Ganesha Through A Queer Lens: How I Believe Patriarchy Changed Mythology

Ganesha is one of the most central gods in the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses. Hindu rituals have made it mandatory to invoke Lord Ganesha with sacred hymns prior to any festive celebration. It is believed that Lord Ganesha has the power to remove all obstacles in one’s path.

There are many stories connected to the birth of Lord Ganesha. Here are two of them:

Story 1: Goddess Parvati went for a bath. Being privacy conscious, she created a young boy out of turmeric paste (face/body pack) on her body and warns him not to let anyone enter her room while she is bathing. Lord Shiva turns up and is refused entry. Matters heat up and Shiva is triggered enough to strike the boy with his trident. Boy dies. Parvati is horrified and threatens to destroy the Universe. Shiva promises to restore life to her child by finding a new head, as the original head of the boy got destroyed. And for this, a young elephant is selected from a forest, killed and its head is attached to the boy via some mega plastic surgery or 3D body printing. (In some other stories, it is a demon named Vigneshwara who sacrifices his elephant shaped head to earn divine grace). Once the life of the child is restored, he is named Ganesha.  Shiva scolds Parvati for creating a badly behaved child, and thereafter losing her temper over his death owing to her attachment, and Parvati repents.

Story 2: Goddess Malini/ Vinayika was an attendant of Goddess Parvati. She adored Parvati and likewise Parvati was fond of her. It so happens that one fine day, Malini was busy cleansing Parvati’s body with a special concoction of herbs and oils. Post bath, Parvati leaves. Instead of throwing away the bathwater, Malini drank it and got pregnant. The child born was later given to Parvati. As Malini happened to be elephant headed herself, the child born was elephant-headed like her. She was worshiped as Vinayika, the Mother of Ganesha.

Now readers will notice that the 2 stories have the same subject i.e. Lord Ganesha. However, there are two separate approaches. The first story sees patriarchal elements all over: physical assault and murder of a child , hi-tech plastic surgery and über sexism.

In contrast, the second story involves no violence. A child born through union of two women is accepted minus any major sacrifice (except on the part of Malini). Even Malini gets due recognition later as she bore the child in her womb.

In the wake of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code being amended, it is important to revisit our folk tales and legends. Patriarchy has imposed a patina of conservatism and dogma to myths and legends, and thereby silencing queer voices. It’s high time we dusted off the same to reveal a more feminist and queer version of it.

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