Ganesha

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Vinayagar or Ganesha is best known as the God of new beginnings. This aspect of the God can be explained by the stories of his origins. The Padma Purana tells that Ganesha was the son of Shiva and Parvati and was born a perfect and normal child. At Parvati's invitation, the other gods and goddesses came to see the new baby and to bestow their blessings upon him. Unfortunately, Parvati's brother Sani had been cursed by his wife so that if he looked at anyone, that person was reduced to ashes. Parvati was so proud of her son that she insisted that Sani come to admire him. Only a quick sideways glance from Sani was enough to cause Ganesha's head to fly off his shoulders. Brahma was also present and promised that the transplantation of the head of the first living creature seen would enable the child to live. Vishnu set off at once and returned with the head of an elephant.

A more popular tale comes from the Shiva Purana. Parvati wanted to bathe but did not want to be disturbed. She created a boy from the dirt of her body to stand outside and guard against intruders. Her husband Shiva returned from hunting to find his access to his wife blocked by a stranger and angrily cut off the boy's head. Parvati was grief-stricken, so to soothe her, Shiva sent his men out to find the first animal they could that was sleeping with its head pointed north. When they returned with the head of an elephant, Shiva attached this to the boy's neck and promised that from then on, all men would call upon Ganesha at the beginning of any new enterprise.

Another tale explains why Ganesha is also known as the remover of obstacles and why he is always the first deity invoked in any Hindu ceremony or festival. Shiva wanted Ganesha and his brother Subramanya (also called Kartikeya) to circle the world. Subramanya dutifully set off around the world, but Ganesha simply circled his parents, saying that to him, his parents were the world. This greatly pleased Shiva who decreed that henceforth,

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