|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.
Ravana decided to get a special lingam for his mother, from lord Shiva himself. He undertook severe penance to get the lingam from Shiva. Time passed and Shiva showed no sign of appearing. Ravana decided that he must adopt more severe methods to succeed. He began cutting off his ten heads one by one, and offering them to the sacrificial fire. He had cut off nine of his ten heads, and was about to chop off the last one, when Shiva appeared at last!
Shiva was pleased with Ravana’s dedication and presented him with a special lingam. He said, “This lingam comes from Kailas, my abode. Take care of it, for it is special. Place it on the ground only where you want it, for once placed on the ground, it cannot be moved. Remember this and take it back carefully.”Ravana was thrilled, and started on his long journey home.
Meanwhile, the gods were worried. Ravana was already dangerous, but installing the lingam at Lanka would make him invincible. They planned to take the lingam away from him, but none were brave enough to tackle Ravana. At last, they asked Ganesha for help. Ganesha agreed that the lingam should be kept away from Lanka at any cost, and set off to do the job himself. He transformed himself into a young Brahmin boy and followed Ravana.
Ravana had barely covered half the distance to Lanka when the sun started setting. It was time for him to perform his evening ablutions, something he never missed. However, he couldn’t possibly perform the ablutions holding the lingam in his hand. He couldn’t place the lingam on the ground either, for then it would settle there. As he looked around, hoping for a solution to his problem, his eyes fell on the young Brahmin in the distance.
Smiling at his good fortune, Ravana called out to the little boy, who came running. Ravana told him that he wanted to perform his ablutions and then asked him to hold the lingam for a short while so that he could refresh himself in the nearby river. The boy looked at the lingam and said, “This lingam looks terribly heavy. I don’t think I can hold it for so long.” Ravana was getting more and more anxious as the sun moved lower and lower over the horizon. He assured the boy that the lingam was not too heavy, and that he would hurry back. The little boy reluctantly took the lingam, and groaned, as if the lingam was too heavy. “It’s all right for you to say that it’s not heavy” said the boy. “You are so big that it might feel light to you. It is too heavy for me to hold. I will hold it for as long as I can. I will then call out to you thrice. If you don’t come by the third time, I will keep it down.”
Ravana pleaded with the child not to keep the lingam down at any cost, and rushed to the river. The little boy waited till Ravana was knee deep in water, before calling out, “The lingam is getting too heavy. Come soon!” Ravana hurried through his prayers, but before he could finish, the boy called out a second time. He now positively raced through the rest of his prayers and hurried back, but the boy called out a third time, and just as Ravana was approaching, placed the lingam on the ground!
With a mumbled curse, Ravana rushed and tried to pull the lingam out. However, it seemed to have grown roots instantly, and refused to budge. Under the full force of Ravana’s strength, the lingam twisted, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t pull it out.
The full force of Ravana’s anger was now directed on the child. “How dare you keep the lingam down!” he cried, and with his fist, hit the boy on the head! Suddenly, in place of the child, there stood Ganesha. Ravana at once understood that this was all the doing of the gods, and hit himself on his head with his knuckles.
There are two places in India associated with this event.
The first one is Gokarna. Here, the Mahabaleshwara temple on the shore of the Arabian sea is believed to be where this event took place. The main lingam here is called Mahabaleshwara – the strong one, for it could not be pulled out of the ground. The top portion of this lingam is twisted, in keeping with the story. Besides, there is also an idol of Ganesha in this temple, which, unlike other idols, is in standing posture. Also, interestingly, in accordance with the story, the head of Ganesha has small depression where Ravana is believed to have hit him. Also, his feet are a little under the ground, as if pushed in by the force of the blow!
You can read more about this temple and temples related to this story located in the vicinity on my blog. Here are the links:
- Gokarna - Pilgrimage and Pleasure
- Gokarna - The Five Lingams
- Six Ganesha Temples along the Karnataka Coast
The second temple related to this story is at Baijnath, in Bihar. I have not yet been able to visit this temple, so don’t have much details, but the story is the same. You can get more details on the temple website: http://www.babadham.org/
Apart from these two, there is a third temple with a similar story. The protagonist here is Vibhishana, Ravana's brother, who is prevented from taking an idol of Ranganatha (Lord Vishnu) back to Lanka, by Ganesha. While that of course is a story of Lord Vishnu, and relates to the temple of Ranganatha at Srirangam, the role of Ganesha remains the same, and he is believed to have been hit on the head. He is believed to be on the hilltop at Tiruchi at the Ucchi Pillayar Temple in that same form!