Ganesha The door to Parvati's place was guarded by two of Shiva's companions, Nandi and Bhringi. But Parvati's companions, Jaya and Vijaya, didn'tlike this at all. They thought that there should be a guard who would be answerable to Parvati rather than to Shiva. It was Parvati's place, not Shiva's. Moreover, Shiva was in the habit of walking in at awkard moments, and Nandi and Bringi never stopped Shiva. Jaya and Vijaya asked Parvati to do something about this. Parvati took some clay of a pond and fashioned the clay into a very handsome son. She dressed the son in beautiful clothes and jewellry. He was named Ganesha. Parvati told Ganesha, You are my son. Stand at the gate and do not allow anyone to enter.Ganesha picked up a rod and began his duty as sentry. Parvati went to have a bath. Soon Shiva turned up with his companions. Where are you going? asked Ganesha. You cannot pass. My mother is having her bath.I am Shiva, answered Shiva.Who is Shiva? retorted Ganesha. I don'tknow of any Shiva. You cannot go in. Shiva tried to ignore Ganesha and enter, but Ganesha started to beat Shiva with the rod. Shiva then asked his companions to remove this upstart. But they only got thrashed by Ganesha in the process. Nandi tried to grasp one of Ganesha's legs and Brhringi the other. But Ganesha uprooted a wooden door and beat them so hard that they fled. The gods and the sages all came to see what the uproar was about.Shiva told Brahma, Why don'tyou try to pacify that creature?Brahma advanced to reason with Ganesha. But Ganesha didn'tknow Brahma; he thought that this was another one of Shiva's companions. He therefore grabbed Brahma and tore off Brahma's beard by the handful. Brahma fled in pain.This had become a matter where Parvati felt her pride to be at stake. So she kept Ganesha supplied with weapons. The gods attacked Ganesha with all sorts of weapons. He drove them back.Vishnu told Shiva, This fellow can only be killed with some trickery. Otherwise, he seems to be invincible.Ganesha flung a mace at Visnu and hurt him considerably. He struck down Shiva's bow with another mace. Vishnu and Ganesha then began to fight, with the sudarshana chakra being used by Vishnu and maces by Ganesha. While this duel raged, Shiva crept up stealthily from behind and cut off Ganesha's had with his trishula (trident). This was the trickery that Vishnu had planned for. When Parvati learnt of Ganesha's death, her ire was roused. She got ready to destroy the universe and everyone was alarmed. Narada was sent to Parvati as a messager. He was to try and pacify Parvati. But Parvati agreed to relent only if two conditions were satisfied. The first condition was that Ganesha should be brought back to life. The second condition was that Ganesha should be accepted as a god and should enjoy all divine rights.These conditions were readily accepted. Ganesha's headless body was cleaned and bathed. But the head could not be found. It had been lost in the heat of the battle. Shiva sent his companions out with the head of the first living being that they saw. This happened to be an elephant with one tusk. The elephant's head was stuck onto Ganesha's body and Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva combined their powers to bring back life to the dead body.Shiva accepted Ganesha as his son. He also made Ganesha the lord of all his companions, the ganas. That is why the elephant-god is called Ganapati. It was also decreed that worship to any god would be useless unless it was preceded by prayers to Ganesha.Chaturthi tithi is the fourth lunar day. Krishnapaksha is that part of the lunar fortnight during which the moon wanes. Since Parvati created Ganesha in the month of Kartika and on chaturthi tithi in krishnapaksha, that is the day on which Ganapati is worshipped. Ganesha and Kartikeya Quarrel Shiva and Parvati had two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Both sons wanted to get married. And Shiva and Parvati found it difficult to decide who should be married first. The other one was bound to feel hurt. Both the sons were equally dear to them.They decided to have a test. They called Ganesha and Kartikeya to them and said, We have devised a competition. Both of you have to travel around the world and return here. Whoever returns first will be married first. That should be fair and square.As soon as these words were out, Kartikeya dashed out on his journey. But Ganesha tarried and pondered. He realized that this was a task that was impossible for him to accomplish. He found it difficult enough to travel a couple of miles.Ganesha found a solution. First, he bathed. Then, he made Shiva and Parvati sit on two seats. He worshipped them and circled them seven times. After he finished circling them. Ganesha said, Now please make arrangements for my wedding.What do you mean, exclaimed Shiva and Parvati. Didn'tyou hear what we said? We asked the two of you to travel around the world and come back. You better hurry. Kartikeya has already left. If you don'ttake care, he will beat you to it.But I have already been round the world seven times, replied Ganesha. Haven'tI circled the two of you seven times? The Vedas say that circling one's parents is the same thing as circling the world. If you do not wish to argue that the Vedas are wrong, then you have to agree that I have circled the world seven times.Shiva and Parvati could not very well argue that the Vedas were wrong. They therefore had to accept Ganesha's logic. Arrangements were made for his wedding. Vishvarua, the son of Kashyapa, had two daughters named Siddhi and Buddhi. These two were married to Ganesha with a lot of fanfare. Ganesha and Siddhi had a son named Laksha and Ganesha and Buddhi had a son named Labha.Kartikeya returned to Kailasa after traveling around the world and discovered that Ganesha was already married and was already the proud father of two children. He heard the entire story from Narada and felt that he had been cheated. He decided that he would no longer live with his parents. He also decided that he would never marry. That is the reason why Kartikeya is called Kumara, someone who is married.Kartikeya began to live on Mount Krouncha. Shiva goes to visit him there on the day of the newmoon (amavasya) and parvati goes to visit him on the day of the moon (purnima). Linga A linga is an image of Shiva. There are several lingas. Whichever is the place where devotees congregate, there Shiva manifests himself in the form of a linga.However, there are twelve important lingas and these are known as jyotirlingas are Somanatha, Mallikarjuna, Mahakala, Omkara, Kedara, Bhima-shankara, Vishvanatha, Trymbaka, Vaidyanatha, Nagesha, Rameshvara and Ghushnesha. Nandikeshvara Tirtha A tirtha is a place of pilgrimage. At a tirtha named Nandikeshvara, there is a famous Shiva linga. In a city named Karnaki there used to live a brahmana. He left his two sons with his wife and went to visit the city of Varanasi. It was then learnt that the brahmana had died in Varanasi. His widow brought up her sons and eventually married them off. She became old and it was time for her to die. But death would not come. It seemed to the sons that their mother was hankering after something and would not die until her wish had been satisfied. Mother, they asked, What is it that you want?I have always wanted to visit the tirtha of Varanasi, the mother replied. But now I am going to die without ever visitng the place. Promise me that when I am dead, you will take my ashes to Varanasi and throw them into the river Ganga there.We will, said the sons. You can die inpeace. The mother died and the sons performed her funeral ceremony. Then the eldest son, Suvadi, set out for Varanasi with his mother's ashes. The way was long and he stopped to rest and spend the night in a brahmana's house. A cow was tied in front of the house and it was time for milking. Suvati saw that when the brahmana tried to milk the cow, the calf would not permit the milking and kicked the brahmana. The brahmana then hit the calf with a stick. The brahmana went away after the milking. But Suvadi was still there and and he heard the cow tell her calf, I am distressed that the brahmana struck you. Tomorow I am going to gore the brahmana's son to death. Next day, the brahmana's son came to do the milking. The cow gored him with horns so that he died. Bu this meant that the cow had committed the sin of killing a brahmana. Immediately, because of the sin, the while cow turned completely black.The cow left the house. Suvadi followed, amazed at this strange sight. The cow went to the banks of the river Narmada, to the place named Nandikeshvara. She bathed in the river and became white once again. This meant that the sin of killing a brahmana had been completely washed away. Suvadi marvelled at this and realized what a powerful tirtha Nandikeshvara was.He was about to leave for Varansi after bathing in the river himself, when he was accosted by a beautiful woman.Where are you going, Suvadi? asked the woman. Throw your mother's ashes in the river here. This is a far greater tirtha than Varanasi.Who are you? asked Survadi.I am the river Gangaa, came the reply. The woman vanished and Suvadi did as he had been bidden. As soon as he had done this, his dead mother appeared in the sky and told him that she was immensely gratified. She would now go straight to heaven.Nandikeshvara is a wonderful tirtha because a brahmana woman named Rishika had earlier performed very difficult tapasya there to please Shiva. Atrishvara Tirtha There was a forest named Kamada. It did not rain there for a hundred years. The leaves dried up and the dwellers of the forest started to suffer.The sage Atri decided that he would meditate to try and bring the rains. Atri's wife was Anasuya and she thought that she might as well perform tapasya together with her husband. Both of them started to pray to Shiva and it was very difficult to decide whose tapasya was the more difficult. Fifty-four passed and they meditated without eating or drinking anything.Atri's meditation was finally over and he felt thirsty. He therefore asked his wife to go and fetch some water so that he might quench his thirst. While Anasuya was going to fetch the water, the river Gang appeared before her.I am pleased with your tapasya, said Ganga. What boon do you desire?If you are pleased with me, replied Anasuya, please make a pond here and fill the pond with your water. Ganga obliged. Anasuya filled her water-pot from the pond and brought the water to her husband. Atri drank the water and found that it was far tastier than the water they were used to. When he asked Anasuya why this was so, she told him what happened. Both husband and wife came back to the pond. Anasuya had earned a lot of punya (store of merit) thanks to her tapasya. Ganga agreed to stay on provided Anasuya handed over to Ganga whatever punya she had acquired in one year of tapasya. This conditon Anasuya agreed to.Meanwhile, Shiva appeared and offered to grant Anasuya a boon. Anasuya desire the boon that Shiva would always be present in that forest. Shiva consented.This sacred place is known as Atrishvara tirtha.