Tuesday 9 August 2011

Lord Ganesh in Kalasa Town

This is a rare version of the birth of Lord Ganesh prevailing in Kalasa Town on the banks of the River Bhadra in Chickmagalur District of Karnataka State
Taalasur is the name of the demon. Taale means a palmyra tree in Kannada. He was as tall as that tree and was  dark-complexioned as the bark of the ‘taale tree’.
By just hearing his name, people would be afraid and by having a fleeting glance at his fearful body their heart would beat fast out of fright!
Like all other demons he too had a desire:To remain immortal. So he began praying to Lord Shiva devoutly.
After many years of penance Shiva appeared before him and said:  “Son, I am pleased with your dedication and devotion. Ask for a boon, you shall get it!”
Joining his palms, without any hesitation, Taalasur asked, “Lord, I am greatly honoured by your appearance. I want to live forever. Grant me immortality.”
Shiva broadly smiled. “Son, don’t crave for immortality. Everyone who is born on this earth has to die sooner or later. Therefore, ask for something else: health, wealth, happiness, personal comforts and longevity.”
Taalasur thought for a while and came up with a brilliant idea: “Lord, if that is the case let me die at the hands of one who has face like an elephant.”
“What?” Shiva was astounded for a moment. 
Then he smiled and asked, “So far I never thought of rearing a family. Why do you want me to do it now? You are my devotee and I shall do whatever my devotees’ desire. Be that be so!” Declaring so, Shiva vanished.
Taalasur patted his own back. How could Shiva have an elephant-headed son when he or his consort did not have that face?
He laughed:  “I have won the battle and indirectly become an immortal now. None in three worlds could now match me in valour and strength!”
Demons were known for harassing the innocent and Taalasur was no exception. He crossed all the limits of tolerance, ransacked and dethroned Indra and became the lord of three worlds. Indra with ‘devas’ went to Kailas and fell at the feet of Shiva and sought protection. Shiva  pondered and then assured, “Have patience. At an appropriate time, I shall act.” The ‘devas’ left Kailas with a light heart.
Time passed. One day both Shiva and Parvati were travelling through a dense forest. En route they heard elephants trumpeting and then they saw them gamboling. It was an unusual sight of wild elephants indulging in merry making.
Shiva waited there and watched them at play. And Parvati stared  at Shiva questioningly as he was standing  like a statue.
Instantly Shiva took the form of a tusker and Parvati a cow elephant without any tusks. Both the elephants majestically approached the horde.
But the other elephants recognised and stopped their play, formed a circle and went round and round in salutation to Lord Shiva and Mother Goddess Parvati, out of great devotion.
Well, that was the starting point. In due course, the celestial cow elephant became pregnant and later  delivered a “calf” but that was not exactly like an elephant.   It had only the head of an elephant but  looked like  a human being though it had  four hands instead of two.
On the birth of this unusual child, flowers were showered   from the heaven.
From all the eight directions echoed the sound of the beating of celestial drums welcoming the new arrival. What a graceful child it was;  It  was none other than Gajanan.
Mission over, Shiva and Parvati returned to their usual form and holding the baby, left for their abode in the Mount Kailas.
But it was not an ordinary child. It required no time to stand up or speak. “What is thy command, father?” Gajanan joined his palms, bowed his head down and asked eagerly on reaching Kailas.
“Go and slay that monster Talaasur,” was the only command Shiva gave. Gajanan signalled and his carrier, the mouse appeared before him. Without losing time, he mounted and sped away.
Taalasur never expected that his end would come  so soon.  Like a  palmyra tree that would crash when hit by a  thunderbolt he fell down dead in the battlefield.
 Thus  Lord Gajanan relieved the world from the clutches of a demon.
This is a rare version of the birth of Lord Ganesh prevailing in Kalasa Town on the banks of the River Bhadra in Chickmagalur District of Karnataka State on the outskirts of the Western Ghats close to Kudremukh and not far away from Shringeri, one of the religious seats of Adi Shankaracharya. 
There is an ancient temple of Lord Shiva known as Shri Kalaseshwar in that town and while going to the temple climbing the steps half way there are two small shrines dedicated  to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, both in the form of elephants, one with tusks to suggest bull elephant and the other  without tusks, a cow elephant.
The shrines bear the names in Kannada, Male Ganapati and Female Ganapati. There is a belief that if one prays at these shrines all his difficulties will be warded off.
On the walls of the main temple among others, there are colourful paintings depicting the  rare version of “Shri Ganesh Janmam.” Mythologically Kalasa had also links with the great sage Agastya and, Lopamudra who later became the River Kaveri.

Article by : K. G. Mallya
Source: Bhavan's Journal 31 January 2007
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