Tag Archives: historical

Religious myth- How Ganesha got his elephant head


Ganesha’s mother Parvati asked him to guard the entrance to their house, while she was getting ready. She told Ganesha to not allow anyone to come inside the house, until she came out to see him. Ganesha stood guard outside while Parvati went in. Shiva, Ganesha’s father, came home. Ganesha refused to let Shiva go in because he was obeying his mother. Shiva got angry and there was a fight between the two of them. In the fight, Shiva beheaded Ganesha with his trident. When Parvati came out and saw this, she was enraged and cursed that the entire universe will be destroyed. Shiva regretted killing Ganesha. To bring Ganesha back to life, Shiva asked another god, Brahma, to bring him the head of the first animal that he sees. The first animal that Brahma saw was an elephant. So Brahma got the head of the elephant and gave it to Shiva. Shiva placed the elephant’s head on Ganesha and brought him back to life. This is how Ganesha has the head of an elephant and the body of a human.


JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She still practices Hinduism to this day, and follows all of the religion’s traditions, observes the festivals, and believes in its myths to this day. She tried to pass this on to me as a child, but her religious beliefs never really connected with me. She agreed to retell this myth to me for this assignment.


After telling me the story, JG explained to me that Parvati symbolizes the soul and Shiva symbolizes the mind. When Ganesha stopped Shiva from going into the house, he unknowingly stopped the mind from meeting the soul. The elephant head symbolizes memory and realization. Once Ganesha had the elephant head, he realized what he had done. Ganesha also symbolizes the removal of obstacles.

I remember from my upbringing that Ganesha is the first god you’re supposed to pray to before starting anything major. This makes sense because essentially, what this folktale is telling you is that praying to Ganesha connects your mind and soul, and allows you to remember things correctly. This myth probably comes from the Indus River civilization, where the origins of Hinduism can be traced to. This story remains as something that’s told to children, to entertain them and to familiarize them with the basics of Hinduism from a young age.

Children’s tales – Bird who poops gold


Once upon a time there was a magical bird who lived in the mountains. Every time her droppings fell to the ground, they turned into gold. A hunter was passing by and he noticed these droppings, and he wanted the gold for himself so he could be rich. He set a trap for the bird in the tree. The bird did not notice the trap. She was caught and was upset with herself for being careless.

The hunter walked away with the bird, thinking he could sell the gold droppings and get rich. But the next day, he got scared. He thought that if he becomes rich so suddenly, people will get suspicious and accuse him of all kinds of things. So the hunter decided he would give the bird to the king as a gift. The hunter went to the palace and told the king how the bird pooped gold. The king’s ministers did not believe the hunter and made fun of him. The king punished the hunter for lying and ordered the bird to be set free. The bird flew away and sat on the gates of the palace. That’s when the ministers saw the bird’s gold droppings. They realized the hunter was telling the truth. The ministers sent many hunters all over the kingdom to capture this bird. No one was successful. The magical bird had learnt her lesson and was always careful.


JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She passed down this story to me when I was a child. She had heard it from her parents as well. Though not a religious folktale, the story of the bird is often told to children in India, to reinforce morals at an early age.


This story somewhat echoes ancient Indian history – putting a heavy emphasis on hunting in the mountains and the woods, as well as featuring an interaction between a civilian and royals. It shows how India’s days as a monarchy affect its culture today. Furthermore, it instills morals important to Indian culture in young children, teaching audiences not to steal or be greedy. It teaches children that if you take what does not belong to you, it will never stay with you. Plus, through the bird’s perspective, a second moral of the story is to think through things and be aware of your surroundings. These universal themes make the story resonate. The fact that this fable is on the lengthier side, yet its plot is compelling and keeps you wondering what’s happening next, makes it a great one to pass down from generation to generation.

Children’s Tales- Akbar and Birbal


Akbar was the Mughal Emperor of India, and Birbal was one of the wise advisors in his  court. He was known for coming up with unique ways to answer questions and solve problems. So there’s quite a few stories about that, and they’re all meant to teach you to be calm and wise.

One day while Akbar and Birbal were out for a walk, Akbar noticed a group of crows sitting together under a tree. He wondered how many crows were there in his kingdom, in total. So he asked Birbal, “How many crows live in my kingdom?” Birbal paused and calmly said, “There are a total of eighty thousand two hundred and fifty four crows in your kingdom.” Akbar was amazed at how calm and precise Birbal was. So he asked Birbal, “What if I find more crows than what you claim in my kingdom?”  Birbal said, “It means that crows from neighboring kingdoms have come to visit friends and family.” Akbar then asked, “And what if there is less crow?” Birbal said very calmly, “It means that some of our crows have gone on vacation to other kingdoms.”


JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She passed down this story to me, as well as many others with the same characters, when I was a child. She had heard these stories from her parents as well.


In many Indian cultures, calmness and problem-solving skills are valued very highly. My mom homeschooled me until 5th grade, and during this time she focused on making me think outside the box. The stories of Akbar and Birbal try to instill these qualities in children from a young age. They echo ancient Indian history, with the characters being an emperor and his advisor, showing how India’s days as a monarchy affect its culture today.

Festival of the Cow

Context: The subject of this interview was a student at UCSB and conducted many trips abroad while attending the school. 

“And so we were in the last throes of our stay in Kathmandu, Nepal. One day of the four guys that I went the second year as an adult advisor. So I was the advisor and there were four juniors in college with me, four males. One of the guys that was one of our students and I decided we need to see Kathmandu, the main city of Nepal, wake up. We should get up really early and like 330 in the morning one morning and go into the city and see how the city wakes up. See who gets up first, who does what in the city, how do they do it, how do they communicate, and what happens at that hour in the morning. So my friend and myself got up, and as Kathmandu was waking up that day there was a parade developing along the main part of the town. And these are really really old cities, almost medieval cities with temples and its just a gorgeous setting. People were walking through the town playing their instruments and they had animals and they all had a cow. We kept thinking, what is this? And we didn’t necessarily speak much of the language, and the people in Kathmandu didn’t speak much English. We just had to watch what they were doing. They were preparing meals and also doing things near the temples, with it obviously a festival or something. We eventually found out it was the annual festival of the cow, and they would take five or six people to get a cow and walk through the city. In the other direction, four or five other people would take a cow in the other direction. And this was the festival we stumbled upon that morning” 


This piece of folklore is a long running important cultural festival in Nepal. According to Tibet Vista, a tourist site trying to attract people to come to the country, the festival is also known as Gai Jatra and “is one of the most important festivals in Nepal”. The festival takes eight days and “is mainly held by the Newar community in Kathmandu valley to commemorate the dead in the last year”. 

Jigme , Catherine. “Gai Jatra, Gai Puja, Nepal Festival of Cows.” Tibet Travel and Tours – Tibet Vista, 19 Nov. 2019, https://www.tibettravel.org/nepal-festival/gai-jatra.html. 

Bomb under Omaha

The informant grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Here, he tells the story of the alleged unexploded WWII bomb buried underneath Dundee District in Omaha City.

N: Around where I went to high school. There’s a place called Dundee, in Omaha, it’s an old part of the city. And um, during World War II, there was a Japanese attack on Omaha– a bombing. And I think one bomb went off? Maybe other bombs went off. Uh, but, supposedly there’s a bomb that didn’t explode on impact that got buried underneath Dundee somewhere and is still an active bomb.  And so there’s a general, I guess, fear in the zeitgeist, that one project–one development project accidentally hits that thing and it blows up. 

I think There’s, uh, a park near my high school has, like, a thing about it. Like a plaque or whatever about the bombings. It’s also like a historical event. It’s one of the very few, actual mainland US attacks that Japan did. I think they used, like, balloons or something. I don’t know if that part’s true, but like. . .


This urban legend has a very real historical event attached to it. There’s no doubt that the bombing on Omaha left a deep traumatic scar on the people of Omaha, and so, this rumor of an unexploded bomb has been born from it. Keeping the rumor of an unexploded bomb alive, is a way of remembering the trauma and pain of the bombing that took place during WII.