India is the land of many Gods and Goddesses. Religion forms a very intricate part of the daily life of the Indians. Each of these deities has its own special day and Vinayaka Chathurthi, is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the elder progeny of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati.
Lord Ganesha is considered to be a very powerful god and people pray to him first before starting anything - be it a new job or even school exams! Most of the temples will have a shrine dedicated to this elephant-headed deity. Small shrines of Ganesha can be found even in the street corners!
Many myths and beliefs are attached to Lord Ganesha. How he came to have an elephant head is an interesting story. According to some legends, Ganesha wasn't actually born to Shiva and Parvati but was created from the saffron paste gathered from Parvati's person. Parvati wanted someone who would owe his first allegiance to Parvati and not Shiva and so she created the boy who was handsome and strong and breathed life into him. "You are my son, my very own son, I do not have anyone else to call my very own" said Parvati. Then Parvati gave the boy a staff and asked him to guard the door to her private rooms and said, "Do not to allow any one to enter without my permission."
A little later Shiva arrived and wondered who the boy could be and why was he there. As Shiva approached the door, the boy stopped him. Shiva tried to explain to the boy that he was Parvati’s husband and he had the right to enter without asking any one. The boy said without hesitation, "No one enters these halls without my mother’s permission." When Shiva ignored him, the boy hit him with his staff. Shiva was furious! He tried to fight the young boy and realized that he was no ordinary boy. Shiva asked his attendants to capture the boy but single-handedly, the boy defeated them all.
Shiva then sent a messenger around to enquire who the boy was. The boy declared, "I am the son of Parvati. I will give my life to carry out my mother’s orders. No one can enter the palace without my mother’s permission."
The messenger returned to Shiva and humbly informed him what the boy had said. Shiva’s pride was hurt. He was so angry that he sent his entire army to capture the boy. Parvati called for her other powers, Kali and Durga and asked them to stand beside her son. Shiva’s army lost the battle and His attendants ran for their lives. Shiva then called Vishnu to join him in defeating the small boy. This was not a fair fight. While the boy was engaged in fighting with Vishnu, Shiva threw his Trident and beheaded the boy. After the head rolled off, Shiva realized his mistake.
When Parvati heard of the unfair fight she decided to destroy the world. Brahma humbly approached Parvati, seeking for mercy to save the world. Parvati agreed on two conditions, "My son must regain his life and he shall be worshipped before any of the other gods." By that time Shiva had calmed down and apologized for his rash behavior. He agreed to bring the boy back to life. He asked Brahma to go North and bring the head of the first creature that crossed his path. Brahma left with his party and soon brought back the head of a strong elephant. The head was then fitted to the body of the boy and Brahma sprinkled water on it. The boy came to life with an elephant’s head on his shoulder. Parvati embraced her son with joy. She then turned to Brahma to fulfill her second condition. Indra and the other gods brought Shiva to Parvati. Shiva apologized for his arrogance and declared "Hence on, this valiant boy will be my son. He will be respected as any other God and will be worshipped before any other God. He will be called Ganesh, the chief of my Ganas or attendants, and also Vigneshwar, the remover of all obstacles."
Thus Lord Ganesha came into being and began to be worshipped by one and all.