Lord Ganesha is one of the dearest gods of Hindus. Lord Ganesha is worshipped by every Hindu before doing any auspicious work or even before worshipping other gods and goddesses and his festival Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the major festivals of India. God Ganesha is especially popular among the kids too who love to listen to the stories that tell about Lord Ganesha- their cute elephant headed god! Why is this Elephant God worshipped so much and before every work? The answer to this question lies in the birth story of Ganesh itself.
Ganesh Birth Story
Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Parvati had done great tapasya (performed penance) to get Shiva as her husband as is known from the story of Marriage of Shiva and Shakti
Parvati had left all luxuries of life when she married Shiva and came to live with him on Mount Kailas. One day she asked Nandi, the most devoted bull and vehicle of Shiva, to guard while she bathed. She strictly instructed Nandi not to allow anybody in. However, when Lord Shiva came home, Nandi could not ask his master not to enter his own home. Parvati was very annoyed at this disobedience by Nandi and she realized that none of the followers of Shiva can become her faithful guard.
Next day before having bath, Parvati was smearing saffron and sandal paste over her body. A thought came to her mind and she collected the mud of this paste by rubbing her body. With this mud, she created an idol of a little boy. She infused life into this idol.
Parvati was very happy with her creation. She declared that the now live idol of the boy was her son. She asked her son to guard while she was bathing. The boy replied that he would not allow anyone to disturb Parvati while she bathed. Parvati handed him a staff and went to have bath.
When Shiva came home, the little boy stopped him at the door and blocked his way with the help of the staff. Lord Shiva told him that it was his house but the boy would not listen to anything. He told Shiva that the wish of her mother was an order for him and he would not let anybody in. Shiva got very angry on this.
He sent his Ganas (followers) led by Nandi bull to move the boy from the gate and let him go inside his home. The little boy fought with the Ganas with his staff and defeated them. Shiva then called the other gods but the little boy could not be defeated by gods too. Even Lord Brahma could not convince the boy to give way to Shiva so that he could go in.
Now Shiva himself came to fight with the little boy because it had now become the matter of his honour. He broke the staff of the boy in his very first stroke. The boy was shocked but immediately he took the pieces of staff and resumed the fight. Now the angry Shiva cut off the head of the boy which flew far away from where they were fighting.
When Parvati saw the headless body of her son, she became sad and immediately afterwards she took the form of fierce Shakti determined to destroy the army of gods that had killed her son. Looking at this, Shiva had to concede defeat and he appealed to Parvati to spare the gods. He sought forgiveness. Parvati demanded to give back the life of his son. Shiva agreed to this.
When Shiva asked his followers to go and get the head of the boy, they could not find it anywhere. So, Shiva asked them to bring to him the head of the first creature which they see lying with his head towards north direction. The ganas went out in search of a head for the son of Parvati. They saw an elephant lying with head in north direction. So they cut the elephant’s head and brought it to Shiva.Shiva placed the elephant’s head on the little boy’s torso, and gave it life. Parvati was happy to see his son alive. Shiva told Parvati that this was their son, and he will be called ‘Gajaanana’ – the one having face of an elephant. Parvati asked Shiva to grant a position of authority to their son. Shiva then said after thinking for a while that as their son stood firm and removed all obstacles when fighting to guard her privacy, he would now onwards responsible for removing obstacles from everyone’s path who pray to him. People will also pray to him as the first god before praying to any other god or before starting any new work or venture.
Therefore, this son of Shiva and Parvati came to be known as ‘Vighnaharta’ – the remover of all obstacles. Shiva further said that as he single-handedly defeated all his Ganas, their son will also be known as ‘Ganesh’ – the God of Ganas (followers) and ‘Ganapati’- the leader of Ganas.
Parvati was now very happy and with a smile on her face, she lifted her son Ganesh on to her lap. Thus the family of Shiva and Parvati got a great son in form of Ganesha!