How Gajavadana Restored by Siva with Two Tusks Became Ekadanta
(Discourse By N.R.Srinivasan, July 2011)
Ganesha was a sweet little spoilt kid. Parvati, his mother was very fond of him and always fed him with delicious sweet cakes called Modaka. Subrahmanya is his younger brother who was born exclusively out of his father Siva's energy who is his friend, philosopher and even at times his Guru. Still Siva was partial and showed preferences to Ganesha more than his brother at times. Ganesha always liked to carry modaka and sugarcane in his hands. Over a period he became a glutton and his pot belly did not bother him at all.
On one of his birthdays, which falls on chaturthi (4th day), the bright fortnight of Bhaadrapada Ganesha was going around house to house accepting modakas (sweet cakes) offered by his favorite devotees. After having eaten too much, he needed the help of his mount Mooshika (mouse) to move further in the night. Suddenly the mouse stumbled due to overweight. His stomach which was over-loaded with modakas burst and the modakas came out. Ganesha did not like to part with the modakas devotedly offered by his devotees. He quickly stuffed them back and wanted to hold them in his belly. A snake moving around nearby obliged him and acted as a waist-belt holding the modakas secure in the belly. With his elephant head and mouse mount he had no difficulty in getting the help from another fellow-mate animal. Ganesha was not only a favorite of all people, but also equally a friend of all animals.
Seeing the short stature of Ganesha with his elephant head and human body, mouse as his mount and snake as his waist belt around his bulging belly, the charming moon could not contain his laughter and burst forth into a hearty and loud laughter. This annoyed Ganesha. In a fit of anger he broke one of his tusks and hurled at him. He also cursed him that no one should look at him on his birthday. If any one dared to look at the Moon on that day he would positively earn a bad name, censure and ill repute according to his curse. Moon begged his mercy and repented for ridiculing him. He did not want his fair name to be maligned because of this isolated incidence. Moon is always known for its cool temperament, calm nature and beauty. But Moon got a permanent scar on its face because of this incidence. It had to live with the scar as a punishment. Moon became his favorite devotee when it learnt he was the son of Parvati. Indeed! Ganesha is always kind to those who repent and worship him. Pleased by its repentance Ganesha suggested a quick remedy for those who became victims to his curse. Those who listened or read the story of how Lord Krishna cleared his name from being accused of stealing Syamantaka Jewel would not be affected by this curse as ordained by the merciful Ganesha. Ganesha was a strong friend, admirer and devotee of Lord Krishna.
Facinated by this story of Ganesha and impressed by his merciful nature even at his own offenders, Vedavyasa, the divine sage and compiler of Vedas and Puranas, included this story in Srimad Bhagavatam. The followers of all pervading Supreme (Vishnu), Vaishnavites started worshiping Ganesha whose name appeared in their sacred-most Purana. They had no hesitation in worshiping elephant headed God as they were quite at home worshipping Narasimha (Lion-headed God), Sesasayee (Vishnu reposing on the bed of serpent Adishesha) also known as Ranganatha and Hayagreeva (Horse-headed God). Goddess Lakshmi is always found in the company of elephant and often they worship Laksmi as Gajalakshmi. Of course they called him Vishwaksena and made him their favorite God to commence any ritual or work. They did not forget to put the Oordhwa Pundram (namam) to their favorite deity and affectionately called him "Thumbikkai Azhwar"-elephant headed Azhwar, making him leader of all Azhwars, the Vaishnava saints, instead of being the leader of Ganas, Sivas's attendants. Ganesha was also a devotee of lord Krishna, the favorite God of Vaishnavites. Vaishnavites worship all Azhwars with same reverence as their Favorite Gods Ishtadevatas).
Vedavyasa also requested Ganesha to help him in scribing the Mahabharata as fast as he dictated. Ganesha was pleased to do so. He wrote Mahabharata with the help of his broken tusk which he had carefully preserved after hurling it at the Moon, by etching on the Bhojapatra, bark of a tree.
His broken tusk however caused a permanent scar on Moon cautioning everyone what irreversible harm can bring by ridiculing others, stressing on the value of Purity of speech. In appreciation of his yeoman service, Vedavyasa included this invocation sloka in Vishnu Sahasra- nama: "Vignam nighnanti satatam Vishwaksenam tamaasraye", when he included Vishnu Sahasranama later in Mahabharata in Shanti Parva.
Let us pray to Lord Ganesha with the following mantra and receive his blessings:
" Mooshikavaahana moedaka hasta, tat purushaaya vidmahe, vakratunda mahaakaaya tannoe dantee prachoedayaat" May Lord Ganesha inspire us in all our undertakings, who rides on a mouse, holds a modaka in his hand, who carries a curved trunk and who has a pot belly"
Initially Ganesha idols were not associated with rat. It was a later mythological introduction while Ganesha himself is mythological. Ramayana devotes one full Sarga (chapter) in Ramayana on Skanda but not a word about Ganesha though Puranas claim Ganesha is elder to Skanda. Popularity of Ganesha worship today cannot be ignored and this confirms how Spiritual Vedic Religion got degenerated to myths and beliefs which foreigners termed as Hinduism, a geographical name meaning all those who lived in the Land of Sindhu River and not to signify any one religious group. They later ridiculed them as belonging to Pagan Religions.
The mythological story, according to Ganesha Purana goes like this:
There was a celestial musician-god by the name Krauncha. One day, in the court of Lord Indra, Krauncha accidentally stepped on the foot of Muni Vamadeva, who (as all sages) got enraged and cursed Krauncha to become a mouse. However, Krauncha became a huge mountain-sized mouse and ended up damaging everything in its path. Once, he ended up stepping on the ashram of Maharshi Parashar, with whom Lord Ganesha was staying, and destroying it. Lord Ganesha, in order to teach Krauncha a lesson, unleashed his pasha (noose which Ganesha holds in one of his hands) on Krauncha which ended up looping around the mouse and bringing him to Lord Ganesha's feet. Ganesha then said something like, "Krauncha...you have caused a lot of trouble and you deserve a severe punishment. But since you ask for my forgiveness, I will pardon you and use you as my vehicle". However, when Ganesha mounted on Krauncha, he couldn’t bear the weight of Lord Ganesha. Krauncha pleaded for Ganesha to become light-weight so that he could support him. Lord Ganesha obliged and since then, has been using the mouse as his vehicle.
Another belief is that Lord Ganesha is able to go into nooks and corners of the world and do his job as the Destroyer of Obstacles because his vehicle is a mouse, who basically can slither through tiny holes and narrow pathways, even in the darkness of night. This gives the quality of all-pervasiveness to Ganesha.
However, the most likely reasoning for why the rat is the vehicle of Lord Ganesha is this:
Lord Ganesha is known as the Conqueror of Obstacles (Vighnaharta). In ancient times, when agriculture was the primary mode of sustenance, rodents were one of the biggest obstacles to prosperity. Rodents would destroy standing crops, eat up stored grains and thereby result in severe losses for the common man. Lord Ganesha, in having a mouse/rat as his vehicle, is symbolically shown to have conquered this pest, thus staying true to his name of Vighnaharta. Elephant, sugarcane etc., are all associated with farmers and Ganesha is their deity as protector.
A mouse is a small little animal with tiny teeth, and yet, in a barn of grain a solitary mouse can bring disastrous losses by continuously gnawing and nibbling at the grain. Similarly there is a “mouse” within each personality, that can eat away even a mountain of merit and this mouse is the power of desire. The Man of Perfection is one has so perfectly mastered this urge to acquire, possess and enjoy this self-annihilating power of desire, that it is completely held in obedience to the will of the Master. And yet, when the master wants to play His part in blessing the world, He rides upon the mouse—meaning it is a desire to do service to the world that becomes His vehicle to move about and act.
Puranas have another interesting story how Vighnesvara while riding His mouse, was thrown down and it looked so ridiculous that the Moon laughed at the comic sight. Puranas also tell He broke his tusk and hurled it at the laughing moon to cause a permanent scar on Moon (kalanka), which we notice always. I have sent you a discourse on this long time back.
Even considering He is a mythological creation, Ganesha as He was restored by Lords Siva with an elephant head had two tusks but what we worship today is a Ganesha idol with broken tusk, which is against Silpasastra ( as a mutilated idol ) and then glorify also. Perhaps you are aware of the story how Jakanacahri, the famous sculptor carved a defective idol that was challenged by his son. Jakanachari thus humiliated on finding truth cut off his right hand and built another temple with his left hand alone and proved to the world what a great sculptor he was! Again here people have misread the sloka of Sankaracharya “anekadam tam bhaktanam ekadam tam upasmahe”--I worship Him who is many to others as One”—which is mistranslated as “I worship him as Ekadanta who is many tusked to devotees”.
But who can argue with blind-faith devotees and set the records right? Musicians have glorified Him as Ekadanta and Saivites have replaced Sarasvati with Ganesha where possible. So all music by Saivites start with Ganesha invocation.