Shiva Purana: The Birth of Ganesha (Sanskrit)

  • Ruth Vanita


Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. The many differing accounts of his birth agree in describing it as occurring outside the womb.2 In some versions he is created by Shiva alone, and in others, from the bodily fluids of Shiva and Parvati mingling outside the body; but in most versions, such as that extracted here, he is created by Parvati alone. A folk etymology of one of his names, Vinayaka (without a nayaha or leader, that is, peerless), relates it to his origin, that is, he is created without a male agent (nayaka). Parvati creates rather than produces him. She fashions him as the Jewish Yahweh creates man out of clay. Her creative role is distinct from the common view of woman as merely a receptacle for the creative male seed.3 She rubs Ganesha out of her body—this recalls the churning action that is so creative in Hindu myth—from the Puranic churning of the ocean to the Vedic friction of the two female firesticks which produces the fire god.


Female Friend Bodily Residue Creative Role Animated Discussion Autonomous Space 
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  1. 2.
    For an exhaustive account and sensitive interpretation of these stories, see Paul B. Courtright, Ganesha: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Wendy O’Flaherty, Women, Androgynes and Other Mythical Beasts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980)Google Scholar

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© Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai 2000

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  • Ruth Vanita

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