How Lord Ganesha got his elephant head

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How Lord Ganesha got his elephant head

Contributed by: Gaurav Moghe. Adapted from the Wikipedia article on Ganesha.
Discussed species: Elephant (Elephas maximus)

Lord Ganesha is one of the most widely worshiped deities in the Hindu patheon. Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles[1] and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles (Vighnesha (विघ्नेश,विघ्नेश्वर)), patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom.[2].

Ganesha has been represented with the head of an elephant since the early stages of his appearance in Indian art. There are several stories of how Lord Ganesha acquired the elephant head. However, the most popular story goes like this:

Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva was alone at home and wanted to have a bath. To guard the entrance, Parvati created a human child - Ganesha - out of the earth and asked him to guard the entrance while she took a bath. While Parvati was bathing, Lord Shiva came to the scene and wanted to enter the house. However Ganesha blocked him from entering saying that it was his mother's orders not to allow anyone inside. Enraged, Lord Shiva cut off Ganesha's head and entered the house. Parvati, upon learning this, was overcome with grief. Upon learning that Ganesha was his own son, Lord Shiva felt sad too. Parvati then asked Lord Shiva to go down the Himalayas (their abode), cut off the head of the first animal he sees and splice it onto the headless body of Ganesha. The first animal Lord Shiva found was an elephant and that is how Lord Ganesha came to have the elephant's head and thus, infinite wisdom.

Another story goes like this:

When Ganesha was born, his mother, Parvati, showed off her new baby to the other gods. Unfortunately, the god Shani (Saturn), who is said to have the evil eye, looked at him, causing the baby's head to be burned to ashes. The god Vishnu came to the rescue and replaced the missing head with that of an elephant.[3]

For more versions of the story and complete references, please refer to this entry on Wikipedia.


  1. ^ Thapan, Anita Raina (1997), Understanding Gaņapati: Insights into the Dynamics of a Cult, New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, ISBN 81-7304-195-4
  2. ^ Heras, H. (1972), The Problem of Ganapati, Delhi: Indological Book House
  3. ^ Brown, Robert (1991), Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, Albany: State University of New York, ISBN 0-7914-0657-1


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Semantic tags

Title How Lord Ganesha got his elephant head Article is on this general topic Mythology and religion Author Gaurav Moghe
Specific location(s) where study was conducted Not noted General region where study was conducted Not noted State where study was conducted Pan-India
Institutional affiliation Not noted Institution located at Not noted Institution based around Not noted
Species Group Mammals User ID User:Gauravm Page creation date 2011/08/28

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