Ganesh Hindu god, son of shiva and Parvati, is perceived as the granter of siddhi or spiritual perfection as well as material benefits. Apart from his one tooth, three eyes and four arms, Ganesh is characterised by a paunch and an elephant head. His other characteristic features are his halo and conch shell. His vahana or mount is a mouse. During puja ceremonies, Ganesh gets precedence over other gods.

There are a number of legends explaining how Ganesh got his elephant head and his one tooth. According to a Puranic legend, the gods, including Shani, an inauspicious god, came to see Parvati's newborn son, Ganesh. The god Sani, however, cast an evil eye on the baby boy and deprived him of his head.

The gods could not restore Ganesh’s head, but vishnu gave the baby an elephant head to replace the one he had lost. Lest the deformed god be neglected, the gods decided that all puja offerings would first be made to Ganesh.

The story of Ganesh’s one tooth is recounted in the Brahmavaivarta Purana. According to this story, Ganesh was the door-keeper of Shiva and Parvati.

One day he had a fierce fight with the god Parshuram. Parsuram hit Ganesh on the face with his axe, knocking out all his teeth except one.

Ganesh is traditionally known as the scribe of the mahabharata. His other names are Gajanan, Lamvodar, Vinayak and Siddhidata, etc.

There is no separate puja for Ganesh. Puja offerings are made to him during different pujas such as durga puja. Ganesh is a major god in south India. He is particularly popular among business people who keep an image of Ganesh in their houses and business establishments. [Paresh Chandra Mandal]