Of the many deities in the Hindu pantheon, it is safe to say that Ganesha – the elephant god is one of the most intriguing and identifiable of them, even among non-devotees.
Like all ancient mythologies, there are several versions to the story of how Ganesha got his elephant head. The most well-known version is one which the mother goddess, Pavarti created a boy out of clay and brought him to life in the absence of her consort, Shiva. When Shiva returned home, he mistook the boy for an enemy in disguise and proceeded to behead the child.
The boy’s death left Pavarti grief-stricken and Shiva overcame with guilt. To resurrect their son, the head of a recently killed baby elephant was attached to the decapitated body and a god was born.
In Hinduism, Ganesha is patron god of wisdom, knowledge, the science and the arts. He is worshipped as the guide to success and remover of obstacles. Since ego can stand in the way of gaining wisdom through learning, Ganesha is the destroyer of pride, vanity and selfishness. It is also believed that this protective deity will sometimes create obstacles, should the need arise to obstruct decisions and actions that may do a person more harm than good.