If laptops had existed way back when the great Hindu epic poem, Mahabharata was written, Ganesha might never had acquired a broken tusk. How so? Sage Vyasa, the author of the epic, needed an assistant who would inscribe his masterpiece, someone gifted with an agile mind and nimble hand to cope with the torrent of words that poured out of him. Who better than Ganesha, the god with the smarts?
“Sure thing,” said Ganesha, “but, on one condition. I get bored easily. I’ll do it provided you recite everything in one go.”
Vyasa, taken aback at the youthful scribe’s audacity, agreed, but threw in his own rider.
“Fine, I can do that, but on one condition. You can’t just write stuff down blindly. You must understand everything I say in its entirety before penning it down.”
Vyasa thought he could spout something frightfully complex, then sit back and catch his breath while Ganesha chewed on the verse. Else how could an ancient like him retain his status before this young fellow?
The recitation began and Ganesha’s plump hand became a blur as it whizzed across the pages. No ordinary feather pen could withstand that speed. The one in Ganesha’s hand broke. Could Ganesha live up to his own challenge? Without pause, Ganesha broke off one tusk and proceeded to use it as a pen, until the transcription came to an end.
Ever the dutiful son, Ganesha took his title as chief (Ganapati) of Shiva’s army seriously. One day, his father was sleeping, when a visitor arrived – Parashurama, an avatar of Vishnu, the Preserver of Life. Ganesha politely declined to let him in. When Parashurama’s entreaties fell on deaf ears, the great warrior was enraged, and lunged at Ganesha.
Ganesha’s sharp eye fell upon the axe in Parashurama’s hand. “Hey, that’s dad’s axe!” he thought. “He must’ve presented it to this person. This means I can’t possibly fight him – he must be dad’s friend!”
Turning his face respectfully, Ganesha took the blow on his tusk – and that’s how it broke off!
Arrogance doesn’t pay
One moonlit night, after stuffing himself silly with sweets from his devotees, Ganesha went for a ride in the skies, mounted on his mouse. A snake appeared out of nowhere, causing the mouse to jump in fright. Ganesha fell off on his huge belly. Ouch, that must have hurt! Ganesha picked up the snake and tied it around his belly – a makeshift bandage, if you will.
The Moon, an amused spectator to the chubby child’s antics, broke into giggles. And that made Ganesha upset.
“So you think I’m funny, huh? Just you wait... I’ll fix that arrogant grin!”
Ganesha snapped off a tusk and threw it at the moon, whose gleaming face was split into two. For good measure, he cursed it as a source of bad luck to anyone gazing upon it. The Moon, realizing the folly of its ways, pleaded for mercy. Divine curses, though, can’t be revoked – they can only be altered, somewhat. Ganesha, who was really quite a softie, relented.
“Oh, OK, you’re spared. But you’ll wax and wane every fifteen days. And folks who look at you on my birthday will have a hard time.”
Now you know why a full moon is so short-lived. And don’t ever forget to keep your gaze away from it on Ganesh Chaturthi (a festival that marks the birth of Ganesha)!