Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

Short story for kids: How Ganesha got his elephant head

Ganesh Chaturthi 2019: Parvati threw him a smouldering look and turned away. Shiva thought of his ganas and the faithful attendants appeared promptly. 'Bring me the head of the first living creature you see,' Shiva ordered. 'And make it snappy.'

ganesh chaturthi 2019 Ganesh Chaturthi 2019 (Source: Lord Ganesha’s Feast of Laughter by Meera Uberoi, Penguin Books)

By Meera Uberoi

Shiva’s wife Parvati, daughter of Himalaya with its sparkling streams, was pretty easy-going but disliked being disturbed when she was bathing. And Shiva never seemed to remember that. He strode in whenever he wished, cool as you please, and this really annoyed Parvati.

One day when Shiva was away meditating in the forest, Parvati went into her bathing chamber with a determined little smile on her lips. ‘Today I will not be disturbed,’ she thought as she rubbed her body with jasmine oil and a paste of sandalwood and sweet aloes.

‘He’s not going to barge in this time.’

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Picking up a flat wooden knife she scraped the scented paste off her body and kneaded it into a lump.

When it was firm enough, she fashioned the figure of a boy, perfect in every limb. Then she held it 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. The boy gazed into his mother’s face and bowed.

Parvati hugged him. ‘You are beautiful, my son,’ she said with a silvery laugh. ‘Now look, I want you to do something for me. I’m going to have a bath and no one, that means no one, is to enter this chamber.’

The boy bowed, hands folded. ‘It shall be as you wish, Mother.’ Parvati went in and shut the door. The boy posted himself outside and stood with legs apart, hands folded.


Shiva returned to Kailasha, looked around for Parvati, and when he didn’t see her, made straight for the bathroom. Then he came to an abrupt halt.

In front of the door, blocking his passage, stood a strange young boy. Shiva moved forward purposefully, but the boy didn’t budge.

‘Out of my way, boy,’ Shiva said, eyes snapping with anger.

‘No,’ came the quiet but firm answer.

‘Step aside, now!’ Shiva thundered.


‘I will not,’ said the boy coolly, without a trace of fear. ‘My mother said no one must enter, so no one will-not until she says so.’

‘I’m not interested in what your mother said. Move out of my way!’ The crescent moon on Shiva’s head glowed red with anger and Ganga raged as she poured out of his matted locks. But the boy stood right where he was.

‘How dare you stop me!’ Shiva roared, and his terrible anger erupted. In a flash his sword was out and fell on the boy’s tender neck.

‘Mother!’ the 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 mountain 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 Mahadeva – the Great God! Some Great God you are! I’ll never forgive you for this.’ Shiva looked at her in blank astonishment. ‘Your son? How on earth was I to know he was your son?’ he asked reasonably.


‘You should have known,’ Parvati bit out, wiping away her tears. ‘You are Mahadeva, after all.’

‘I’m truly sorry, my dear, just don’t be angry with me,’ Shiva soothed in his most calming voice. ‘Look, I’ll bring him back to life.’


Parvati threw him a smouldering look and turned away. Shiva thought of his ganas and the faithful attendants appeared promptly. ‘Bring me the head of the first living creature you see,’ Shiva ordered. ‘And make it snappy.’

The ganas left and almost immediately saw an old tusker shuffling down the path. They cut off its head and took it to Shiva.


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

Shiva then turned to Parvati. ‘Happy now?’ he asked with a smile. Parvati’s displeasure was the only thing that put the Great God into a quake.

Parvati smiled but her eyes still crackled. ‘It will do,’ she said as she held her son close.

‘Come, my son, I want you to meet your brother Skanda. He is the commander of the heavenly armies.’

She led him away and Shiva followed with a rueful smile on his lips. ‘Whew! That was a close call,’ he thought, gazing fondly at them.

(Excerpted with permission from Lord Ganesha’s Feast of Laughter by Meera Uberoi, published by Penguin Books.)

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First published on: 01-09-2019 at 12:47:08 pm
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