Lord Ganesha is known as the god of wisdom, knowledge, fine arts and worldly success. He is regarded as the eldest son of Lord Shiva and Parvati (Uma), their younger son being Kartikey. Lord Ganesha is treated with a lot of reverence and respect.
There are many stories in the Hindu mythology which tell how Lord Ganesha got the head of an elephant. Perhaps the most reliable story is the one taken from the Shiva Purana. According to it, Lord Ganesha was created by Parvati out of the turmeric paste (that she used for bathing) from her body and breathing life into it. She wanted to have someone as ardent and dependable for herself as Nandi (the bull) was to Shiva. So she created a boy and advocated him to be her loyal child. While going to bathe, she instructed the boy to guard the entrance of her house. He was told not to allow anyone inside. When Lord Shiva came to his house, he was stopped by the boy. On being stopped by a stranger, Lord Shiva got furious and after a long war, he succeeded in beheading him. Parvati, on learning this was aggravated and offended and decided to annihilate the entire creation. On being pleaded and persuaded by Lord Brahma, the Creator, she agreed to rehash her plan on the conditions that her son be brought back to life, and, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods. Lord Shiva acceded to Parvati’s conditions and ordered his servants (Gana) to bring the head of the first creature that they chance upon. They soon brought the head of an elephant which was placed onto Lord Ganesha’s body. Lord Shiva apologized for his haughtiness and announced that the brave boy was his son and that he should be respected like the other gods and should be worshipped before any other God. Lord Shiva, then gave him the name Ganesha, i.e. the chief of his attendants and also Vigneshwar; meaning the remover of all obstacles. After this, Lord Shiva and Parvati once again started living amicably at Mount Kailash in the Himalayas.
Many years went by, one day Parashuram; a Brahmin warrior was stopped by Lord Ganesha who was guarding Lord Shiva. He felt offended and entered into a fight with Lord Ganesha. In order to stop Parashuram’s axe from hurting him, Lord Ganesha stopped it with his tusk; which broke as a result. After this Lord Ganesha came to be known as ‘ekadanta’, meaning the ‘one toothed’.
Another story related to Lord Ganesha’s birth is that, once there lived a zealous devotee of Lord Shiva, who was a monster named Gajasura. He in return to his penance of many years, requested Lord Shiva to reside in his belly. His wish was granted. Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati became worried about his whereabouts and requested Lord Vishnu to help her in finding him. Lord Vishnu took Lord Shiva’s sacred bull, Nandi, with him and set out in his search, disguised as a street player. When they reached Gajasura’s kingdom, Nandi (Lord Shiva’s bull) danced so well that the monster asked her for a boon. She immediately asked for Lord Shiva as her reward. Gajasura realized that he could not keep the Lord in his belly forever and so he granted Nandi’s wish and let Lord Shiva out of his stomach. In return Gajasura requested Lord Shiva to make him immortal so that people may remember him. So, Lord Shiva severed Gajasura’s head in order to free him from the cycle of life and death and carried the head with him to his home.
Back home, on Mount Kailash, Parvati got to know about Lord Vishnu’s victory and her husband’s return. She went to take bath to be able to welcome her husband. There she created a doll like structure out of the dough she was to use for her bath and named it ‘Vinayak’, meaning the one who puts off the obstacles, so as to guard anyone from entering into the palace. When Lord Shiva came to the palace, he was stopped by Vinayak. Lord Shiva became furious and in his fit of fury he beheaded Vinayak. When Parvati got to know about the whole incident, she pleaded with Lord Shiva to bring him back to life. Lord Shiva had brought Gajasura’s head with him; so he put it on Vinayak’s body and the child got back to life. This day is called ‘Bhadrapad Chaturthi’, and Vinayak was blessed with the boon to be invoked before any auspicious occasion and be worshipped by the other gods.
All the Gods requested Lord Shiva to provide them with a leader. So, in order to select the best one among his two sons, Lord Shiva conducted a test. Both the sons are asked to go round the earth thrice and the one who finished the task sooner than the other was to be made the leader of the Gods i.e. the Ganaadhipati. Wasting no time, the younger son, Kartik set off for the test. Lord Ganesha used his wisdom and instead of taking rounds of the earth, he respectfully paid obeisance to his parents and went round them thrice; explaining his action as valid because his parents encompass the whole universe, so by going around them he had gone around the whole universe rather than merely the earth! Everyone was amused and impressed by the wit and intelligence of Vinayak and therefore, he was declared the winner and the Supreme God of the universe and came to be known as Ganaadhish, Ganapati and Ganesh. Thus, all gods worship him.The devotees celebrate Ganesh chaturthi on the day Lord Ganesha was born with a lot of devotion and passion throughout the country. In fact, in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra the festival continues upto ten days.
Lord Ganesha is regarded as the remover of disruption and disorder; it is therefore a tradition that marriage invitation cards have the portrait of Lord Ganesha over them, requesting him, in a way, to remove all the hurdles that may come in the way to disrupt the marriage ceremony. It is believed that the secrets of life management can be learned from him. The devotees of Ganapati often consider his elephant head as being indicative of his intelligence and dependability. The large ears are said to be for listening to people calling out to him for help. His small eyes tell us to have a restrained and logical view about any issue. The long trunk, which is able to smell from even a distance, educates us to judge carefully and cautiously.