Long, long ago, at a time which nobody can visualise, Lord Brahma sat on a lotus in his abode, Satya Loka. Satya Loka also means “The Realm of Truth”. Lord Brahma who had been busy at Creation felt tired and yawned. His yawn cracked the mountain peaks. Fire erupted from the cracks and the flames leaped to great heights. As sleep overcame him, his eyes welled, and the tears came down in torrents causing great floods. When Brahma closed his eyes, the universe was enveloped in darkness.
Soon it was time for daybreak. The Lord’s consort, Devi Saraswati, played the raga Bhoopalam, an early morning raga, on her veena. The music emanating from the veena awoke Brahma and his four faces surveyed the four directions – north, south, east and west.
The Lord saw that the floods below had risen to a great height. Amidst the layers of waves rising from the waters, he noticed a streak of bright light. The light seemed to move. Looking more intently, Brahma saw a big banyan leaf floating on the waters. On it lay a baby as bright as the full moon. The infant was sucking his thumb. As the leaf came closer, he noticed that the infant had an elephant’s head. The trunk was playing with the toes and his face was brilliantly lit. Brahma looked at the infant’s four hands with fascination. He hadn’t got over his awe when suddenly, the leaf disappeared along with the infant on it. Water receded from the place where the leaf had disappeared. Oceans and seas were formed and the earth came into being.
After the fascinating vision he had, Lord Brahma resumed his activity of creation. As mountains arose, he sprinkled water from his kamandalu on them. The water took spring and flowed down as rivers. Soon trees and plants took root on the earth. The earth was also endowed with rich elements like gems and gold. Brahma created animals and birds, insects and reptiles to live on the earth, and gifted the seas and oceans with fishes of innumerable varieties. Once again, he poured water from his jug and mixed it with clay. Lo and behold! The two forms he created with this were those of man and woman.
All this while, Saraswati was playing on the veena. Suddenly, the divine instrument struck a discordant note, and the Devi wondered what could have happened. She looked at her lord and saw that Brahma’s faces had suddenly turned pale. He rose from the lotus and peered intently at the earth. His eight eyes met with some strange sights. He was perplexed to see that everything that he had created had turned topsy-turvy.
The mountain-peaks had dived into the earth and the base of the mountains shielded the sun’s rays from reaching the earth. Trees stood upside down with the roots protruding out into the sky. The birds were flying backwards, and the fishes stood stock-still in the seas and oceans. The animals appeared grotesque with some without heads, some sans limbs or eyes or nose, and some with tails attached to their faces!Brahma was horrified.
Now this was not how he had imagined and created them. With trepidation, his eyes turned to the human beings. Some of them had two heads – one of a male and the other of a female; some walked about with no head at all; some men had stunted legs; some women’s legs were as long as tall trees; some men had their heads facing backwards; some others had four legs and some others went about hopping on single legs. All these living beings – humans, animals, birds, and others were weeping, howling and shouting as if they were finding fault with their Creator. “O Lord Brahma! You have four heads but none of them seems to be all right! Otherwise, how could you make all of us so ugly looking?”
The Lord was completely shaken. He looked at Saraswati with some fear. Would she also appear like? Brahma asked aloud: “Why and how have my creations turned so distorted? I had conceived their shape, size, colour and character, and had created them accordingly. I can’t believe what I see now!” Brahma in his anxiety spoke so loudly that his words echoed from all corners of the universe. As he looked around, he once again saw a streak of light coming towards him. It was from a figure which had an elephant-head, and four hands which held a string of rope, a pot, an axe, and a goad. The face was as bright as the moon. The brilliance had spread up to the skies.
Saraswati was then playing Aum (omkaram), the supreme sound, which reverberated all over the universe. As she saw the brilliant figure, her fingers spontaneously strummed a hymn of salutation to the elephant-headed figure. Later, she played several ragas in praise of the divine form. The elephant-headed figure blessed Brahma, who now acquired a lustrous aura around him. Brahma’s hands folded automatically into a namaskar. He paid obeisance to the figure and said: “O Benevolent One, may I know who you are. Please forgive me for I am not able to recognise you. Kindly shower your blessings on me!”
“My son, Brahma deva!” said the figure affectionately. “You may conceive many things, and resolve to do many things but all of them may not happen, because there could be obstacles. I am the one who removes obstacles to help fruition of whatever one imagines or desires to happen. I am, therefore, called Vighneswara or Remover of obstacles. I am the master ofPanchabhootas or the five ganas, who are the attendants of Siva. Therefore, I am also known as Ganapati. I can control and rein in even mighty destroyers like the mad elephants that trample over ripe fields and grasslands. You may call me Vigneshwara in future”.
Brahma wanted to know why all his creation had become distorted. “That was to teach you about obstacles”, said Vighneswara. “When I first appeared to you as an infant on a leaf, you did not understand the significance of the vision that you saw. And so you did not care to think of me, the Remover of obstacles. It did not occur to you to pray to me. If you want to remove obstacles, you must first offer prayers to me. As I told you, I control and check all hurdles. If anyone prays to me before attempting any activity, then they will surely be successful.
“Do you know what it means to be praying to me before commencing a task? It only means that you must launch into a task with your eyes fully open; you must know the obstacles you are likely to face on your way. I am nothing but the personification of that knowledge of obstructions and difficulties. Whoever starts a new task, be it Brahma himself or a mere man, it is important that he knows the full extent of his work, the risks and responsibilities that go along with it. Only one who is forewarned and forearmed can even dream of success. The elephant tests the strength of the ground with its trunk before moving forward. Among the animals, the elephant is the largest and the most intelligent. It is vital to be as intelligent as an elephant and it is to indicate this that I have assumed the head of an elephant. As I am elephant-headed, I am also known as Gajanana.
Lord Ganesha continued, “While you were asleep, a demon called Somakasura stole the four Vedas and hid them somewhere in the ocean. Lord Vishnu then incarnated as a fish and killed the demon and retrieved the vedas, and gave them to me. Once you receive those Vedas from me, you will not face any obstacles to your activityâ€. Lord Brahma gratefully accepted the four vedas that were handed to him by the elephant-headed god. He began singing in praise of Vighneswara, and promised that he would offer prayers to him before he started his activity.Please bless me so that my task proceeds smoothly.”Vighneswara turned to Brahma, saying, “Here, I withdraw all that you created till now. Creation is an art, and should not be made a degrading activity. You must make the universe a creation of beauty.
After blessing Brahma, the elephant-headed figure disappeared. At that time, Saraswati was playing another Carnatic raga called Hindolam. A bright light lit the sky. Lord Brahma once again started creation after chanting “Aum Vighneswaraya namaha!”His chanting was heard all over the universe. All that he created now were perfect in shape and size, and looked beautiful. After seeing the creations, Saraswati was inspired to play different ragas