Ganesha encircles the universe

The two sons of Shiva and Parvati were called Ganesha and Kartikeya. As time passed, both of them became extremely eager to get married. They begged their parents, “Please, please find us suitable wives. You choose. We are dying to get married. Unless we are happily married, we feel that our lives will be empty.”

Shiva and Parvati were more than happy to fulfil their sons’ request. “We shall find you both beautiful wives,” they promised.

Unfortunately, Ganesha and Kartikeya had a terrible argument. Each of them wanted to get married first. Ganesha wanted to marry before Kartikeya because he was the older of the two, and Kartikeya wanted to marry before Ganesha because he thought that the youngest should get the first chance.

Shiva and Parvati now had a serious problem on their hands. They could not decide whom to please and whom to deny. At last Shiva said, “Let us do one thing: whoever can travel to the ends of the earth and come back first will be married first.”

Kartikeya immediately set out on his journey. His vehicle was a peacock. Three years passed and still he had not reached the ends of the earth. Meanwhile, the pot-bellied Ganesha stayed at home enjoying himself. He knew that he could not hope to keep up with his athletic brother.

When Shiva saw that Ganesha had not even begun the race, he said to his son, “What are you doing? You have not yet even started! Any day, any moment, Kartikeya will come back. What is wrong with you?”

Ganesha remained silent and Shiva continued, “I know what you are thinking. As long as you can get married, it is enough. You no longer care who is first and who is second. That is why you are not in a rush. You have accepted your defeat.”

Ganesha simply smiled at his father and went on with his usual routines. One day, a thought crossed his mind: “I am sure that by now my brother has travelled to the farthest lengths of the earth and is on his way home. Now is the time for me to act.”

He went to bathe in the river and then circled his mother, Parvati. After completing one round, he bathed once more and again circled his mother. Seven times he bathed and seven times he circumambulated her.

“What are you doing, my son?” asked Parvati.

“Have you not read our sacred scriptures, Mother?” Ganesha answered. “The shastras tell us that you are the Divine Mother; you are the whole world, the entire universe. I went around you not once but seven times. That means I have gone around the world seven times. So am I not entitled to marry first?”

“What kind of logic is this?” objected Shiva.

Ganesha presented his argument: “If you do not consider my mother to be the Divine Mother, if you do not believe in the Vedas, then why do you tell people to honour the Vedas? You always say that the Vedas are correct and perfect. How can you justify yourself?”

Shiva realised that his son was right. Parvati was the entire universe. To show that they approved of Ganesha’s action, Shiva and Parvati found not one but two most beautiful wives for him. Their names were Buddhi and Siddhi. Each wife bore Ganesha a son. Ganesha named his sons Labha and Laksha. He was so proud of his family, and they lived the happiest life together.

The grandparents, Shiva and Parvati, were also extremely happy with their new grandchildren. But sometimes a little sadness entered into them when they thought of poor Kartikeya. He had been gone so many years, and they did not know when he would return.

As Kartikeya drew nearer to home, he saw the sage Narada. He said to Narada, “How is everything? Tell me some news.”

“How is everything?” echoed Narada. “Why are you so late?”

“What do you mean?” asked Kartikeya. “Has Ganesha already returned?”

“Yes,” said Narada. “He is married, he has two wives and each of them has given him a son. How could you allow him to claim the victory?”

Upon hearing Narada’s news, Kartikeya grew furious. He did not accept Ganesha’s interpretation of the shastras at all. He reached home and saw with his own eyes that Ganesha was extremely happy with his wives and sons.

Shiva and Parvati tried their best to console Kartikeya. They promised to find him a beautiful bride. But Kartikeya’s blood was boiling. He declared, “No! I am taking an oath. Since you all fooled me, I am not going to get married at all in this lifetime.”

Henceforth, Kartikeya was known as Kumara, which means “one who is unmarried”.

Having taken his oath, Kumara left his parents’ house to live alone. He did not want to remain with his family any longer because he felt they had all deceived him.

Kumara refused to return home, even to visit his parents. They missed him greatly, so they asked him if they could go and visit him. He agreed that when the night was darkest and there was no moon, Shiva could visit him, and when the moon was at its fullest, Parvati could visit him. He agreed to see them, but only on those two occasions each month, because he was so disgusted with his entire family.