Pacific Asia Museum

Join Donate
46 North Los Robles Avenue
Pasadena, California 91101
Open Wednesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm
Translations Chinese Simple Chinese Traditional Japanese Korean Espanol
USC Pacific Asia Museum

Join our Mailing List

The Story of Ganesha


Why does this sculpture have a chubby baby body and an elephant head?

Many versions of his story are told, but it all started when Parvati, wife of Shiva the Destroyer, wanted a bath. She asked her husband’s attendant to guard the door and not let anyone in. When Shiva wished to enter, however, the guard let his master in – much to Parvati’s annoyance. She decided to create her own guard, who would answer only to her. Sculpting the saffron paste used to clean her skin, she created a handsome little boy.

When Shiva next tried to disturb her bath, Parvati’s boy stopped the powerful god. Shiva grew very angry, and called his army to help destroy the extremely strong boy. With their help, Shiva cut off the boy’s head. Parvati was so angry that she was about to destroy the entire world and was only stopped when promised that her son would be brought back to life and that he would be worshipped before all other gods.

Before they could bring him back to life, though, the boy needed a new head. Shiva asked Brahma to go look for one, and bring back the first he found. When Brahma returned with the head of an elephant, Shiva put it onto the boy’s body.

He then declared this brave boy would be his son and go by the name Ganesha. From then on, Ganesha was the lord of beginnings and remover obstacles. He is worshipped at the beginning of things- religious ceremonies, weddings, the new year, journeys, and even is invoked at the beginning of books.

Object Details