Sunday, February 9, 2020

Week 5: More Stories of Lord Ganesha

Below are more 100-word versions of stories from this online booklet of Ganesha stories, and here are all 3 of my "tiny Ganesha" posts.

7. The Demon Lobhasura

Kubera, god of wealth, lusted after the goddess Parvati. She glared at Kubera angrily, which terrified him. His fear gave birth to Lobhasura, a demon who had no fear of anything and who was greedy for everything.
Lobhasura tormented all the inhabitants of the three worlds. He even evicted Shiva from Mount Kailash.
The gods and people prayed to Ganesha to save them, so Ganesha manifested as Gajanana, the invincible elephant, one of Ganesha's eight avatars.
When Lobhasura saw Gajanana, he finally felt fear and ran away, terrified.
That is how Ganesha freed the three worlds from the demon Lobhasura.

Notes: In the traditional version, the gods go to sage Raibhya, who prays to Ganesha to manifest as Gajanana, and then a god (Shiva or Vishnu) goes to tell Lobhasura about Gajanana, and the mere report of Gajanana's existence makes him surrender. For compression, I left Raibhya out.

8. Ganesha and Gajamukha

Gajamukha was a wicked asura. He worshipped Shiva for years until Shiva granted him a boon. "Make me invincible to all weapons!" demanded Gajamukha.
Gajamukha then conquered the people and the gods, commanding them to worship him, and only him.
The gods fought back, attacking Gajamukha with arrows, spears, swords, clubs... nothing worked.
Ganesha then broke off a tusk and stabbed Gajamukha, wounding him badly. Gajamukha turned himself a mouse, but Ganesha sat on him, crushing the asura beneath his weight.
When Gajamukha begged for mercy, Ganesha forgave him, and so Gajamukha  became the mouse that Ganesha rides even now.

Notes: There is also a very different story about a musician-god named Krauncha who was cursed to become a mouse; that story is not in this book, but I'll include it here:

9. Ganesha and Krauncha

The musician-god Krauncha once stepped on a sage's foot by accident. He apologized, but the angry sage cursed him to become a gigantic mouse! Krauncha begged for mercy, but the sage could not take back his curse. As compensation, he promised that someday even the gods would bow to Krauncha.
The giant mouse stepped on the sages' ashrams, crushing their homes with his feet.
Finally, Ganesha used his lasso to catch Krauncha, who begged for mercy. Ganesha agreed and made Krauncha his vahana.
This fulfilled the sage's promise: when the gods bow to Ganesha, they are also bowing to Krauncha.

Notes: The sage who cursed Krauncha is Vamadeva.

10. The Elephant Head of Gajasura

Some say that Ganesha's elephant head once belonged to Gajasura, the Elephant-Demon.
Gajasura worshiped Shiva with such fervor that Shiva granted him any wish.
"I wish to consume you!" said Gajasura, so Shiva thus disappeared into Gajasura's stomach.
No one knew where he was, except Vishnu. To rescue Shiva, Vishnu appeared before Gajasura as a flutist.
"Your music is enchanting!" declared Gajasura. "Name your reward."
"Is there anything beyond your power?" Vishnu asked.
"Nothing is beyond my power!" shouted Gajasura.
"Then release Shiva!" demanded Vishnu.
Shiva emerged, and Gajasura offered his head and his skin to Shiva as a gift.

Notes: In some versions, Shiva's bull Nandi accompanies Vishnu, dancing to Vishnu's music.

11. Ganesha and the Durva Grass

The fire-demon Analasura could shoot flames from his eyeballs, destroying anything he gazed upon. He attacked humans and gods alike, and even expelled Indra from heaven, proclaiming himself king.
The gods begged Ganesha to save them, so Ganesha disguised himself as a child, small and quick enough to escape Analasura's fireballs.
Analasura then attempted to swallow Ganesha, but Ganesha enlarged himself so that he swallowed Analasura instead.
This gave Ganesha a terrible stomachache; nothing could cool the heat in his belly.
The wise sage Kashyapa then offered Ganesha some durva grass, and when Ganesha ate the grass, he was cured.

Notes: Durva grass, Cynodon dactylon, is also known as Bermuda grass; you can read more at Wikipedia. This grass is still used as an offering to Ganesha, usually in the form of 21 shoots of grass. There are various stories that explain why durva grass is offered to Ganesha; this is just one of them.

12. Kubera's Feast

Kubera invited Shiva to a feast. "The best feast ever!" he boasted.
To teach Kubera a lesson, Shiva sent Ganesha in his place.
Ganesha ate all the food, and then asked, "Can't you offer me more?"
Kubera brought food from the kitchen. Not enough. From the pantry. Not enough. "Can't you offer me more?"
Finally, Kubera went to Shiva and begged for help.
"Food served with love is truly filling," said Shiva.
So Kubera brought Ganesha a handful of rice. "I offer you this food with my whole heart," said Kubera.
Ganesha took the rice. "I am satisfied," he said.

Notes: Kubera is the god of wealth; you can read more about him at Wikipedia.

~ ~ ~

There are just five more Ganesha stories in the booklet, and I'll do those next time!

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