read but also teach us lessons of life.

The Ganges or Ganga is the most important river of India. The river not only serves as an important water body but is also considered holy in Hinduism. The river Kaveri is considered to be the most important river in the southern part of India. Kaveri is also known as Dakhsina Ganga which means “Ganga of southern region”. The river Kaveri is also known as “Kaveri amma” in the southern region.

The origin of the river Kaveri  is the work of Lord Ganesha. This makes for an fascinating story to read. One day sage Agastya went to Lord Brahma to help get water to the barren southern regions. The southern region of India was parched and everyone was suffering due to the lack of water. Lord Brahma suggested Agastya to go to Lord Shiva and ask for help. With the blessings of Lord Brahma, Agastya went to Lord Shiva hoping to find a solution. Lord Brahma asked Agstya to carry a kamndalu (a vessel made of copper or bronze to carry liquid) to Lord Shiva. On top of the Kailasa, Agastya began to pray for Lord Shiva to appear before him. Impressed by Agastya’s devotion Lord Shiva made an appearance and asked Agastya what he wanted. When Agastya informed Lord Shiva about the parched southern lands, Lord Shiva poured a few drops of the sacred water in to Agastya’s vessel.  Agastya was sceptical about the amount of water in the vessel and wondered how it would help him. But Lord Shiva assured Agastya and asked him to trust Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva told Agastya to un-turn the vessel at a suitable spot to get water in the dry lands.

He began his journey back to the southern region of India. He was looking for a suitable place to un-turn the vessel. When he reached Kodagu Mountains (Coorg) he met a young boy on the way.  Agastya was tired and wanted to relieve himself, so he requested the boy to guard the vessel for some time.  The boy was actually Lord Ganesha in disguise. He had come to help Agstya to pick the right spot. When Agastya left the vessel to Lord Ganesha, Ganesha picked the right spot and placed the vessel there and left. Agastya came to find the vessel on the ground and a crow perched on it. Agastya accidently un-turned the pot when he attempted to drive the bird away. The water began to flow out of the vessel and became the massive river Kaveri enriching the parched southern lands. The point where Kaveri started is known as Talakaveri. The place is considered sacred in India.

According to a different version Goddess Vishnu Maya became a dwarf and got inside the vessel. Agstya carried the vessel to the spot where it was un-turned by Lord Ganesha. Vishnu Maya then became the river Kaveri.

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Tale of the Syamantaka jewel

Legend has it that on Ganesh Chaturthi if anyone looks at the moon, misfortune follows that person. More specifically the person who looks at the moon on Lord Ganesha’s birthday is falsely accused of a crime. This legend comes from a tale of Lord Ganesha. On his birthday Ganesha, the little kid, was happily stuffing himself with all the sweets made by his mother. After finishing the sweets made by her he went to the places of gods who had invited him for a meal. They served Ganesha modakam and the choicest of sweets. After eating all of it, Ganesha’s belly grew enormously. He did not show his discomfort to those who had invited him and continued to eat. In the night, Ganesha could not bear it anymore and had to go out. He hopped on to his vehicle, the mouse, and went about. After going a distance, the mouse could not bear the weight of Ganesha and tripped over a snake. The contents of Ganesha’s stomach fell out and Ganesha stuffed everything back in. He picked up the snake and tied it around his stomach so that the contents would not fall out.

Witnessing this scenario, the moon found it extremely hilarious and started to laugh hysterically. Lord Ganesha felt insulted and cursed the moon. After the moon apologised, Ganesha revised the punishment and said on the occasion of his birthday no one should look at the moon. If anyone would, the only way to avert the misfortune will be to tell the tale of the Syamantaka jewel.

For everyone’s benefit, here is the tale that would help you avert the misfortune if you would happen to look at the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi. This tale is found in the Puranas.

Satrajit was given the Syamantaka jewel by Surya (the sun.  Satrajit considered the stone to be so precious that he didn’t part with it even when Lord Krishna (incarnation of Vishnu) asked for it. One day Prasana, the brother of Satrajit, went out hunting wearing the jewel. He was killed by a lion and the lion took the jewel as well. Jambavan (of the Ramayana fame) saw the jewel, killed the lion and gave the jewel to his son. When Satrajit falsely accused Krishna of killing his brother for the jewel, Lord Krishna decided to find out the truth. After days of searching, Krishna found Jambavan’s cave and the jewel. Before Krishna could explain why he was there, Jambavan mistook him for an intruder and started to fight him. The battle lasted for 28 days before Krishna defeated Jambavan and made him realize that Krishna was Lord Rama’s rebirth. Jambavan profusely apologised and offered the jewel to Krishna who gave it back to Satrajit. Satrajit also realized his mistake and offered his daughter Satyabhama’s hand in marriage along with the jewel. Lord Krishna did not accept the jewel but married Satyabhama.

It is believed that if anyone recites this story he not only averts the misfortune but is also blessed with luck.

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