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.

At Kailas, it was a scene of a perfect family harmony. Shiva and Parvati were relaxing, with their two children at peace by their side. Into this blissful scene intruded Narada with the mango, offering it to the Lord. With his two young children by his side, Shiva could not eat the fruit Narada offered. He gave it to his children, and Narada asked, “Whom will you give it to, my Lord? Ganesha or Karthikeya?”

Now, you might wonder why Shiva didn’t simply cut the fruit and give pieces to both his sons. All I can say to that is that a mango is a fruit to be eaten whole – skin and all! The pleasure of biting into a whole, ripe mango, and sucking off every last drop of juice from the seed is something that has to be experienced to be understood! That pleasure can never be experienced once the mango is cut! And that is why this whole story unfolded!

Shiva looked at his sons and then Narada, knowing well that the sage was asking him to give his sons a chance to prove themselves. Ganesha and Karthikeya looked at their father with hopeful eyes, each wishing that he would get the mango. At last, Shiva made up his mind. He declared, “The one who circles the world three times and returns home first will get the mango.”

Karthikeya’s face lit up! His mount was the peacock, and he loved flying with his faithful mount. This was surely his lucky day. Ganesha would never be able to catch up on his slow mouse! Bowing to his parents, and smiling triumphantly at his brother, Karthikeya set off for his circumambulation of the earth with a swish of his peacock’s wings!

Ganesha’s face had drooped like a wilted flower at the announcement. How was he to compete with Karthikeya on his slow little mouse while his brother had probably already covered half the earth on his peacock? However, he knew that his father would never have set a challenge he couldn’t do justice to. There must surely be some way around the issue. He settled down to think, remembering all that he had learnt from his father. Suddenly, he smiled. He knew what he would do. Calling his mouse, he mounted him, and slowly started circumambulating his parents.

Shiva and Parvati watched with a smile as their son circumambulated them thrice and bowed before them. Narada, on the other hand, had a confused look on his face. He was probably wondering what was going on! Ganesha said, “Father, I have completed the challenge you had set. Hence, I deserve the reward of the mango.”

Narada couldn’t contain himself any longer. “Ganesha, you have only gone around your parents thrice” he said. “The challenge was to circumambulate the whole world. How can you now claim the prize when you haven’t even started?”

Ganesha smiled at the sage. “O sage!” he said. “My parents are the ones who have given me birth and take care of me. They are, therefore, not just my world, but indeed, the whole universe for me. By circumambulating them, I have circumambulated the entire universe! Do I not deserve the prize?”
For once, Narada was speechless! Shiva smiled and said, “Narada, have you got your answer?” Narada nodded. “Ganesha does deserve the prize my Lord!” he replied. “Your son is indeed the wisest among the wise!”

Karthikeya arrived just as Shiva was handing over the mango to Ganesha. He couldn’t believe that Ganesha on his slow mouse could possibly have won the race! Hearing the explanation, he was angry, (probably at the thought that he hadn’t thought of it himself!) and went away in a sulk! What happened next is a story to be told another day!

Thus did Ganesha get the name Buddhinatha – the Lord of Wisdom!

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