Parvati and baby Ganesha: image of mother-love

Ganasha-Janani by Abanindranath Tagore. Depicts Parvati playing with baby Ganesha, 1908. US public domain via wikimedia
Ganasha-Janani by Abanindranath Tagore. Depicts Parvati playing with baby Ganesha, 1908. US public domain via wikimedia

In the above image, we see Parvati playing with baby Ganesha. The image is a wonderful depiction of mother-love. In one of my favorite passages, Carl Jung poetically describes mother-love:

“This is the mother-love which is one of the most moving and unforgettable memories of our lives, the mysterious root of all growth and change; the love that means homecoming, shelter, and the long silence from which everything begins and in which everything ends. Intimately known and yet strange like Nature, lovingly tender and yet cruel like fate, joyous and untiring giver of life-mater dolorosa mute implacable portal that closes upon the dead. Mother is motherlove, my experience and my secret. Why risk saying too much, too much that is false and inadequate and beside the point, about that human being who was our mother, the accidental carrier of that great experience which includes herself and myself and all mankind, and indeed the whole of created nature, the experience of life whose children we are? The attempt to say these things has always been made, and probably always will be; but a sensitive person cannot in all fairness load enormous burden of meaning, responsibility, duty, heaven and hell, on to the shoulders of one frail and fallible human being-so deserving of love, indulgence, understanding, and forgiveness who was our mother. He knows that the mother carries for us that inborn image of the mater natura and mater spil’itualis, of the totality of life of which we are a small and helpless part. Nor should we hesitate for one moment to relieve the human mother of this appalling burden, for our own sakes as well as hers. It is just this massive weight of meaning that ties us to the mother and chains her to her child, to the physical and mental of both. A mother-complex is not got rid of blindly reducing the mother to human proportions. Besides that we run the risk of dissolving the experience “Mother” into atoms, thus destroying something supremely valuable and throwing away the golden key which a good fairy laid in our cradle. That is why mankind has always instinctively added the pre-existent divine pair to the personal parents- the “god”, father and “god” mother of the newborn child-so that, from sheer unconsciousness or shortsighted rationalism, he should never forget himself so far as to invest his own parents with divinity.”

What follows is a story of Ganesha and Parvati from the Shiva Purana:

“Once while going to take her bath, Parvati instructed Nandi (the bull), to stand guard at the entrance and not to allow anybody to enter the premise without her permission. Lord Shiva arrived there by chance. Despite of Nandi’s refusal to allow him, in he went inside. Parvati did not like this.

One day it happened so that Once again, Parvati wanted to take her bath. She made an idol from the dirt of her body. She made the idol alive and instructed him not to allow anybody without her permission. She also gave him a stick for his protection.

Incidentally lord Shiva arrived once again. He tried to enter inside but Ganesha refused to let him go inside. But when Shiva tried to go inside forcibly, Ganesha hit him with his stick. Lord Shiva became furious and ordered his ganas to kill him.

The ganas of Shiva attacked Ganesha but all of them were no match for him. After being defeated by Ganesha, the Shivaganas went to Shiva and narrated everything.

While the Shivaganas were narrating their stories, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and some other deities arrived there. Lord Brahma then went to Ganesha to convince him, but as soon as Ganesha saw him he tried to attack lord Brahma. Brahma came back without achieving anything. After this lord Shiva himself came to fight Ganesha.

A fierce battle was fought between Shiva and Ganesha. When Lord Shiva realized that Ganesha was dominating the fight, he severed his head with his trishul.

Parvati became extremely furious at the death of Ganesha. Her anger resulted into the manifestation of innumerable goddesses, who started creating havoc on the deities.

The deities became frightened and they were forced to take the refuge of Parvati. They eulogized her and requested to be pardoned. Parvati told them that they could be saved only when Ganesha becomes alive and becomes worshippable just like thee (deities).

The deities went to lord Shiva and requested him to make Ganesha alive once again. Lord Shiva instructed them to go in the northern direction and bring the head of any creature they might find and join it with the trunk of Ganesha. The deities followed the instruction and went in the northern direction.

They found an elephant which had only one tusk. They severed the elephant’s head and joined it with the trunk of Ganesha. By the blessings of Shiva, Ganesha became alive once again. The deities worshiped Ganesha and returned back to their respective abodes. [4]



  1. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)

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