Ganesha is the eldest son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. Known for his intellect, calmness and wisdom, Ganesha is one of the most worshipped Hindu deities. Ganesha is a patron of the arts and sciences, and removes all obstacles. Stories of Ganesha should be told to children to instill a sense of peace and calm in them.
Once when Goddess Parvati went to take a bath, she took some turmeric paste and created a human form out of it. She then breathed life into this human form and thus a boy was born. Parvati accepted the boy as her son and asked him to guard the main gates. She clearly instructed him not to let anyone enter till she had completed with her bath.
It so happened that when the little boy was guarding the main door, Lord Shiva came back from his penance from the Himalayas. The boy stopped Shiva from entering the house. When asked, he told him Shiva that his mother was bathing inside and had asked her to not let anyone pass through the doors. Little did the boy know that Shiva was his own father. Similarly, Shiva too was not aware of the true identity of the boy guarding the door. Shiva turned furious on being stopped from entering his own house. In a fit of rage, Shiva lifted his trident and severed the head of the little boy and entered the house.
Just then, Goddess Parvati came out from her bath. She was devastated to find her son lying dead before her eyes. She revealed the true identity of the boy and implored Shiva to bring him to life. Shiva too was filled with remorse. Shiva is a simple god, earning him the name of Bhole Nath. While he is quick to anger, it is also very easy to please him. He agreed to bring the boy back to life. But he told Parvati that it was not possible, even for him, to join the severed head of the boy to his body as the impact of his trident was irreversible. So, he would find a new head for the boy.
Shiva knew that the little boy had lost his life while keeping his word to his mother. The boy’s love for his mother was unparalleled.
He called out to his bull, Nandi. He ordered Nandi to bring back the head of the first creature he found away from its mother. He concluded that only a calf that does not love his mother would be away from her. Nandi brought back the head of an elephant calf.
Shiva placed the head of the elephant on the boy and brought him back to life. Though Parvati was happy to see her son alive she feared that the boy will be mocked for his unusual presence. She thought that her son would never earn his rightful place among gods. No one may worship a god that has a human body and an elephant’s head. Shiva knew what was troubling Parvati.
To allay her fears, Shiva invoked all the gods and asked them to bless their son. The gods blessed the boy and bestowed many boons on him. Shiva recognized him as his own son and named him “Ganesha” or “Ganapati”. Ganapati means a “leader among all classes of beings or Ganas”. The Gods blessed Ganesha with the blessing that he would be worshiped before anyone else at the beginning of any ritual, irrespective of the occasion. They also blessed him to be a master of intellect and wisdom.
This tradition of invoking and seeking Ganesha’s blessings, before that of any other God, continues even today. In fact, Ganesha is worshiped by all Hindu sects, regardless of their affiliation and is also worshiped by followers of Jainism and Buddhism.