Let’s invoke Lord Ganesha, before learning about his divine birth.
Vakratunda Mahakaya Suryakoti Samaprabha– A popular shloka on Lord Ganesha
Nirvighnam Kurume Deva Sarva kaaryeshu Sarvada
O Lord Ganesha, you having a Curved Trunk, Large Body, possessing the Brilliance of a Million Suns, please remove all obstacles to my work, at all times.
There are different stories in the Hindu Puranas (e.g. Padma purana, Linga purana, Brahmavaivarta purana, Shiva purana etc.) about the origin/birth of Lord Ganesha. But the story mentioned in Rudra Samhita of Shiva purana (chapters 13 to 18) is the most popular. References to Ganesha are also found in the Vayu and Brahmanda Puranas. According to Lord Brahma as per Shiva Purana, due to the difference of Kalpas, the story of the birth of Ganesha is told in different ways. According to one account he is born of the great lord. His head looked at by Shani was cut off and an elephant’s head was put on him. But here we discuss the story of the birth of Ganesha in Śvetakalpa when his head was cut off by the merciful Shiva.
Story of Lord Ganesha’s birth
On a certain day, Parvati asked Nandi to guard the entrance of the palace and went in to have a bath. She was bathing in utter privacy when Lord Shiva came and made an entry without caring for the guard, Nandi. This was an infringement of her privacy. The mother of the universe, seeing the untimely arrival of Śiva in the midst of her bath and toilet stood up. The beautiful lady was very shy then. So, she decided to create a Gana of her own. Another version of the story says that Nandi was not available that day to stand guard while Parvati was taking bath and therefore she decided to create her own guard.
She took some turmeric paste, which she had smeared all over her body, she created a human form, full of signs of divinity. She breathed life into the human form and declared him her son. He was spotless and handsome in every part of his body. He was huge in size and had all brilliance, strength and valour. She then asked the boy to stand guard and not let anyone inside while she was taking bath. Saying this, Parvati gave a staff to Ganesha and ordered him to perform his duty and went in to take bath.
Meanwhile, Lord Shiva came and wanted to get in. Ganesha didn’t know that it was Lord Shiva. Placing the staff between Lord Shiva and the entrance, Ganesha halted the entry of Lord Shiva.
Shiva tried to reason with the boy, saying that he was Parvati’s husband, but the boy did not listen and was determined to keep Shiva out. The boy’s behaviour surprised Shiva.
Meanwhile, the Ganas of Lord Shiva tried to intervene. Ganesha remained undeterred and didn’t allow entry to anyone. An energetic dialogue ensued between the Ganas and Ganesha. The Ganas were overwhelmed to learn that the boy guarding the entrance was none other than the son of Parvati. They went and informed Lord Shiva about it. Lord Shiva somehow wanted to subdue the ego of his Ganas; and so, he invoked all the gods and asked them and the Ganas to launch an attack on Ganesha.
A fierce battle ensued between Ganesha and the army of gods and Ganas. Ganesha’s valour was worth seeing. He swooped down on the army of Lord Shiva amidst sporadic shower of sharp arrows and other formidable weapons and forced them back.
Seeing that Ganesha was proving to be too powerful for the gods and Ganas together, Lord Shiva himself came in the battlefield. Ganesha prayed silently to his mother to fill him with energy and power and prepared himself to face the might of Lord Shiva. All the gods were on Lord Shiva’s side. Both the parties engaged themselves in fierce battle. Ganesha was proving himself unstoppable. Ultimately, Lord Shiva, seeing no way out, made use of his powerful trident and decapitated Ganesha.
When Parvati heard word of this, she was so enraged that she decided to destroy all of creation. At her call, several ferocious multi-armed forms, the yoginis, arose from her body and threatened annihilation. Lord Brahma, being the creator, naturally had his concerns, and pleaded that she reconsider her drastic plan. She acquiesced with two conditions: one, that the boy be brought back to life, and two, that he be forever revered before all the other gods in prayer.
Shiva, having cooled down by this point, agreed to Parvati’s conditions. He sent his devotees out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature that lay with its head facing the north. They soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant named Gajasura, which Lord Brahma placed atop the boy’s body. Breathing new life into him, he was declared as the Gajanana and offered him the status of being the foremost among the gods in prayer, and the title of the leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati.
Parvati became very happy to see her son return to life. The term Ganesha or Ganapati means the leader of Ganas. Lord Shiva also decreed that Lord Ganesha be worshiped before any other deity while commencing any ritual. Lord Ganesha was also blessed to be the master of intellect and wisdom.
Here are two more articles on Lord Ganesha: