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How Ganesh came to have elephant's head

How Ganesha came to have Elephant Head

When the Gods lived on the earth, Lord Shiva – Mahadeva, the Lord of All, lived on the highest peak of the Himalayas. With him lived his wife, Goddess Parvati. They had no child.

For thousands of years they lived there, looking down upon the entire world, which lay at their feet. But even the gods have their own sorrows, and it grieved them that they had no child.

Parvati thought that she should go and live among mankind, and pay sacrifices as they do, and perhaps she may be blessed with a child.

So she went down from the mountains and lived in a forest. Every day she fed thousands of Brahmans, and spent her days in the prayers and fasting for a whole year. At the end of that time she bathed in the holy river Ganges, and then returned to her home.

At last her prayers were answered. A son was born to her.

Origins of Ganesha & His Elephant Head

There was great rejoicing among the gods. Mahadeva and Parvati invited them all to a feast to see their son, baby Ganesha.

Parvati was very happy now, and she loved to show her baby to the gods, and to hear their remarks. She laid Ganesha upon a golden bed, with his head to the North.

Ganesha was a beautiful baby, and as he lay smiling on his golden bed, the gods came and gave him gifts.

Now Shani was at the party too, but before coming to the party he had a quarrel with his wife. In her anger she put a spell upon him so that whoever he looked at first would fall headless. So Shani kept his eyes down and would look nobody.

Parvati noticed that Shani did not look at her baby, which seemed strange, so she asked him why he was doing so. With his eyes upon the ground he told her of the spell his wife had put upon him.

Parvati laughed at the story. She was so proud of her son that she wished everybody to see him and admire him. She did not believe the spell could touch the son of Mahadeva, the greatest of the gods.

She took Ganesha in her arms, and held him out to Shani.

“Look,” she said, “is he not beautiful?”

Shani said that he was afraid to look, but Parvati would not listen.

So Shani obeyed. As soon as his eyes rested on Ganesha the child’s head separated from his body. It was caught up to heaven by Krishna.

Oh, the cries and tears there were then! Parvati was full of grief; she did not know what to do. She threw herself down beside the lifeless body of her child, and wept bitterly.

Vishnu, in pity, mounted Garuda, the eagle, and flew off to fetch the head of the first thing found. It happened to be an elephant.

Vishnu brought the elephant’s head, and clapped it on the body of Ganesha, and then brought him to life again.

Then all the gods withdrew and left the parents in grief.

Parvati was divided between sorrow and joy. She rejoiced to have her baby alive again, but it was terrible that he should be so deformed.

Mahadeva was grieved too, but he told Parvati that it was her vanity that had caused all the trouble. If she had not insisted upon Shani’s admiring her child, it would not have happened.

Parvati threw herself before Mahadeva and begged him to bring Ganesha back his formed shape, but Mahadeva reminded her that while he was all powerful in heaven, he could not undo what was done on the earth.

Parvati blamed herself bitterly for her fault, and prayed that Ganesha might be gifted with wisdom and humanity, so that his deformity might be forgotten.

This Mahadeva could grant, and Ganesha was given Prudence, Counsel and Policy.

All men love Ganesha, and go to him for help and guidance. He is the best loved of all the gods.

Elephants have been rewarded with great strength, gentleness and cleverness and have been made the servants of Kings.

Shani was punished with lameness. Though he did not wish to injure Ganesha, it all happened because he had quarreled with his wife, and quarrelsome couples are warned by his example.

It is now believed unlucky to admire children, or to sleep with the head to the North.

~ Illustration by – Amarjeet Malik

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