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1001 Stories Collection

Hungry Ganesh

Added on 29th June 2020

Oral tradition A Hindu story

Why is being considerate so important? Ganesh, the elephant headed Hindu god, teaches the Lord of Wealth an valuable lesson in this story from India.

Story

Kubera, lord of wealth, decided to hold a feast and invite Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati. Once the couple realised the purpose of the feast was simply to show off Kubera’s wealth, they declined the invitation and sent their son, Ganesh, instead. Kubera was stunned by Ganesh’s enormous appetite! Though he was just a child, Ganesh kept eating and eating. Once he had eaten all the food in the house and its neighbouring villages, Ganesh swallowed everything he could find – the utensils, the furniture, and even the palace!

Why we chose it

Our artist in residence storyteller Peter Chand suggested and recorded this story for our 1001 collection.

Where it came from

Ganesh, or Ganesha, is the elephant-headed god of Hindu mythology. He is traditionally regarded as the son of Shiva and Parvati (although sometimes Parvati alone), and the god of intellectuals, bankers, scribes, and authors. The story of Ganesh and Kubera most likely originates in Puranic literature. The Puranas are many sacred Hindu texts collecting myth, legend, and genealogy. Hungry Ganesh exists in several different variations. The moral of the story of Ganesh and Kubera is generally taken to be that Kubera was wrong to use the feast to demonstrate his financial status, rather than simply to feed his guests. It is a tale about the folly of ego and greed, and the importance of being considerate.

Where it went next

The story of Ganesh and Kubera is a common oral story. Ganesh is one of the most popular Hindu gods, celebrated across the different strands of Hinduism, as well as in Buddhism and Jainism. He is traditionally worshipped before embarking on a new enterprise, and is celebrated during the annual ten-day festival Ganesha Charturthi, which is typically held in late August or early September.

Associated stories

There are countless other stories about Ganesh, and several about his large appetite. There are many variants of a tale in which Ganesh curses the moon for laughing at his gluttony. In another, the god eats too many modakas (sacrificial cakes), and his belly bursts open after tripping on a snake. He then uses the snake to wrap his cake-filled belly back up again! Other famous tales include that of his birth, how he got his elephant head, his broken tusk, and his bandicoot rat vehicle. The Marriage of Ganesh is also included in the 1001 stories.

Added on 29th June 2020

Oral tradition A Hindu story