Ganpati—a feminist story with a violent patriarchal twist ?

"Photograph by Chetan Karkhanis"As I write this I can hear the drums and bands on the streets , moving along all day long, bringing home Mumbai’s favourite guest just in time for the puja tomorrow. Ganpati or Ganesh.

He will be here for a short while, maybe 1and 1/2 days or 10 days, depending on each family’s wishes. At the end of his visit, he will take the water route to go back to his mother, (always his mother and creator Parvati).  Not to his father….

I guess it is difficult to feel much paternal love for a man who tried to fight you to the death and brought in armies of gods and wildings and whitewalkers and all……and eventually cut off your head, all on your first encounter.

I mean he did compensate by giving you the head of an elephant who happened to be strolling in the Himalayas for unknown and mysterious reasons…..

Flashback: According to one story Goddess Kali created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva but only Shiva could keep his eye open and look upon her in her terrifying form. She thus gave him a boon that he would marry her when she would be born to Raja Daksha as Parvati in human form. It is an interesting and rare tale where the female goddess is the creator.

After her marriage one day Parvati is having a bath and does not trust any of her husband’s gang of men to guard her. since they always obey him first. So she creates a son for herself out of the sweat and dirt and maybe some homemade lotions she had applied before her bath. And then she breathes life into him, and sets him to guard her inner chamber, giving orders that none shall pass.


Shiva comes home and is furious at being denied entry and a great war ensues.

shiva barred

If you have seen episode 5 and 6 of Game of Thrones, ‘same to same’ scene takes place. The boy fights off armies of attackers and finally Shiva cuts his head off. Enraged at this assault, Parvati calls upon Durga and Kali, who proceed to eat up and destroy the armies of the gods and the wildings and the whitewalkers, setting them on fire and eating them up and basically creating mayhem until they beg for mercy.


Parvati then wants to know what exactly is she supposed to do with her beheaded son now?? Shiva s contrite and replaces the head with an elephant head and grants him a boon that everyone will worship him before any other gods.



What an imagination! Of course this is all symbolic and the elephant head means wisdom and there are many other interpretations at this link if you are interested. It also raises interesting thoughts about the issue of a woman’s consent and basically the consequences of when she is saying NO….

But still, one more virgin birth to add to the list..…..and it is interesting to note that his brother Kartikeya is the God of War.

In the Meluha series * spoiler ahead* Ganesha’s head and body is explained as being that of a deformed child caused by the poisonous waste thrown into the river as a by- product of somras production. Another interesting interpretation!

I was looking for some festival related songs to include here and came across this delightful old one from Takkar. Those innocent days when public singing could be a threat to bring down evil and corrupt politicians!

Murti Ganesh Ki–Takkar

Somehow in Bollywood the Ganpati puja seems to always attract the bad guys or be the backdrop for some serious violence like in these three songs.

Deva ho Deva—Ham se Badhkar Kaun

Dewa Shree Ganesha—new Agneepath

Gajanana– Bajirao Mastani

The public celebration of Ganpati festival was started by Lokmanya Tilak in 1893. This was a strategy to allow people to gather in large groups for religious reasons since they were not allowed to do so otherwise for political reasons. He also saw that this was a god being worshipped by brahmins as well as non- brahmins and could be a unifying factor.

Hindus (and the Hindutva fanatics should note that changing Elphinstone Road Station to Prabhadevi is all well and good but the word Hindu itself is something with Greek and Persian root and not our own naming of ourselves at all !). So anyway, Hindus have a relationship with the gods and goddesses which is totally unique on our blue planet. We address them as ‘tu or tum’’ which is the more familiar you as opposed to the respectful you ‘tumhi or aap’.

We often call the male gods also mother and our mythology abounds with the mistakes, bad choices and horrible things the gods have done and how they have also been punished once in a while. Not to mention that our religion has a god who smokes opium!

So, in keeping with this highly interpretive and fluid system here is a Ganpati song in the form of a qawwali which is traditionally not a ‘hindu’ form of song.

Hey Lambodar Maula mere Moraya !



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