Ask the children if they have ever seen an elephant.
What was their reaction? What do people say about
elephants? e.g. they are wise, they are strong,
they are gentle, they are good at helping humans,
and moving things, they have good memories. Think
of other elephants in storybooks, such as Baba
or Elma the Patchwork Elephant.
Point out that for many millions of Hindus who
live in India and around the world, the elephant
is one of the most special creatures. This is
because one of the most popular Hindu gods is
depicted as having the head of an elephant and
the body of a man. His name is Ganesh and his
birth is celebrated at this time of the year.
on to say that Hindus worship many gods and goddesses,
but they believe that they are all aspects of
one god: just like you're one person, but you
have many different characteristics (perhaps you're
kind, make people laugh and you're brave). Ganesh,
the elephant-headed god, has all those aspects
that we mentioned to do with elephants at the
beginning: he is wise, he is strong, he is gentle,
he is kind, he can help with difficult problems.
The Story of Ganesh.
Tell the following story, using the form below
or in your own words.
did Ganesh get his elephant head? He didn't always
have it. The story goes rather like this.
mother was the goddess Parvati and his father
was the god Shiva. One day, not long before Ganesh
was born, his father Shiva went on a journey,
leaving Parvati at home. Shiva was away for many
years, and during that time Ganesh grew from a
baby to a young man.
spring morning Ganesh was outside when he saw
a stranger with long, matted hair, wearing animal
skin and with snakes wriggling about him. The
stranger wanted to come into the house! He looked
frightening and dangerous. Ganesh stood in front
of him and tried to stop him because he wanted
to protect his mother. What Ganesh didn't know
was that this stranger was his father Shiva, and
Shiva didn't know that the boy was his son Ganesh.
Shiva is known as a quick-tempered god, and he
didn't like anyone standing in his way. So he
took his sword and cut off the head of Ganesh!
that moment Parvati came out, to see her husband
with his sword in his hand and her son lying on
the ground. ‘What have you done, what have
you done?’ she cried. ‘You have killed
our son.’ Shiva was truly sorry and promised
to make things right again, by replacing Ganesh's
head with the head of the first living creature
searched for many miles. What animal do you think
he saw? The first creature he saw was a baby elephant.
And that's why Ganesh has the head of an elephant
and the body of a man. He has a rather chubby
body too, because he is said to like eating sweet
Explain that at this time of year Hindus celebrate
the birth of Ganesh. In many places they make
special images of Ganesh and pray to them. They
offer him sweet puddings because they know he
likes sweet things. They let off fireworks. They
make huge images of him and take them on processions.
5. Another thing Ganesh is known for is his beautiful
handwriting and good spelling. If you see a picture
of him, you will see that he is holding one of
his own tusks, dipped in ink, in one hand and
a scroll of paper in the other. It is said that
one of the longest poems in the world, telling
one of the most important stories for Hindus (the
Mahabharata), was dictated to Ganesh, and that
he used the pointed end of his tusk dipped in
ink to write down the words.
6. Most importantly, Hindus pray to Ganesh before
they start anything new, like getting married,
moving house, starting a journey, or taking an
exam. His image is sometimes placed where new
houses are to be built. Hindus believe Ganesh
is 'the remover of obstacles': he helps with problems
or difficulties that get in the way.
7. Focus on the themes. Hindus pray to Ganesh
because they believe he is wise and he helps at
the beginning of new projects or when they start
about the new things that might be happening in
the lives of the children or the school.
words could you use to describe what it feels
like to start something new? e.g. scared, excited,
not sure what will happen.
helps you when you have to do something new? e.g.
talking to a friend or someone in your family,
thinking carefully about what you will do, asking
for God to help.