Analasura was a ferocious demon whose voice made the earth tremble and whose eyes emitted fire. His thirst for bloodletting spared none – powerful sages and strong men included. The god Indra engaged him in battle several times and retired defeated.
Weary of his rampaging, all the celestials trooped to Lord Shiva for advice. Shiva did have a remedy for them – that they should approach Ganesha, whose huge pot belly alone could contain Analasura.
Ganesha agreed to help and transformed himself into a chubby, little boy. Analasura approached him, his eyes shooting fireballs, reducing the environment around Ganesha into cinders. In the battle that ensured, Ganesha suddenly assumed enormous proportions and gulped down the demon.
This was somewhat akin to our swallowing a plateful of chillies. Ganesha was in agony, unable to lie down or remain still. The panicked gods offered several remedies to cool Him down but nothing worked. Finally, relief came in the form of 88,000 sages, each of whom performed healing rituals with 21 blades of Durva grass.
Ganesha declared that henceforth, anyone worshipping Him with Durva grass would be the recipient of his benevolence.
Durva grass has played an important role in Hindu rituals since ancient times. It is believed to have purifying and healing properties. When plucked, it grows back rapidly. It is thus an enduring symbol of renewal, regeneration and fertility leading to associations with prosperity. For this reason, Durva is linked to a householder god like Ganesha, rather than His hermit father, Shiva.
Durva is derived from two words – duhu, the first word means “that which exists afar” while avam is “that which pulls closer”. Interpreted in the context of Ganesha, the use of Durva during worship draws His great power, which in turn dispels the negativity within our bodies.
The Durva’s three blades symbolize the essence of Shiva, Shakti and Ganesha.
At a more basic level, the ritual exemplifies how easy it is to please Ganesha with the offering of this humble grass.