Ganesh Chaturthi Special: Stories of Lord Ganesha You Must Tell Your Kids

I present to you, what I love doing best, some enthralling and fascinating stories behind the significant rituals in every Ganesh pooja.

While Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations continue throughout the week, the whole country is busy making their much-loved deity Lord Ganesh comfortable in their homes.

I too am busy gearing up to answer many curious questions by my daughter regarding numerous ceremonies that follow in this festival. And so I present to you, what I love doing best, some enthralling and fascinating stories behind the significant rituals in every Ganesh pooja.

Why Do We Offer Modaks To Lord Ganesha?

Almost every Indian kitchen is filled with fervour and frenzy in preparation for Lord Ganesha’s favourite sweet to utmost perfection. Modaks (steamed or fried sweet dumplings traditionally eaten with a dollop of ghee on top) are the star offering in every bhog platter. In fact, this is also how he came to be known as Modakpriya which stands for the one who loves modaks. The story behind this ubiquitous sweet offering is very interesting.

One day Anusuya (wife of Sage Atri) invited Lord Shiva and his family for dinner to her home in the forest. Lord Shiva was famished and asked to be served immediately. Anusaya, however, said she would first serve Bal Ganesha and only after he was satisfied would she serve Lord Shiva.

Bal Ganesha too was very hungry and hastily gobbled whatever was served to him. Anusaya had painstakingly prepared many dishes but to her surprise, nothing seemed to satisfy Bal Ganesh’s hunger. Even his mother, Goddess Parvati was astonished at the sight of her young son’s unappeasable appetite.

Then What Happened?

Now, Anusaya was in a fix. She realized that Lord Shiva would remain hungry if she didn’t find a solution. After much thought, Anusaya decided to try something different. She quickly prepared a single piece of sweetened food and served it hoping it would appease the young boy.

After eating the sweet piece, Bal Ganesha immediately gave a loud burp. The burp indicated he was finally full and satisfied.  Lord Shiva smiled and joined his son in burping. Together they burped, not once, not twice but 21 times.  They both then announced that they were full and did not want any more food. Goddess Parvati immediately became very curious to know what was that sweetened food item which Anusuya had served Bal Ganesha. This is how she learnt to make Modaks.

From that day onwards it is believed that the best way to please Lord Ganesha when he visits your home is to serve him 21 Modaks.

Why Do We Offer Durva Grass To Lord Ganesha?

This special and sacred Durva grass or Doob (popularly known as Bermuda grass in English) is omnipresent in almost all Hindu poojas and rituals. Along with having a purifying effect, the grass also has many medicinal properties. Durva grass is also another of Lord Ganesh’s favourites. 21 blades of Durva grass are tied together, dipped in holy water and then offered at the deity’s feet. In fact, Lord Ganesha is the only God to whom Durva grass is offered and the story behind this ritual is fascinating.

Once upon a time, there lived a demon known as Analasur (meaning fire) who troubled all the sages and saints. Fed up with this demon, all the Gods went to Lord Ganesha for help. Now Lord Ganesha, in his pledge to protect the world, decided the best option would be to swallow the whole beast. However, though the task was initially very easy, it had a very troubling aftereffect. As soon as he swallowed Analasur, he felt a severe burning sensation in his belly.

What Next?

Poor Lord Ganesha. The feeling was so intense that he couldn’t bear it at all. Various Gods tried different remedies to ease his pain and discomfort. Lord Indra placed the moon on his forehead, Lord Vishnu offered him his soothing lotus and Lord Shiva tied a serpent with a thousand heads around his stomach, but alas nothing could soothe him.

Finally, as legend has it, a few sages gave Lord Ganesha 21 blades of Durva grass to eat. On consuming the grass, it is said he felt instant relief. Now, for a God who loves to eat, he would always be in need of such an easy and simple cure for indigestion.

Since then it became Lord Ganesha’s favourite herb and a household ritual to offer Durva grass stacks during every ‘Ganesh Poojan’.

Why Do We Offer Coconuts To Lord Ganesha?

The coconut is the most significant and must-have item on every Hindu ritual list. Breaking a coconut for Gods and Goddesses or offering it as bhog is a very common and essential practice. The humble coconut also holds a very special place in the heart of our beloved Lord Ganesha. Here is the interesting tale behind this favouritism.

The story goes that one day, Lord Shiva grew tired of his meditation and the calmness at the Kailash Parvat.  So he decided to go on a quest to conquer new worlds and universes. In his haste, Lord Shiva forgets to acknowledge his son Lord Ganesha.

Now Lord Shiva had earlier announced that every new venture or every beginning must be undertaken only after praying to Lord Ganesha (the Muladhara). This decree was also for all the Gods and thus even Lord Shiva (the Lord of Lords). By forgetting to pray to Lord Ganesha before leaving, Lord Shiva had committed a great error. Lord Ganesha sets out to remind his father and soon catches up with him. Then, Lord Shiva, on seeing his son, immediately realizes his folly and offers a prayer asking for success in his new quest.

Oh No! What Now?

Lord Ganesha was not happy. In spite of Lord Shiva profound apologies and pleadings, Lord Ganesha bars his way and demands a sacrifice. He says only Lord Shiva’s head is a worthy sacrifice. Now Lord Shiva knew this was an innocent game played by his son would be a big lesson to humanity.  An important lesson is that no one is free from rules and regulations. Not even the Lord himself.

So Lord Shiva found a solution and offered Lord Ganesha a coconut instead of his own head. A coconut, he explained to his son, also has three eyes like his father and so is a symbolic representation of Lord Shiva.  After much thought, Lord Ganesha finally got convinced. He took the coconut from his father and smashed it to the ground. After this Lord Shiva went ahead on his quest and returned victoriously. Thus by his own example, Lord Shiva also established the ritual that Lord Ganesha is the first God to be worshipped for victory and success. The breaking of the coconut also symbolizes breaking one’s ego in front of the divine God.

This is why we offer coconuts to Lord Ganesha before any important task.

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