"‘Comparable only to the elephant-headed God’ "


Statue of the god Ganesh
GNU Free Documentation LicenseStatue of the god Ganesh - Credit: Sujit Kumar

Ganesh is the Hindu god of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. The son of the supreme God Shiva and his wife the Goddess Parvati, Ganesh has the head of an elephant and the pot-bellied body of a human being. According to the ancient Hindu text the Shiva Purana, one day while bathing the goddess Parvati created a boy out of the dirt of her body and set him to guard the entrance to her bathroom. When her husband Shiva returned to find a stranger denying him access to his wife’s chamber he became angry and struck off the boy's head in rage.


Parvati became inconsolable with grief and to soothe her, Shiva sent out his troops (Gana) to fetch the head of any sleeping being that was facing the north. Finding a sleeping elephant they brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored its life and made him the leader (pati) of his troops, hence his name 'Ganapati'. Shiva also bestowed the command that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any venture.