[Short Story] The One who Stood against Shiva
The northern winds blew over the inn and creaked the door open. The cold breeze blew inside sending chills down Vinayak's spine. He shuddered and went to closed the door again. He gasped at the door, cursing his job. He was the inn-keeper of this family INN. It was started by his father and provided wayfarers a place to rest and have a hot meal on the highway. Vinayak glanced at the clock on the wall- it showed closed to midnight. No one is going to come here now. He sighed, no one will come here anymore, it was the coldest night. He might as well close down and go to sleep.
Just as he was about to lock the door, an old Sage stepped inside, "Room for one, please?"
Vinayaka rushed to the door and helped the Sage inside, "Please come in father, where are you going in such a cold night?"
The Sage could barely stand and was leaning on a wooden stick. His thin frame of body bends from the spine. The long flowing gray beard complimented the back and created an arc. Vinayak chuckled under his breath.
"Chaturmas begins today," the sage replied, placing his right hand on Vinayak's shoulder, "The four months when we sages do not travel. The environment becomes hostile. I was looking for a shelter."
"Feel free to stay in the inn for as long as you want, father," Vinayaka said, "Let me close the shutters for you. There is some hot Chai kept on the counter."
"Thank you, son, you have come to help me like the Vignaharta Vinayaka."
Vinayak smiled, "How do you know my name is Vinayak?"
The sage looked at the innkeeper, a mischievous smile under his beard, "That is a happy coincidence, I was talking about your namesake, the one with the face of an elephant, the one who is protected by Shakti and the only one who challenged Mahadev and survived, I was talking about Ganesh, the leader of Ganas of Kailash."
Vinayak had never heard of him before, on the highway, there are all sorts of storytellers but never the one who told the story of his name. "Tell me more, please."
And the sage started the story,
"The times in Chaturmas are harsh, it is an inauspicious time. The sun God starts his journey south, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. Just when people are tired of the harsh climate, comes forth the vigna-Vinayaka, the Vignaharta. Lord Ganesh leads people from darkness to the light, from harsh climate to the harvest season."
"Shiva, Mahadeva is an noble sage, he denies existence and destroys creation. He does not worry about the world, He is a world in His own sense. But His attitude is not good for a civilization, for life. For Shiva to support the civilization, he needs a companion. Shiva needs to open His eyes to see the pleasures of mortal skin and thus see the world we live in. Thus- it is told that just after the celebration of Rain God, the colorful festival of Holi, soaked in rain, Parvati, domestic form of Goddess Shakti asks Her husband, Shankar, the domestic form of Lord Shiva for a child.
"Why do we need children?" asks Shankar, "Producing children makes us mortal, makes us... human."
"But children is the only way to conquer death, it is a way where a marriage is consummated. It is the process when a soul touches a flesh," argues the clever Parvati.
"Why do we need flesh? Why not renounce the flesh and embrace the immortal soul?" replies Shankar, "Flesh is all about emotions and pain."
"But with pain, also comes pleasures. You cannot renounce both pain and pleasure. You have to embrace both. Life is all about dealing with death, the joy of birth, the sorrow of suffering and the celebration of success. You cannot enjoy life without the flesh."
The eternal hermit soaked in the bliss of the soul does not understand the argument. Life is but an eternal struggle between nurturing the soul and pleasing the flesh. Lord Shiva in His eternal bliss rejects the mortal pleasures while Goddess Shakti in Her mortal form and immortal rage accepts the pain and pleasure of the flesh ignoring the soul. Hence, it is said, that they both together form the perfect couple. One cannot live without another.
Not able to argue with her husband, Parvati decides to take matters in Her own hands. It is said that 16 Goddesses rule this world and Parvati has the power of each one of them. Filled with the joy of motherhood, Parvati makes a child out of the sand and blows life into it.
Thus, born is Vi Nayaka or Vinayaka, the one who that born without a man."
"Ganesh, thus born is exactly opposite of His father. While Mahadev is a hermit who rejects life, Ganesh indulges into lavish meals that celebrate life," the Sage smiles, "Little Ganesh defies His father very often but escapes punishment using clever tricks and smart words. But the first time, he did not survive."
"Goddess Parvati created Vinayak without the knowledge of Her husband. Creating life is an exhausting process, she asked the child to guard the door and went to take a bath. At that moment, Lord Shiva craving to see his wife walked towards Her chamber. He was surprised to see the young child playing near the gate. Ignoring the child, Lord Shiva walked into the bathing chamber calling for the wife.
"You cannot pass," said Vinayak stopping the Lord and quickly obstructing the path.
"What is your name, Son?" asked Lord Shiva.
"My name is Vinayak and I forbid you to enter this gate," Vinayak announced.
Lord Mahadev smiled and said, "And why cannot I pass, Vinayak?"
"My mother has forbidden anyone from entering this hall until she wishes, I cannot let you pass," said the Loyal Vinayak.
"Then inform your mother that I have arrived and she will allow me," said Mahadev.
"My mother has forbidden anyone from entering the chamber," said Vinayak, "That includes me too."
"This is a ridiculous conundrum," said Mahadev, "What if your orders are wrong and your mother wishes to see me now?"
"If that is her wish," said Vinayak, "She will tell me that. Until then, you can wait."
"But I wish to her now," said Mahadev, his temper growing, until this day no one had dared to stop him.
"You don't understand, do you? My mother does not wish to see anybody, She may wish to see someone afterward or not. It is her wish that matters right now, not yours."
Lord Shiva is known for his fierce temper. There are very few people in the world who have survived his temper. His blood boiled at the audacity of the young, ignorant child blocking his way. His eyes bloodshot and His hand raised, he boomed, 'VINAYAK. MOVE'. The voice shook the entire Kailash mountain. Ganas who were busy working their way on the mountain stopped. Nandi, the loyal Ox, rushed to the direction of the voice. Everything froze in their track. The birds flew away, animals rushed out of the mountain.
In all that commotion, no one but Lord Shiva heard the feeble voice of a young child, 'NO.' He was trying with all his might to raise the voice against Shiva.
The commotion was heard by Goddess Parvati inside Her bathing chamber. She hurried to get dressed and step outside to calm down her husband.
But she was too late, for the angry Mahadev had already shown His wrath on the poor child. When Goddess Parvati stepped outside the bathing chamber, she saw Her child lay headless at its gate. With tears in Her eyes, the noble Goddess hugged the cold, dead body of Her child. If there is one thing that is dangerous than the fury of Shiva, it is the fury of Parvati. Mahadev and Shakti are equally powerful but only because the Goddess chooses to be. Shakti is the most powerful sentient being in the universe who can create and destroy the reality in one single thought.
Tears in her eyes, blood curling, and temper raised, Parvati screams at Her husband, "You had to demonstrate your strength in front of a young child? A child that was following orders from his mother? You are the God of all Gods and you couldn't curb your male ego for some time? Why was it so much threat to you, that you had to behead him? You denounced flesh, you did not want to participate in the creation of a child, you worship the soul. So tell me Mahadev, tell me, what part of your soul justifies the killing of a child?"
In a moment of indecision, Mahadev had acted out of his character. He did not understand his decision. If you deny reality and mortality, how do you justify anger? A soul cannot have emotions. Why had he acted this way?
He looked at the head of the child lying motionless. He bend down and picked up the corpse and spoke, "A head once severed cannot be connected again. However, Vinayak will be born again, this time with a new head. Find me the head of a creature, given out of free will in the north direction from here," he ordered Nandi, "The soul will be preserved until we get the new flesh and he is born whole again. Vinayak followed his duty without any prejudice, fear and insecurity, he will be a great leader for my Gana and will also be known as Gan-esh," said Mahadev.
Mesmerized by the words of the Sage, Vinayak did not realize that time had passed. The old man was radiant telling the story, lost in its world, "Thus, Lord Ganesh was born. Nandi would later find an elephant who gave his head for free will. Ganesh was reborn with the head of an elephant and body of the boy. He would be the perfect balance between the soul and the flesh. Having a pure, unselfish and wise soul but still indulging in the pleasures of life. Ganesh was born to show the world, what was the perfect balance between the soul and flesh," concluded the old man.
Image: Hand-crafted statue of Ganesha by my partner, Deepika Kabe
Mythological fiction is aimed at rewriting the existing mythological stories from Hindu mythology in a completely new form. These stories are innovated using the creative liberties while keeping their existence form and message intact. The story is completely fictional.