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Religion Library: Hinduism

Sacred Narratives

Written by: Jacob N. Kinnard

Shiva, Parvati, and the baby GaneshaThe Puranic version of the birth of the very popular god Ganesha is one of the most well known of all myths in Hinduism, one version of which is recounted in the Shiva Purana. Shiva's wife, Parvati, was alone while Shiva was away meditating. Parvati intended to take a bath, but was afraid of intruders, so she created Ganesh out of the turmeric, which was used something like soap, she was going to use to bathe. She instructed the boy to stand guard outside of her door. Shiva returned and encountered the strange boy, and demanded that he step aside so that he could enter his home. Ganesh, not knowing his father, refused, and Shiva, enraged, lopped off his son's head. GaneshParvati was furious and distraught, and she demanded that her husband restore their son to life. Shiva, after searching in vain for the head, was forced to replace it with that of an elephant. This is an etiological myth, namely a sacred narrative that explains the origins of a god or sacred place; it is also a myth that considers Shiva's sometimes unpredictable nature, as well as his power to restore.

Study Questions:
1.     How do Hindu scriptures present a creation story?
2.     What is the role of violence within many sacred narratives?
3.     What are the Puranas, and what do they offer?


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