why does lord ganesha have an elephant head

There are several Puranic stories about Lord Ganesha and his elephant head. These stories are:
Once Parvati, just for fun, prepared an image of a child with an elephant's head, out of the unguents smeared over her body and threw it into the river Ganga. It came to life. Both Ganga and Parvati addressed the boy as their child. Hence Lord Ganesha is known as Dvaimatura, 'one who has two mothers'; Parvati prepared the image of a child out of the scurf from her body, endowed him with life and ordered him to stand guard before her house. When Siva wanted to enter the house he was rudely prevented by Ganesha. Siva became Rudra and got him beheaded. Seeing that Parvati was inconsolable, Siva grafted an elephant's head on the body of the boy and gave him life. Siva appointed this new-found son as the head of all his retinues, who thus became 'Ganapati'. He sprang from Siva's countenance which represents akashtattva (principle of ether). His captivating splendour made Parvati react angrily and curse him, resulting in the elephant head; and Ganesha was originally Krishna himself in the human form.

When Sani, the malevolent planet spirit gazed at him, his head got separated and flew to Goloka. The head of an elephant was subsequently grafted on the body of the child. All these Puranic stories are taken from the book 'Hindu Gods and Goddesses' by Swami Harshananda. Swami Harshananda of the Ramakrishna Order is an Advaitist and does not take the Puranic stories seriously. The learned Swami gives several views regarding the meaning of the elephant head. First he points out that Ganapati had gained de facto recognition in the hearts of millions of votaries over several centuries long before the Puranas were written. Several Puranic stories reflect the struggle by various Puranic authors to give de jure recognition to Ganapati! He gives the following possible meanings of the elephant head: 'Gana' means category. Everything that we perceive through our senses or grasp through our mind can be expressed in terms of category. The principle from which all such categories have manifested themselves is Ganapati, the Lord of categories.

In effect, it means the origin of the whole creation, God Himself; A common Sanskrit word to denote elephant is 'Gaja'. Hence the name Gajanana or Gajamukha (elephant-faced) for Ganapati. But the word 'Gaja' has a deeper connotation. 'Ga' indicates 'Gati', the final goal towards which the entire creation is moving. 'Ja' stands for 'Janma' or birth or origin. Hence 'Gaja' signifies God from whom the worlds have come out and towards whom they are progressing, to be ultimately dissolved in Him. The elephant head is thus purely symbolical and points to this truth; A factor we observe in creation is its two-fold manifestation as the microcosm (Suksmanda) and macrocosm (Brahmanda). Each is a replica of the other. They are one in two and two in one. The elephant head stands for the macrocosm and the human body for the microcosm. The two form one unit. Since the macrocosm is the goal of microcosm, the elephant part has been given greater prominence by making it the head.

The elephant-human form of Ganapati is the iconographical representation of the great Vedantic dictum, 'tat-tvam-asi'(which means You the apparently limited individual are in essence the Cosmic Truth, the Absolute). The elephant stands for the cosmic whereas the human stands for the individual. Lord Ganesha is one of the most widely worshiped deities in the patheon. Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles ( Vighnesha (аааааЕаа,аааааЕааааа)), patron of arts and sciences, and the of intellect and wisdom. Ganesha has been represented with the head of an since the early stages of his appearance in Indian art. There are several stories of how Lord Ganesha acquired the head. However, the most popular story goes like this:, the wife of Lord was alone at home and wanted to have a bath. To guard the entrance, Parvati created a human child - Ganesha - out of the earth and asked him to guard the entrance while she took a bath.

While Parvati was bathing, Lord Shiva came to the scene and wanted to enter the house. However Ganesha blocked him from entering saying that it was his mother's orders not to allow anyone inside. Enraged, Lord Shiva cut off Ganesha's head and entered the house. Parvati, upon learning this, was overcome with grief. Upon learning that Ganesha was his own son, Lord Shiva felt sad too. Parvati then asked Lord Shiva to go down the (their abode), cut off the head of the first animal he sees and splice it onto the headless body of Ganesha. The first animal Lord Shiva found was an elephant and that is how Lord Ganesha came to have the elephant's head and thus, infinite wisdom. When Ganesha was born, his mother, Parvati, showed off her new baby to the other gods. Unfortunately, the god (Saturn), who is said to have the evil eye, looked at him, causing the baby's head to be burned to ashes. The god came to the rescue and replaced the missing head with that of an elephant. For more versions of the story and complete references, please refer to.

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