How Ganesha got his elephant head

Ganesha is the god of commerce, knowledge and the one who removes obstacles. With his cozy, friendly appearance and his elephant head, Ganesha is one of the most popular gods in Hinduism. But how did this god actually get his elephant’s head?


Ganesha is the son of the goddess Parvati, the symbol of the faithful, docile wife. Parvati is married to Shiva, one of the most important and most worshiped gods, as he is both the destroyer and the renewer (recreator) of the world. Shiva is not Ganesha’s biological father. According to legend, one day during her bath, Parvati scraped some substance (bath oil mixed with some dirt) from her leg and molded it into a doll. She brought that little puppet to life and named him Ganesha.

The elephant head

A few years later, Shiva returns home after a long absence. He wants to greet his wife who is just taking a bath at that moment. He finds Ganesha at the door. Parvati has forbidden Ganesha to let anyone in and since he does not recognize his father, he refuses him entry. Shiva, who in turn does not see who Ganesha is, flies into a huge rage and cuts off his son’s head. When Shiva comes to his senses and realizes that he has killed Ganesha, he is overcome with remorse. He sends his servants out with orders to kill the first living creature they encounter and bring back his head. That first living being in a baby elephant. Shiva places the elephant’s head on Ganesha’s body and brings him back to life. Ganesha is then completely accepted into the holy family. Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and his brother Karttikeya are often depicted as four in miniatures as a representation of a happy family.

Removing obstacles

Ganesha’s courageous defense of his mother’s door has earned him the titles ,Guardian of Entrances, and ,Lord of New Entrances., That is why you often see his statue at the entrance of temples and other buildings. When believers are going to undertake something new, for example a trip or a wedding, they first pray to Ganesha. Only then will they worship their own deity. Ganesha’s mount is a rat, which unites the smallest animal with the largest animal (the elephant) and a rat fits perfectly with the god who removes obstacles: after all, he also gnaws through everything. Ganesha has only one tusk, his broken tooth he used as a pen to write down the Mahabharata (one of the most famous epics from India , probably the longest poem ever written). In addition, Ganesha is the god who ensures that children always have something to eat, which is why he is depicted with bowls full of sweets and treats that he regularly indulges in himself!