Ganesh And The Contest For Guardianship Of The Gunas, Myth And Legend


“The Ganas approached Brahma with their problem, but he was unable to solve it, so he sought the help of Vishnu to persuade Lord Siva to appoint a new Ganapati (Leader of the Ganas). Lord Vishnu suggested that the Ganas select either of the two sons of Lord Siva as their Guardian: Kartikaya or the pot-bellied Lambodar, also known as Ganesha. In order to find out which of the two sons would be worthy of assuming the title of the Ganesha, the gods and subgods decided to hold a contest between the two. A day, time and site for holding the contest were decided.

On the appointed day, everybody came to watch the contest. Vishnu was appointed judge, and Lord Siva and Divine Mother Parvati were present, occupying the central seat. At the appointed time Vishnu announced the task to the audience and to the two brothers: they had to go all around the existing universe and come back to the starting point as soon as possible. The one who came back first would be appointed Ganesha, the patron of all the Ganas. After hearing the terms and conditions of the task, Kartikeya took his fast-flying peacock and flew off into space so as to travel the universe as quickly as possible. Meanwhile Ganesha remained seated on his rat and did not move. Lord Vishnu, seeing Ganesha making no effort, urged him to hurry up. At Vishnu’s constant insistence that he join the contest, Ganesha smiled and paid his homage first to his father and mother, then to the other gods and subgods, and finall took off on his rat. All the Gods and subgods were astonished when they saw that instead of heading for outer space, Ganesha simply rode around Siva and Parvati, his mother, who represents the primordial Prakriti, the cause of all existing phenomena. After thus circling Siva and Shakti, Ganesha came back to his starting point, bowed down to his parents and declared: ‘I have completed my task. I have gone all around the universe.’

‘It is not true.’ exclaimed the gods and lesser gods. ‘You did not go anywhere. You are lazy!’

Ganesha stood before Lord Vishnu with folded hands and said, ‘I know you understand what I have done, but to make everybody understand I will say this: I HAVE completed my task of going all around the universe, because this phenomenal world of names and forms is but an expression and manifestation of the Divine Mother and my Divine Father. They are the source of everything that exists. I have gone around the source, which is the Truth, the essence of all exsitence, all phenomena. I know this Samasara is an ocean of relative existence, that it is all illusory – and it makes no sense to leave the Truth behind and and go all around the illusion. My brother is still busy going around the illusory world of relative existence. When he reaches Truth, he will also reach the same Truth, which is the only Truth – all else is illusion, including you and me.’

This statement ignited a spark of true understanding in all the Ganas, who were astonished and delighted at its wisdom. Applauding his refined judgement and enlightening performance, they accepted the coarse-looking, pot-bellied Ganesha as their patron. As Vishnu was putting the mark of victory on the forehead of the elephant-headed Ganesha, Kartikeya came back sweating and breathing fast. He became angry and challenged the victory of Ganesha. The gods then told Kartikeya about the subtle sense and wisdom of Ganesha and said, ‘You went after matter, which is illusion; you went around the phenomenal world, which has a relative existence, and so you could not perceive the Truth directly.'”

– from TOOLS FOR TANTRA by Harish Johari ISBN 9780892810550