Ever since I was little girl my favourite animal has always been an elephant. The majestic mammal which is one of the strongest and biggest animals on our planet. Elephants may not always be the most graceful but in my eyes, it will always be an animal of royalty.
We always had statues of Ganesh in our home, and he was always the god we would pray to first, when sitting exams, driving tests, getting married, and pooja’s in our first home. He was always my favourite, “The elephant god”, and very well known in the Western world.
Elephants have a positive symbolic meaning all over the world and are a symbol of good luck, power wisdom and success. Elephants are highly social animals and a symbol of loyalty, unity and companionship. I remember my mother always telling me when an elephant trunk faces upwards it’s a symbol it is showering its blessings on me.
I was told the following story by my grandfather whilst growing up. As a very inquisitive child I always wondered why the mighty Lord Ganesh had an elephant’s head and a human body…. So this is how the story goes…..
A long time ago, Lord Shiva and his wife Goddess Parvati lived happily together upon Mount Kailash high up in the Himalayas. Shiva was called away and had to take a long journey, leaving Parvati alone. Parvati grew more and more lonely, wishing she had a child to keep company, have fun and play with. Using her goddess powers, she carefully made a statue of a little boy from the earth and clay, the sculpture was cute and chubby cheeks and she called him Ganesh. She gave him life by sprinkling holy Ganges water over him, and was overjoyed with her beautiful son.
Since Parvati had got dirty from making Ganesh from the earth and clay she decided to take a bath. She asked Ganesh to guard the door of the house for her. She told him not to let anyone pass him, no matter who they were. Whilst Ganesh was guarding the door, Shiva returned from his long journey. A large blue man. He was surprised to see someone standing at the door of his home. “Let me pass” he ordered, but Ganesh refused, telling him that no one would enter without his mother’s permission. Shiva, who was a short-tempered god was cross at this young boy who would not let him into his own house. He swung his mighty trident (trishur) cutting off Ganesh’s head.
Hearing all the noise, Parvati ran out of the hut, and let out a cry as she saw the body of her son lying on the floor. In floods of tears, she told Shiva that he had just killed their only son that she had made out of love, and ordered him to revive him. Shiva was sorry for what he had done so he promised to bring their son back to life.
Shiva made his way deep into the forest. After a while he heard slow thumping footsteps behind him. An elephant appeared through the trees, who was dying and had been injured. Shiva remembered his promise to Parvati. He took his sword and swiftly cut off the elephant’s head, hoping that he also save the elephant from his pain. Shiva was strong enough to pick up the large and heavy head, he took it back to his house and attached it to the body of their son. Giving him life once again, the boy awoke, this time with the body of a boy and a head of an elephant. Parvati was overjoyed, and although this was perhaps really the face only a mother could love, she loved him as a mother would non-the-less.
Shiva blessed Ganesh with prosperity and intelligence. To further please his wife, and as a mark of respect to his son for the loyalty and bravery it must have taken to protect his mother, Shiva declared that Ganesh would be worshipped first, before any other god, and this is why Hindus today always pray to Ganesh first…. The remover of obstacles.