The Birth of Ganesha

My friend and I were working on homework in Trojan Hall. I asked him if he knew of any Indian folklore:

S: “The first story is about the son of our main deity. The three main deities are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Shiva’s wife, Parvati, went to live on Mount Kailas after the wedding. She lived with the ganas (sages), or other males aside from her husband. Parvati soon got lonely and she decides she wants a child. However, since Parvati does not have Shiva’s attention she decides that she will spawn a child from her own body. She makes a statue of her future son out of sandal wood that she takes from her own body. She request help from Nandi, a gana. Nandi waits outside as a lookout while Parvati is creating her child. However, Shiva appears outside and Nandi greets him and does not try to stop him. Shiva enters the home where he catches Parvati. Shiva is immediately outraged; however, the sandalwood is enchanted and so the child comes to life. Shiva responds unfavorably, and decides to kill the son the next day. The following day, Parvati brings her son to Shiva. Shiva throws a trident at the son and in the process, beheads him. As Shiva witnesses Parvati’s grief, he takes the head of a baby elephant and places it on the son’s body. The elephant head and the son’s body become one. That is the story of the birth of Ganesha.”

Collector Analysis:

My friend has been hearing this myth since he was a child and remembers it mainly as a bedtime story. He says that “The Birth of Ganesha” is a classic story that is often told from generation to generation in the Hindu community. He first learned the myth from his mother, but he mentions that his mother learned the myth from her mother. According to my friend, this particular myth acts as a cultural beacon to convey how family and culture is shared through the generations.

I find it interesting how “The Birth of Ganesha” was used as a bedtime story in my friend’s household. While I am sure the myth has an underlying and deeper meaning, much of the popularity of the myth comes from its simplicity and quick resolution at the end. My friend didn’t give me information beyond the legend, so after rereading the myth I can’t help but wonder about the symbolism of the elephant head. Overall, “The Birth of Ganesha” was my favorite of the three Hindu legends I collected.