Light on the Playa

truthOnce upon a time, an eternity ago, in their heavenly abode on Mount Kailash, Lord Shiva, Mother Parvathy and their children Ganesha and Muruga were all together in a moment of family bliss. The Sage Naradha, who is notorious in Hindu mythology, for creating dissension among the Gods, paid them a visit. Holding a mango in his hand, Naradha addressed the boys, “Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga, this is the mango of knowledge or enlightenment (nyanam) . It is sweeter than amirtham or the divine nectar, elixir of immortality. It must not, however, be shared or divided. It must be consumed whole, by one person of course!” Shiva and Parvathy were perturbed by this divisiveness, but nevertheless Lord Shiva set the boys a challenge, “This mango, this Nyana Pazaham (fruit of enlightenment), goes to the person who is the fastest in circumnavigating the world.”​

Knowing he must win, Muruga bestrode his glorious vahanam (mount), the peacock, and flew swiftly round the world. The ungainly Ganesha, God of Wisdom, thought for a moment before setting off. Ganesha pondered on his own gait and girth, and on his modest vahanam – the homely mouse, and asked his parents a question, “AmmaAppa, is it not true that the parents are the world for a child?” “Yes”, the puzzled but glowing parents replied. Ganesha continued, “Is it not true that the whole universe is but a reflection or manifestation of your Lordly selves?” “Well, yes of course, it is!” It was the only possible reply. Ganesha simply circumambulated Shiva and Parvathy, his father and mother, his whole world – the whole world!

Sure enough Ganesha won the mango. When Muruga came flying back expecting to win, he saw Ganesha with the prize. Feeling cheated by his parents, he flew into a rage and pierced Ganesha in the belly with his vel (spear) a symbolic attribute of the Lord Murugan (This unusual variation of the myth comes via my mother and grandmother). Disenchanted, he abandoned his family and discarded all his jewels and princely clothes. He left his abode in Heaven and went south to stand on Mount Palani in his loin cloth. To this day he stands there as a youth, as Palani Aandi or the Mendicant of Palani, a form of the Lord, dear to the hearts of the Shaivites of South India and the diaspora.