The Indian Artist: The Elephant God

I thought that this week I would tell a story that I loved hearing when I was growing up. This is the story of the Ganesha, and how he came to be known as the Elephant God. Enjoy!

Shiva’s wife Parvati disliked being disturbed when she was bathing but for some reason, Shiva never seemed to remember. He strode in whenever he wished oftentimes really annoying Parvati. One day when Shiva was away meditating in the forest, Parvati went into her bathing chamber full of determinations and a mischievous glint in her eyes. ‘Today I will not be disturbed,” she thought as she massaged herself with jasmine oil and sandalwood paste.

Picking up a flat wooden knife she scraped the scented paste off her body and kneaded it into a lump, mixing it with the pure, fine soil from the ground. When it was firm enough, she fashioned the clay into the figure of a boy, perfect in every limb. She held the beautiful sculpture of the boy up to her face and poured her life’s breath into him. In the twinkling of an eye, a young boy stood before her, handsome, alive, eyes bright with love.

Parvati hugged him. “Now look, I want you to do something for me. I’m going to have a bath and no one is to enter this chamber. You will be my little guard.”

A piece that I did in ink inspired by a beautiful drawing of Ganesha by Bijay Biswaal

The boy bowed, hands folded, “Of course, Mother.” Parvati went into her bathing chambers and shut the door. The boy posted himself outside and stood with legs apart, hands folded, the spitting image of a little knight.

Shiva returned from his meditative retreat and looked around for Parvati. When he didn’t see her, he made straight for the bathroom but came to an abrupt halt. In front of the door, blocking his passage, stood a strange young boy. Shiva moved forward, with purpose, but the boy didn’t budge.

“I will not,” said the boy coolly, without a trace of fear. “My mother said no one must enter, so I will not let anybody in until she says so.”

“I am not interested in what your mother said. Move out of my way!” Shiva roared, and his terrible anger erupted. In a flash, his sword was out and fell on the boy’s tender neck. The young boy cried as he fell, and his severed head rolled on the ground. Parvati sprang up and flung the door open. Her eyes widened in pain and anguish when she saw the headless body of her son. She turned on Shiva like a lioness, angry tears pouring down her face.

“You’ve killed my son, you heartless brute,” she stormed. “How could you kill a young boy unequal in strength and years? And they call you a Great God! Some Great God you are! I’ll never forgive you for this.” Shiva looked at her in blank astonishment, bewildered and appalled.

“I’m truly sorry, my dear, just don’t be angry with me,” Shiva tried to soothe his wife in his most calming voice. “I will bring him back to life, I promise.”

Parvati threw him a smoldering look and turned away. Shiva summoned his faithful attendants and spoke with power, “Bring me the head of the first dead creature you see,’ Shiva ordered. The servants left and almost immediately saw a beautiful elephant down the path. They cut off its head and quickly took it to Shiva. Shiva knelt by the headless body of the boy and placed the elephant’s head on the raw, bleeding neck. The head merged seamlessly into the torso of the boy and a moment later the little eyes flickered open.

Shiva picked him up and embraced him. “You, my son, will be the leader of my servants and the world will know you as Ganesha”’ he pronounced with a loving smile. “No god or man will dare begin a venture without first invoking you. In you shall be the power to remove every obstacle in the path of man, and in you shall lie the wisdom of the ages.”

This week was a little different, but if anything that I discussed in this post stands out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

Looking forward to next Sunday!


~ Riya



Riya A

My name is Riya and I am currently a Freshman at Umich. Art has been a huge passion of mine from a very young age and in this column, I look forward to sharing my perspectives and outlooks on life through my personal work!

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