The Astras, Part 9 – Trishul-astra


Shiva, Parvati and Ganesh

Feb 19, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A survey of transcendental weaponry.

In yesterday's segment, we briefly mentioned one of the most prominent pastimes associated with Lord Shiva's trishul-astra -- his use of the weapon against his son, Ganesh. While a few variations of this pastimes are found, the Ganesh Purana and Mudgala Purana are generally taken as most authoritative sastra detailing the life, iconography and worship of Sri Ganesh.

The Mudgala Purana describes the appearance of Ganesh in the four yugas. In Treta-yuga, he is born to Shiva and Parvati as Mayuresvara, having six arms and a white complexion. He comes for the purpose of killing the Sindhu demon, and at the end of his life, gives his vahana peacock to his younger brother, Skanda. It is apparently this incarnation that is associated with trishul-astra.

Shiva is famous for going away to perform tapas for long periods of time. On one such occasion, Parvati was passing the time by playing with some mud, and noticed that she had unwittingly created the form of a boy. Surprised at the beauty of the form, she breathed life into it, and Lord Ganesh was created.

The boy grew with time, enjoying pastimes with his mother. One day Parvati wished to take a bath, and instructed Ganesh to stand guard at the door. She specifically instructed that nobody should be let inside.

Ganesh took his duties very seriously, and when Shiva suddenly arrived home, he was met by a young boy, guarding the door. Shiva tried to enter, but Ganesh refused to let him in. After trying to reason with the boy, Shiva finally got angry and using his trishul-astra, cut off his head.

On hearing the disturbance, Parvati came out of the bathhouse and was overcome with sorrow at the sight of her dead son. She demanded that Shiva restore Ganesh's life at once, which Shiva was inclined to do. But unfortunately, the trishul-astra was so potent that Ganesh's head had been thrown off a very great distance. All attempts to find and recover the head were in vain.

Ganesh's Head
Ganesh Chaturti festival, Chennai

Finally, Shiva approached Lord Brahma for help. Brahma offered to replace Ganesh's head with the head of the first animal that they came upon. Shiva then sent his ganas out, instructing them to collect the head of the first thing that they saw. The ganas spotted a baby elephant, and thus, it was this head that Brahma transplanted onto the boy Ganesh.

This pastime of Lord Shiva, Ganesh and the trishul-astra is celebrated in villages throughout Indian each year, during Ganesh Chaturthi. Mud, clay and paper mache murtis of Ganesh are made, and floated out to dissolve in lakes, tanks and wells, carrying prayers to Lord Ganesh.


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