Monday, September 19, 2011

Varaha - The Wild Boar

Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were both sons of the sage Kashyapa, born of his second wife, Diti. Strong and valiant from childhood, they grew to be extremely powerful, and as their power grew, so did their ego. Hiranyaksha’s thirst for invincibility led him to perform great penances to Brahma in search for immortality. However, even the creator couldn’t bless a mortal with immortality, so Hiranyaksha settled instead for immunity from all creatures – human, divine and animal. To make doubly sure that he would indeed be safe from all creatures, he enumerated each creature he thought of! Brahma had no choice but to agree, bound as he was by the power of the sacrifices and penances Hiranyaksha had performed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ganesha and Kaveri

Kaveri is one of the major rivers in India and figures among the seven holiest of rivers. In south India, she is considered to be even holier than the Ganga! She originates in the heart of the Western Ghats, amidst the picturesque surroundings of Coorg, at Talakaveri, from where she flows down through the plains of Karnataka and Tamilnadu, before finally merging into the Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar. As with all rivers in India, she is considered to be a goddess and her origin at Talakaveri has an interesting story behind it, in which Ganesha plays a small, but pivotal role!

The Story of Kaveri as shown in a temple painting
(Image from

The king Kavera ruled over South India. Though he and his wife were kind and well loved rulers, they were sad because they were childless. They prayed to Brahma, who blessed them with a divine baby girl, who came to be known as Kaveri – the daughter of Kavera. When Kaveri was of marriageable age, she refused to marry any of the kings who presented their suit. She wanted to be the wife of someone exceptional, someone who could compare with even Brahma, the creator, who had given her in blessing to the king. She went off to the Sahya mountains (the Sahayadris in the Western Ghats) to meditate on the creator to get her wish fulfilled.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Ganesha Broke His Tusk

Ganesha is usually depicted with one of his tusks broken. Have you wondered when and how the elephant headed god managed to break just one tusk? Was it an indication of ivory being used even then? Or did he get it broken in a fight? As with most other features of Ganesha, there are two stories to explain this too!

Sage Vyasa dictating the Mahabharata to Ganesha
(Image from the internet)

The first and the more popular story is related to the sage Vyasa and the Mahabharata.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Ganesha Loves Dhurva Grass

The first and main offering for Lord Ganesha is the Dhurva grass. The grass grows wild all over India, and is rarely used for anything else. Why then is it so important for Ganesha? Read this story to find out!

A depiction of the story of Dhurva at a pandal last year

There once lived a demon named Analasura, whose evil acts had the Gods worried.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Novel Methods of Obeisance

In South India, devotees have two novel methods of worshipping Lord Ganesha. The first one is where they tap their temples (side of the head behind the eyes) with their knuckles (making a fist). The second is where they cross their arms and pull their ear lobes, while performing sit ups! Do you know how these interesting methods of obeisance came about?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ravana and Ganesha

Ravana trying to pull the linga out
as Ganesha in the form of a child  looks on
(Image courtesy; Rajan Draws)

Ravana was the demon king of Lanka. The son of sage Vishravas and the demon princess Kaikesi, he performed great penances to become the master of the three worlds. While he gained his kingdom and strength by meditating on the creator, Lord Brahma, he later went on to become one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva. Read the story WhenRavana Lifted Kailash to know more about how that came about.

Ravana’s mother used to pray to Lord Shiva everyday by making a Shiva lingam with sand. Day after day, the sea would swallow up the sand lingam, and she would make a new one the next day. Once, she mentioned to Ravana that she wished she had a special lingam that she could pray to every day, without having to make another one every single day.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Race for the Mango

Ganesha and Karthikeya were both sons of Shiva and Parvati. The two brothers, like all siblings, fought and loved with equal enthusiasm. While each one always stood by the other in times of trouble, they competed with each other with the same fervor. This is the story of one such confrontation – in fact, one of their most popular confrontations.

Ganesha and Karthikeya
(Image from the internet)

The sage Narada was known for kindling trouble. He always turned up when things were calm and peaceful, and by the time he left, he would have succeeded in churning up a storm! He arrived one fine day at Mount Kailas, bearing in his hand, a ripe, juicy mango. Now, mangoes are considered to be divine among fruits, for it is not an easy matter to grow a perfect mango, and they are thus fruits in great demand, but always in short supply.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Phases of the Moon

Mythology has stories for everything. Every scientific fact or event has an explanation, and sometimes, even multiple explanations…. One such story relates to the phases of the moon.

The first story concerns Ganesha….

Bhalachandra - Ganesha with the moon on his forehead
(Image from the internet)

Once, Ganesha, after an exceptionally heavy dinner, decided to go on a round. He mounted his vehicle, the mouse, and set off. Suddenly, a snake came in their path, and the mouse panicked. Ganesha fell off, and his stomach ruptured! Nonplussed, Ganesha simply picked up the snake and tied it around his waist like a belt!
This scene was witnessed by the moon, Chandra, who found it extremely funny and laughed aloud! Ganesha, who, till then hadn’t been bothered, was extremely angry that the moon had laughed at him. He cursed Chandra that he would lose his luster at once! Chandra realized his folly and apologized, and as the moon continued to wane, putting earth in jeopardy, Ganesha relented.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ganesha gets a vehicle

We know that Ganesha's vehicle is a mouse. The sight of the huge potbellied God on a tiny mouse is an incongruous sight, and many of us would have wondered how the tiny mouse bears the weight of the God! Let me tell you how Ganesha got such a vehicle.

Mooshika Vahana
The one who has the mouse as his vehicle
(image from the internet)

There was once a Gandharva (a celestial being) named Kroncha. Now, Gandharvas are believed to be extremely good looking and talented. This frequently makes them quite vain and proud. This was the case with Kroncha too. In the court of Indra, he once met the sage Vamadeva, and filled with pride, insulted him. This incited the anger of the sage, who cursed him that he would lose the good looks he was so proud of, and become a mouse!

Ganesha and Kubera

Ganesha and Kubera
Image courtesy: Rajan Draws

One of Ganesha’s names is Lambodara – the huge bellied one! Have you wondered how he got his potbelly? The story goes back to the first encounter of Ganesha and Kubera, the treasurer of the Gods.

Kubera, being the God of wealth, was a complete contrast to Lord Shiva. While Shiva covered himself in ashes, Kubera draped himself in yards of the finest silk; while Shiva wore snakes as ornaments, Kubera was decked in glittering gold; while Shiva lived in seclusion among the monks and hermits, Kubera lived in the lap of luxury in a huge palace filled with every possible comfort. Most importantly, while Shiva was the epitome of detachment, Kubera was vain and proud. His pride led him to believe that he was greater than the Gods. He was especially disdainful of Shiva, whom he considered uncouth and destitute.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Birth of Ganesha

Raja Ravi Varma's rendition of the divine family
Image from the net

The story of Ganesha's birth begins with the story of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva is god of destruction. He maintains the balance of life on earth, and is a mendicant, happiest when living alone, away from society. Embodying the spirit of selflessness and detachment, he is usually shown covered in ashes, his hair matted, and wearing snakes as ornaments. His name “Shiva” or “Siva” means “pure”. He does not need the accruements of dress or jewelry to state his position. He is above all that. His consort, Parvati, on the other hand, is a daughter of the king of the mountains. She, who grows up amidst every luxury and comfort possible, gives up everything to be with her lord. It is these differences between the divine couple that led to the creation of Ganesha. Here then, is the legend which talks of the birth of Ganesha.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesha or Ganpati is one of the most loved among Indian gods. Not only is he the son of Shiva and Parvati, but his elephant head and potbelly make him appear cute and approachable, unlike our other gods in their warrior stances. (The only other God who competes with Ganesha for popularity is Krishna, who is loved for his adorably mischievous smile and good looks!). Also, unlike many of our gods, he is believed to prefer using his brains rather than brawn, to solve problems – another trait which makes him lovable.

As we get ready to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, I have decided to write a series of posts about the festival itself and the different stories related to Ganesha. On this auspicious day, I begin with the story of the festival, and how it is celebrated.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Lakshmi Narasimha monolothic statue at Hampi
Good and evil are two sides of the same coin – they are brothers, who look opposite ways.  Such were the Devas and Asuras too. Kashyapa was a great sage – he was one among the Saptarishis (the seven greatest rishis or sages of all time).  He had two wives – Aditi and Diti, both daughters of Daksha Prajapati. Through Aditi, he begot the Devas – the Gods, and through Diti, he was father of the Asuras – the demons.  This is the story of one of his sons – Hiranyakashipu.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Ardhanareeshwara – literally meaning the Lord whose one half is a woman – represents Lord Shiva and Parvati as one. This form symbolizes the equality of men and women, and is a beautiful rendering in sculpture with each half showing a detailed rendition of the male and female halves of divinity.

Ardhanareeshwara with sage Bhringi on left and Parvat's attendant on right.
Location: Badami

There is an interesting story behind this manifestation –

When Ravana lifted Kailash....

We have all heard that Ravana was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva. But not many know how he became a devotee of the Lord. This is the story of Ravana lifting mount Kailash, which is a prelude to his devotion.

Ravana had always been jealous of his half – brother, Kubera, who was the treasurer of the Gods. Right from childhood, he wanted to prove himself stronger, and more powerful than Kubera, and accordingly performed penance to gain strength and power. As soon as his penance yielded results, he attacked Kubera and looted his magnificent city, taking whatever he wished to.

Ravana was returning from Kubera’s city, when suddenly, his aerial vehicle stopped. He was surprised, and enquired about the reason. When he learnt that this was the abode of Lord Shiva, and that no one was allowed to pass that way, he was livid! Arrogant, and believing himself to be all-powerful, he refused to change his path, and decided to challenge the Lord himself! Getting down from his vehicle, he went to the foot of the mountain and began uprooting it with his immense strength!

Meanwhile, Lord Shiva, Parvati and the others on the mountain were disturbed by the shaking of the mountain. While Parvati and the other women worried about the cause of the disturbance, Shiva simply smiled. When at last, Ravana had managed to lift the entire mountain, Lord Shiva simply pressed his toe down….. and the huge mountain came back down to earth, crushing Ravana underneath!

At last, Ravana realized his error, and from under the mountain, prayed to Lord Shiva, who blessed and released him. It is also believed that when he was crushed under the mountain, he sang out to the Lord for mercy, and his composition so pleased the Lord that he forgave him at once! It is believed that these words were the origin of the ‘Sama Gaanam’ – the ritual singing of the hymns of the Sama Veda! This is the origin of one of the names of Lord Shiva  - ‘Saama Gaana Priya’-  one who loves the music of the Sama Veda.

And that was how Ravana became one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva!

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