Lord Ganesha is depicted with his family (Shiva, Parvati and Kartikeyan) as well as consorts (Riddhi and Siddhi). There are many paintings that depict Lord Ganesha with Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati. This article scrutinizes the relationship between Lord Ganesha with Saraswati and Lakshmi.
Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. She is the wife of Lord Vishnu and also known as Mahalaxmi. She is the source of strength to even Lord Vishnu, who is considered the strongest God in the Hindu religion. Lakshmi is also known as Thirumagal because she has six divine qualities. She is often shown with a lotus and dressed in a bright red sari. According to the Vishnu Purana, Lakshmi is the daughter of Bhrigu and Khyati. The goddess of misfortune, Alakshmi, is the sister of Lakshmi.
Saraswati is goddess of skill, knowledge, music and arts. She is the consort of Lord Brahma. It was with the help of her wisdom that Brahma created the universe. She is often shown along with a peacock, a swan and is dressed in white. She is also known as the guardian deity in Buddhism. Earlier she was known as the river goddess and evolved with the qualities such as knowledge, skill, music and arts.
Many stories revolve around the relationship between Ganesha, Saraswati and Lakshmi. Certain theorists believe that Lakshmi and Saraswati are Ganesha’s siblings. Lakshmi and Saraswati are also called Ganesha’s shaktis or consorts. A more popular theory however relates Lord Ganesha to Lakhsmi as her son. This is how the story goes.
When Lakshmi was bragging about her powers to Lord Vishnu, he told her that she will always be devoid of one power all her life- the power of motherhood. When Lakshmi realized the same she went to her friend Parvati to seek help. Parvati suggested that Lakshmi could adopt one of her sons and hence experience motherhood. In a random selection, Lakshmi chose Lord Ganesha and gave him her powers of prosperity and wealth.
Lakshmi and Saraswati were always competing for supremacy against each other. Wherever Saraswati went, Lakshmi used to follow her. It is believed that if one prays for Saraswati, Lakshmi will follow. If Saraswati leaves, Lakshmi will leave with her. Lakshmi will leave behind her elder sister Alakshmi which will bring misfortune. Symbolically, prosperity or money follows when we hone our skills.
Logically, Lakshmi and Ganesha have a common quality of bringing in wealth and prosperity. Also Saraswati and Ganesh have a common trait of being patrons of art and music as well as blessing devotees with skills. Hence the three deities are worshipped together as they denote common qualities. The nature of their relationship is not given in any scriptures. There are only glimpses of their relationship in ancient texts that supports the above hypothesis. All debates apart, the importance of invoking the names of these three deities together makes sense.
Ganesha is the Lord of wisdom, the Lord of Opulence, the Lord of Prosperity. Ganesha is known by more than one thousand names (Ganesha Sahastranaam). Lord Ganesha is considered to be the one who fulfills the desires of his devotees. He helped Devtas (Gods) in slaying many demons. There are many stories on Lord Ganesha, which can be read in different Vedas, Purans and Upanishads (holy scriptures). Some of the stories are as follows:
Why is a snake always tied around Ganesha’s belly?
Ganesha’s birthday is celebrated on the fourth day of the waxing moon in the month of Bhadrapad (Sep-Oct). This day is fondly called Ganesha Chaturthi by his devotees. Milk, naivedyam (eatables), Modaks (sweet delicacies) and other sweet delicacies are offered to the idols of Lord Ganesha . Once, on Ganesha’s birthday, Goddess Parvati prepared Chhappan Bhog (56 types of food items) for her dearest son. The Chhappan Bhog included Ganesha’s all time favorite Modaks. Ganesha ate so much that his pot like belly was about to burst. Unable to digest the food, he set off with his Mooshak (mouse, his chariot) to take a stroll. All of a sudden, a snake came in front of the mouse. In panick, the mouse stumbled and Ganesha fell down. His stomach burst open and all the Modaks that he had stuffed came out on the floor like marbles. Ganesha stuffed the scattered lot of Modaks that were lying on the ground back into his stomach. Infuriated by the action of the snake, Lord Ganesha caught hold of the snake and tied it around his tummy. There was one more spectator to this whole incident apart from these three, and that was Moon. The moon was watching from the sky and was unable to control his laughter. This uncouth and rude behavior of moon displeased and provoked Ganesha, and he pulled out his tusk and threw it towards the moon. Ganesha cursed the moon that whosoever will have a glimpse of him on the night of Ganesha Chaturthi will earn a blasphemy. This way he taught a lesson to the impolite and discourteous moon.
Ganesha and the origin of Cauveri River
In the ancient times, the sages and the priests used to pray to the Gods and Goddesses to help and cure the mankind of any calamity. Once, the southern part of India had a shortage of water. In order to bring water to the arid areas of the south, Rishi Agasthya (Sage Agasthya) did Yagnas and Homas (prayers) to please Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma blessed Rishi Agasthya and Lord Shiva gave water in his ‘Kamandalu’ (Brass Pot which used to hold water for rituals of worship). Rishi Agasthya was blessed that wherever he will pour this water, a river will originate which will prove beneficial to all in the southern region. He came down to earth from Brahm Lok (Abode of Lord Brahma) and was searching for the perfect place to pour water for the smooth flow of River. In search of a perfect place, he reached Kodagu Hills (a mountain range in Southern India). In order to search for an ideal place he wanted to hand over the Kamandalu to someone. He found a little boy who was playing alone in that barren land. He called the little boy. The little boy was none other than Lord Ganesha himself, who was in disguise. Rishi asked the little boy to take hold of the vessel carefully and not to spill even a single drop of water. The boy asked him what was the matter, and the Rishi told him the whole story, thinking he is a normal boy. After handing over the Kamandalu to the little boy, the sage went in search of a perfect place for the smooth flow of the river. Ganesha, being a God himself searched the right place and put the Kamandalu there. A crow came from nowhere and sat on the Kamandalu. Rishi Agasthya returned after some time, saw the scenario and got agitated and infuriated. He shooed away the crow and this made the magical Kamandalu angry, and it spilt the water on that particular spot. The water started gushing forth from the Kamandalu was the holy and sacred river Cauveri, which is now known as Talacauveri.
Jai Shree Ganesh!
Once the greatest saint of all time, Vedvyasa was meditating in the Himalayan range. Lord Brahma visited him and asked him to write the greatest epic of all times the Mahabharat for the benefit of the whole mankind. Vedvyasa told Lord Brahma that it would not be possible for him to write and compose the epic on his own. So Vedvyasa asked Brahma to help him with a writer who should be wise enough to understand and write the verses. Lord Brahma asked Vedvyasa to seek the help of Lord Ganesha.
When Vedvyasa went and asked Lord Ganesha to write the verses, Ganesha refused, as he was busy. Seeing Vedvyasa’s disappointment, Lord Ganesha asked him if he could quickly sing all the verses? Vedvyasa nodded. The Sage replied that he wanted someone who can understand the meaning of all the verses that he composes and write them. Lord Ganesha agreed.
Vedvyasa started singing, and Ganesha started writing the verses. The scene of a God listening to a sage and writing for him was panoramic in itself. Lord Ganesha being a deity was fast in writing, so, whenever Vedvyasa thought that the speed has increased, he would come up with something exceptionally long. Lord Ganesha became busy in understanding the meaning, and in the mean time Vedvyasa would compose more verses. In this way six million Granths (holy scriptures) were created. It comprised of Kandapuranam, Ramayanam, Savithri Puranam, Nala Puranam and many more to be named. The whole task of writing the epics was done while sitting at Mount Meru.
Once, while writing, Lord Ganesha’s pen broke. Fearing that he would lag behind, Lord Ganesha tore his tusk and started using it as a pen. Of the 6 million epics, 3 million are in the Deva Lokam (In the abode of Gods), 1.5 million in the Yaksha Lokam (In the abode of semi-Gods and angels) and 1.4 in the Asura Lokam (In the abode of Demons and Devils). The remaining 1 million are on the Prithvi Lokam or Mrityu Lokam (On Earth). Sage Vedvyasa had sung 8,800 Granthams, which were difficult for Lord Ganesha to decipher. He stated to Lord Ganesha that the meaning of all 8,800 Granthams should only be known to him, Lord Ganesha and his signs (his followers). Among all these 8,800 Granthams the greatest epic of all times, the Mahabharatam is considered to be the fifth Veda.
Why did Ganesha curse Tulsi?
Tulsi (a plant of the Basil family origin) is considered to be the most auspicious of all the plants in Hindu Mythology. It is believed that if one is given a leaf of Tulsi and Gangajal (Holy river Ganges’ water) at the time of death, he would surely get Moksha (salvation). Tulsi was not a plant earlier, but a bane from Lord Ganesha turned it into a plant. Tulsi was originally an extremely attractive maiden who was in love with Lord Ganesha. Ganesha, however, refused to oblige her. Enraged, Tulsi cursed Ganesha saying that one day he will break his vow of celibacy (at the time of this incident he was a celibate and did not marry). Exasperated, Ganesha cursed her to turn into a plant. In addition to this, he cursed her that eventually she will marry a demon. Tulsi realizing her mistakes asked for his pardon. Merciful Lord forgave her and gave a boon to her. He stated that Tulsi will be considered the most auspicious of all and will be the most fragrant among all. Tulsi will be dear to Gods and Goddesses. Its leaves will be considered the most vital part of the prayer of Lord Vishnu (one of the three supreme lords of Hindus, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh). However, Lord Ganesha and Tulsi would never be present in the same Pooja.
Once there was an Asura (demon) named Anal Asura. He was terribly dangerous and enormous. He used to emit fire from his eyes and had a hellish gruff and raucous voice. Whenever he used to speak, people used to tremble just because of his voice. All the Gods were petrified of him. Everybody went to Lord Ganesha and requested him to slay the demon. Ganesha disguised himself as a child and went to deal with the demon. Ganesha confronted the demon, and a Sarvaksha (a form of war where the opponents fight by using their eyes as weapons) started between them. The demon burnt everything around Lord Ganesha. Anal Asura’s eyes were oozing fireballs, and after many efforts he tried to gulp Lord Ganesha. In the meantime, Ganesha took his ‘Virat Roopam’ (Disguised himself as a giant). Instead of Anal Asura trying to gulp Lord Ganesha, Ganesha gulped Anal Asura. Due to the increased heat in his body he lay on the ground. He tried hard to control and beat the heat, but each passing minute was making him uncomfortable and the heat was becoming unbearable for him. He applied a massive amount of Chandan (sandal paste) on his body, but even that did not help. All Gods put their heads together to find a solution that would make Ganesha better. They finally decided to make a foundation of the Moon, and apply it on Ganesha’s his head. Hence, Ganesha is often known as ‘Bhalchandra’ (the one who has a crescent moon on his head). Lord Vishnu gave him his Lotus, thus lending the name ‘Padmapani’(the one who holds the Lotus flower), Lord Shankara gave him a cobra from his neck and tied it around Ganesha’s hips, Lord Varuna (Rain God) showered plenty of water on him; but all in vain. Everybody present there were trying their level best to calm Ganesha, but everything was proving fruitless. Some sages were present there, and they suggested that some Durva Grass should be given to Lord Ganesha. Everybody agreed, and they gave it a chance. The sages used 21 Durvas wit on Ganesha’s head. Miraculously, Ganesha completely recovered. Ganesha was pleased with the fact that a grass helped him and comforted him while all the Gods were trying their best to do so. With this Ganesha announced whosoever would pray Him with Durvas, would become pious and will get punyas (boon).
There is one more tale attached to the same story. Once there was a Yakshini (semi-goddess) who loved Lord Ganesha and wanted to marry him. Ganesha too was interested in getting married to her. However, Parvati (Ganesha’s mother) did not want the alliance to grow, so she cursed the Yakshini to transform and take the form of Durva Grass. As it is a grass and no one will ever pay attention towards her, Durva asked for apologies and pardon. She asked Goddess Parvati for the Ushaap (reverse the curse). Goddess Parvati exonerated her and let her off. She told her even though she will acquire the form of Grass she will still remain an object of Ganesha’s affection.