Campaign of the Month: February 2017
The Deva god of order and learning
The Lord of Beginnings and Endings and Remover of All Obstacles is perhaps the most recognizable of all the Deva, a widely-worshiped and beloved figure with an elephant’s head and a beneficent, generous attitude toward mankind. He is a god of order and encouragement, removing obstacles from the paths of the faithful (or placing them there in order to teach them to overcome), and also the god of wisdom and the lord of learning, patron of students, writers and others who prize intelligence highly. Jovial but ineffable, he boasts millions of worshipers (whose cries, prayers and begging for auspicious paths he hears daily through his enormous ears) and administers to them with even-handed, mysterious equanimity.
When Ganesha was born, he was a baby boy of exceptional beauty and perfection. Parvati left him at the door of her house to play while she went within to take a bath, telling him not to let anyone disturb her. While she was bathing, Shiva returned home and would have entered, but the infant Ganesha refused to allow him to see his wife. Enraged that his baby son should try to separate him from Parvati, Shiva cut Ganesha’s head off and removed him from his path. Parvati, however, saw this and cried out in inconsolable grief; regretting his hasty action, Shiva resurrected the boy but could not find his severed head, and instead replaced it with the head of an elephant.
Ganesha and Parvati
As a child, Ganesha one day happened across a large cat, sleek and beautiful. It rubbed against his hands and purred with happiness to see him, but he was thoughtless as he played with it and pulled its tail and whiskers, hurting it and rolling it across the ground. The cat eventually escaped and ran away, and Ganesha forgot his afternoon of fun. When he returned home that night, however, he found his mother Parvati dirty and covered in bruises; when he demanded to know who had done this to her, she explained that she had been the cat and that it was his own thoughtless actions which had pained her. Filled with remorse, Ganesha begged her forgiveness and henceforth promised to harm no living animal without due cause.
Ganesha and the Fruit of Wisdom
Ganesha and his brother Skanda once quarreled over a beautiful, plump fruit which grew in their parents’ garden. Shiva and Parvati explained that the fruit contained all the wisdom of the world, and that only one person could eat it; they suggested that the two boys compete to see who could win it, and told them that the first of them to circle the world three times and come back would win. Skanda left at once, riding his swift peacock mount through the skies, praying to the gods for success the entire way; Ganesha, pot-bellied, rotund, and mounted upon a rat, took only a few steps toward the courtyard door. Instead of racing his brother, he dismounted and declared that his parents contained the wisdom of the entire world, and that therefore there was no need to travel such long distances. He walked around Shiva and Parvati three times, and, pleased by this answer, they awarded him the fruit of wisdom.
Ganesha and Kubera
Kubera, a god of wealth and plenty, was so proud of his great houses and sumptuous feasts that he invited all the gods to come sample them as his guests. When Shiva and Parvati arrived with their son, Ganesha began to eat at the banquet table; in his prodigious hunger, he devoured all of his food and even the food of the others at the table, and still he could not be satisfied. He devoured everything in the house and Kubera, terrified that he would be eaten next, begged Shiva to restrain his son. Shiva offered Ganesha a handful of simple grain; once he had eaten it he ceased to rampage immediately, his appetite easily soothed by wholesome fare from a loving hand rather than by the empty, prideful delicacies he had been consuming.
Ganesha and the Moon
One day, Ganesha had gorged himself so thoroughly on cakes and candies that, as he was riding home on his rat, his stomach burst open when the creature tripped over a snake and dropped him to the ground. Not wishing to waste such fine cakes, Ganesha collected them and placed them back into his belly, and, capturing the snake which had caused his fall, he tied it around his stomach to keep it from opening again. The moon, who had been observing all this, thought the scene was so funny that it burst out laughing so that all the countryside could hear it. Angry and offended by its mirth, Ganesha broke off his right tusk and hurled it at the moon, severely injuring it so that it no longer rose in the night sky, and returned home to commence digesting his food.
Soon, mankind was filled with trepidation and concern over the missing moon, and the tides and rhythms of their bodies ceased to behave as they should without it. They appealed to Ganesha to remedy the situation, and, realizing that humanity could not survive without the moon, he allowed it to return to the sky, but decreed that it could no longer shine every night and must wax and wane over the course of the month.