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Anju Virmani

By Subhadra Sen Gupta
Year 2016, PP 42, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

I have heard and read a hundred times stories about Ganesha, and thought I knew them all: how he refused Shiva entry following Ma Parvati’s instructions, which enraged Shiva so much he cut off the child’s head, and then repented and got him an elephant’s head Anju Virmani THE STORY OF HANUMAN Text by Mala Dayal. Illustrated by Taposhi Ghoshal Red Turtle/Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2016, pp. 74, R395.00 GANESH By Subhadra Sen Gupta. Illustrated by Tapas Guha Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2016, pp. 42, R295.00 instead; how he broke off a tusk so that the writing of the Mahabharata was seamless; how he encircled his parents three times to win the race against his brother Kartikeya. So it came as a bit of a shock that there are other versions of the familiar, conventional tales. The ‘Shiva fights Ganesha and cuts off his head’ version is recounted in the Shiva Purana. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana has the version recounted by Subhadra Sen Gupta: how all the gods are in- vited to celebrate Ganesha’s birth, but Shani looking at the baby at Parvati’s insistence, causes his head to burn. This is then replaced by an elephant head brought by Shiva’s ganas. But Airavat’s head? The head of the vahana of Indra, the king of the gods? Sure enough, there is a version which says just that! Two of the stories remain conventional. Of how Ganesha be- comes Ekadanta (the god with a single tusk) is what I grew up with: he wrote the entire Mahabharata, as Veda Vyasa composed the monu- mental work. Similarly, how he cursed Chandra Deva to invisibility for laughing at him and then modified the curse to make him wax and wane instead. However, the story of his victory over Kartikeya has an interest- ing twist. The essence remains the same: that the energetic, sporty Kartikeya could outrun his portly brother, but not outwit him! The conventional version was that asked to circle the world three times, Ganesha circumbulated his parents thrice, declaring his parents were his entire world. Full marks for crafty diplomacy, given the said par- ents were the judges of the contest! Sen Gupta’s version is that Ganesha had read so much that he could describe the entire world, while Kartikeya had simply flown over it and seen and learnt nothing. So the child reading the tale gets ...

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