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This appellation, like that of Iswara, appears to have been claimed by the followers of the three principal deities for the three several objects of their worship. Thus Brahma was Narayana; the Vishnaivas bestowed the title upon their god Vishnu; and the Saivas upon Siva.
Narayana is the spirit of the supreme god; but, as the Hindus, when they lost sight of an unity of worship, endowed their idol with his essence, Narayana may be, as above stated, Brahma, Vishnu, or Siva, and is sometimes even Ganesha. Narayani, his sacti, may be accordingly Suraswati, Lakshmi, or Parvati. Vishnu is, however, in common usage, called Narayana, in which character he is fabled to be sleeping on the serpent Shesha or Ananta, on the waters of Eternity, and causing the creation of the world. He is also described with his toe in his mouth, reposing in like manner on the leaf of the lotus, which an old work now before me thus describes. "Before the creation of the world, Vishnu, that is God, had some inclination to have a new place to recreate and delight himself in: he accordingly swam on the leaf of a tree on the water (for there was nothing but God and water before the creation) like a little child, with his great toe in his mouth, in the form of a circle; in testimony that he is without beginning or end. He then caused a flower to spring out of his navel, from whence sprang Brahma, whom God (as elsewhere related) commanded to create the world."
Fig. 1, plate 5, from the temple of Rama, represents Vishnu as Narayana sleeping on the serpent Ananta: from his navel springs the stem of the lotus, from the flower of which issues Brahma, with the Veda and a sceptre in his hands. Near Brahma are two (apparently) combatants, armed with swords and shields. At the feet of Vishnu is Lakshmi, champooing one of his legs.
Prith'hivi, the goddess of the earth, is by some termed a form of Lakshmi, by others of Parvati. Her husband is Prit'hu. produced, in strict accordance with mythological extravagance, by churning the right arm of a deceased tyrant who had died without issue, that he might have a posthumous son, who is represented as a form of Vishnu.
This primitive couple appear to have quarrelled in a very primitive manner; that is, the mother of nature became sulky and would not supply her husband or his family (mankind) with food. Prit'hu, in consequence, beat and wounded her: on which she assumed the form of a cow, and complained to the gods; who having heard both sides of the question, allowed him and his children to treat her in a similar manner, whenever she again became stubborn and sulky.
In this mythological tale we may discover a rude allegory of the bountiful productiveness of the earth, when aided by the industry of man. The loveliness of nature robed in her most splendid attire, is, like that of her beauteous daughters, when unattended by good humour and domestic utility, of little use to him, unless accompanied by the smiles and blessings of Ceres. We must not, however, pursue the comparison farther, as the gods of Meru allowed Prit'hu and his children not only to take from Prit'hivi her arborescent decorations, but to scarify her form and lacerate her bosom, whenever she refused a cheerful performance of her duties. Thus it is that the woodland must be cleared, and the spade and plough employed, before the earth will yield a ready obedience and support to the offspring of her lord. Prit'hivi, nevertheless, in spite of her occasional stubbornness, is allowed to possess, on submitting meekly to her castigation, the truly feminine virtues of patience, humility, and resignation.
As a form of Lakshmi, Prit'hivi is the Indian Ceres. Daily sacrifices are offered to her. The Hindus divide the earth into ten parts, to each of which a deity is assigned.
This deity, the god of wisdom and policy, is painted as a short, fat, redcoloured man, with a large belly and the head of an elephant. He has four arms; in one hand of which he holds the ankas or hook for guiding the elephant, in another a chank or shell, in the third a conical ball, and in the fourth a cup with small cakes, with which he is supposed to feed himself. He is sitting on the lotus. Fig. 2, in the frontispiece, exactly represents the images made and set up of him, with those of Durga, in the festivals of that goddess in Calcutta. He is frequently described as riding on, or having near him a rat, the emblem of prudence and foresight, and is invoked on all matters of business by the Hindus. If a person undertake a journey or build a house, prayers are addressed to Ganesha; for which purpose his statues are set up on the roads and other open places. At the commencement of a letter or a book, or an invocation to a superior deity, a salutation is usually made to him; and his image is frequently seen placed, as a propitiation, over the doors of houses and shops, to insure success to the temporal concerns of their owners.
ThePeishwa, Bajee Row, had an image of Ganesha, valued at £50,000. It was of gold and had eyes of diamonds.
The introduction of Ganesha into the celestial regions was a work of as much mystery as that of his brother Kartikeya, neither of them being "of woman born." Ganesha, however, contrived to come into the world without the aid of a father as well: but as the gods have ways peculiarly their own in the management of their affairs, we will adopt the practice universally exercised in polished society in the terrestial regions (of which the coteries in this country are distinguished examples), of not prying rudely into matters that do not concern us; and with which the god of prudence, whom I now treat of and invoke, would teach us, that the less we have to do the better. We must, therefore, rest satisfied in learning that Ganesha was formed in the same manner as Prometheus produced his handy-works; save and except that, instead of clay, his mother Parvati, while bathing, collected the scum and impurities floating on the surface of the water in the bath, and kneaded them into the form of a man, to which she gave life, not by fire stolen from heaven, but by pouring over it the holy water of the Ganges. Notwithstanding this irregular mode of procuring an offspring, Parvati was as fond of her elephant-headed scion, as if every thing had been effected in the most becoming way imaginable.
Various stories are related of the manner in which Ganesha became possessed of his elephant head, some of which are greatly opposed to the account just given of his formation. By some legends it would appear, that after having given life to him, Parvati placed him as a guard at the door of the bath, when Siva approached it and wished to enter, which Ganesha would not permit. The god, in consequence, became incensed and cut off his head; but on learning that it was the son of Parvati whom he had thus so unceremoniously treated, and beholding that goddess overwhelmed with affliction for the loss of her child, he took the first head, which was that of an elephant, that could be found (as the other had disappeared), and placed it on his shoulders.
Others state, that Parvati believing, as mothers are prone to do, and which she was unquestionably warranted in doing, that her child was an extraordinary prodigy, requested Shuni or Sani (the Hindu Saturn) to look at it. The god, considerately recollecting that his gaze was as baneful and destructive as the Gorgon's head, attempted to back out of the compliment; but the partial and importunate mother would not be denied. To gratify her, therefore, he at length looked at Ganesha, whose head was instantly consumed to ashes; but as it would not have been compatible with either common sense or propriety for the god of wisdom to have remained without one, Brahma, to pacify Parvati, directed that the first which could be discovered, and which proved to be an elephant's, should be placed on the headless trunk; and promised, as a kind of antidote to the misfortune, that Ganesha should be the first worshipped among the gods.
Other legends assert that his mother formed him with an elephantine head: and, as nature plays her wild fantastic tricks with her progeny, why should not nature's goddess toss about her ball with celestial fancy, at her will and pleasure? Others again state, that Siva cut off his head in consequence of his fighting with Vishnu.
Siddhi and Buddhi (knowledge and understanding) are represented as the two wives of Ganesha.
The Father Bartolomeo states, that Ganesha is called Pollyar on the
coast of Coromandel; as does Sonnerat, who adds, that his images must be made of stone: but I have them also both of metal and composition.
Ganesha has been compared to the Janus of the Romans. The Hindu god is invoked upon the commencement of any business of importance, and his statues are (as I have before stated) placed over the houses of bankers and shops. The Roman deity was the god who presided over all new undertakings, and his images were placed in the Jani, or spot where usurers and creditors met to receive money. The first libations were made, and all prayers prefaced with a short address to him. In the latter point he also agrees with Ganesha. Janus was worshipped in the month of January, Ganesha in Maghu, which will farther correspond.
I do not find that many temples are dedicated to Ganesha; but his images are frequently discovered set up in those of the other deities.
Ganesha has several names: among which are Lumboduru, the longbellied; Eku Duntu, one-toothed; Gujanumu, elephant-faced; Gunniss; Gannaputty; Pollyar, &c. &c.
In the second volume of the Transactions of the Bombay Literary Society, and in the seventh volume of the Asiatic Researches, are descriptions of a living god at Chincore near Poona, believed by the Hindus to be an incarnation of Ganesha, in the person of a supposed descendant of a pious man named Moroba.
It appears that an aged couple had been childless, and petitioned Ganesha to assist them out of the difficulty, so repugnant to the feelings of Hindus. They had been exemplary in their devotions to the god, who promised to the husband, in a dream, the fulfilment of his wishes in a male child; who, in return, vowed to dedicate the child to the deity. That child was Moroba; thus named from it being one of the appellations of Ganesha.
Moroba, by his piety and austerities, had obtained the power of performing miracles upon all those who had a sufficient stock of faith therein; so that, in due time, he was considered and followed as a saint, and in a short period after was elevated to the rank of a Deo. This elevation he owed to his piety and faith: for having, in performance of a vow, undertaken a long journey to visit Ganesha's temple at Morgow, he arrived worn