Friday, September 2, 2011

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.

Once, in an attempt to belittle Lord Shiva, Kubera came to Kailas to invite Shiva to his home for a feast. Shiva, realizing Kubera’s pride and vanity, decided to teach him a lesson. He told Kubera that he would not be able to attend the feast, but his young son Ganesha would attend on his behalf. However, he told Kubera “My son has a voracious appetite, and is always hungry. Will you be able to satisfy his hunger? If you are not sure, you can, of course, withdraw your invitation.”

Kubera was affronted. He looked at the little boy with the elephant face and wondered whether the child could even begin to do justice to the feast he had planned. He resented the blow to his pride at the thought that Shiva could think that he couldn’t satisfy Ganesha’s hunger! Of course he couldn’t withdraw his invitation after such a slur on his capability! He agreed to host Ganesha for lunch.

On the appointed day, Ganesha arrived on time, unaccompanied. The little boy, in his simple clothes, looked completely out of place in the midst of the opulence of the mansion. Kubera welcomed Ganesha and insisted on showing him the beauties of his magnificent mansion before leading him to the dining room, where the tables groaned under the weight of the dishes laid out for the little boy!

Ganesha was served one dish after another, and soon the table was empty. But Ganesha was not yet satisfied. “I am still hungry” he said. Stunned, Kubera ordered the servants to bring out more food. Within moments, they too were eaten, but Ganesha was still hungry! The cooks went into frenzy, preparing more and more meals, and Ganesha went on eating, but his hunger wasn’t appeased yet. The kitchen was soon empty and the cooks were so tired that they collapsed. Ganesha looked at Kubera and asked, “Is this all you can serve me? My mother gives me more to eat than you. And you call this a feast!” Even as Kubera ordered more food from the kingdom, Ganesha kept eating anything that came his way!

Kubera was at his wits end. There were no more foodstuffs in his kingdom to satiate Ganesha’s hunger. He rushed to Kailas and prostrated before Lord Shiva. “Please help me Lord”, he begged. “Your son has drained all the resources of my kingdom, and yet he is hungry. Please tell me what I should do!” Shiva smiled, and replied, “Kubera, Ganesha does not require elaborate dishes to appease his hunger. All he needs is a bit of food offered with love and humility to satisfy his hunger.”

At last, Kubera understood. He realized his error and begged forgiveness. However, Ganesha was still hungry. Finally, borrowing some roasted rice from Parvati, he offered it to Ganesha with all humility, begging him to accept it and satisfy his hunger. Ganesha accepted the rice, and finally declared his hunger appeased!
Thus did Ganesha teach Kubera a lesson in humility.

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