Ganesha (Gaņeśa)
God of Obstacles




Family and consorts

Shiva and Parvati with their son Ganesh
Shiva and Parvati with their son Ganesh

While he is popularly considered to be the son of Shiva and Parvati, in Puranic myths there are several different versions of his birth. In some stories he was created by Shiva alone, by Parvati alone, by Shiva and Parvati together, or in a mysterious manner that is discovered by Shiva and Parvati.

Ganesh's family includes his brother, Skanda (also called Karttikeya or Murugan). Which brother is the elder? The legends vary in different regions of India. In the North, generally Skanda is said to be the elder brother, and Ganesha the younger; and in the South it is believed that Ganesha is the first son and Skanda is the second one. Ganesha and Skanda are known to have many disputes. Shiva usually sided with Skanda, while Parvati favoured Ganesha. Stories of the rivalry between the brothers may reflect historical tensions between sects. Prior to the emergence of Ganesha, Skanda had a long and glorious career as an important martial deity, from about 500 BC to about 600 AD, when his worship declined significantly in the North, almost synchronously with the successful rise of his rival Ganesha. A poem describes the two boys being asked about one of their dispute by their mother. Each of the two sons has unusual features, as Skanda has six heads:

O, Ganapati
What is it Mother?
Why are you crying?
Karttikeya is pulling my ears
What is this, Skanda? Why are you teasing him?
He first counted my eyes
O, Gajanana ["elephant-Face"] this is not proper behaviour from you
He was measuring my trunk, mother mine
These two in one place, she observes and laughs
... And Shiva's consort is agitated.
May she protect you.

The issue of Ganesha's marital status has been the subject of considerable scholarly review, and shows much variation. One pattern of myths identifies Ganesha as being a brahmacharin (brahmacārin) (that is, never having married). The second pattern involves one or more of the following three concepts, which are sometimes personified as goddesses: Buddhi (intellect), Siddhi (spiritual power), and Riddhi (prosperity). All three of these concepts are associated with Ganesha, but they are not always personified as his wives. A third pattern involves the goddesses Sarasvati (goddess of culture and art) and Lakshmi (goddess of luck and prosperity), symbolizing that these qualities always accompany each other. A fourth pattern links Ganesha with the banana tree, Kala Bo, mainly in Bengal.