It is that time of the year when life-size idols of Lord Ganesha adorn decorated pandal and homes; when devotees invoke the deity by singing ‘Ganapati Bappa Morya’; when modak (sweet dumplings) are offered to appease the god. Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaviti or Vinayaka Chaturthi, is a 10-day festival that marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is celebrated in the Hindu month of Bhadra.
Son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Ganesha or Ganapati is the god of new beginnings, eliminator of all obstacles, and bringer of prosperity and wisdom. According to Hindu mythology, Ganesha is a formless divinity that is given a shape for the benefit of the devotees. His elephantine head represents the soul or atman, his trunk the universal sound Om, and his feet the power of knowledge and action. The mouse he rides signifies the ego we humans carry with us.
It is not just the symbolism of this deity’s earthly form that is interesting. Legends about Ganesha are just as fascinating. This Ganesh Chaturthi, Soulveda explores stories associated with the elephant god’s birth and the celebration of the occasion.
The eternal curse
It is a common belief that if one sees the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi, one is doomed. One may wonder where such a belief stems from. According to a legend, during one Chaturthi, Lord Ganapati was visiting his devotees’ houses and accepting laddoos–his favourite sweet. Once he had satiated his ravenous appetite with the laddoos, Ganesha made his way from one house to another on his vehicle–the mouse. On the way, suddenly sensing the presence of a snake in the vicinity, the mouse trembled in fear and stumbled. Ganesha fell flat on the ground and his stomach burst open. Laddoos fell out of it and rolled on the ground. Annoyed, Ganesha picked up all the laddoos and stuffed them back into his tummy. Then, fuming with anger, he caught the snake and tied it around his stomach to stop laddoos from falling out again.
Seeing this, the moon broke into a fit of laughter. Ganesha was livid. He pulled out one of his tusks, hurled it at the moon, and then cursed that anyone who looks at the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi will suffer a bad fate. The moon soon realised his mistake and begged Ganapati for forgiveness.