When sage Vyasa set out to compose the Mahabharata, he wanted someone to help him with the writing. So he prayed to Lord Brahma for guidance. And the Creator of the Universe said it can only be Ganesha — the god of wisdom and sagacity.
THE VOICE WITHIN
After all, was it not Ganesha who had received the ‘fruit of knowledge’ from his parents Lord Shiva and Parvati? Instead of competing with his brother Kartikeya to circle the world three times, Ganesha simply had circled his divine parents, saying his whole world lay at their feet. He was loved by the gods and worshipped by humans as the remover of obstacles, whose auspicious me is invoked at the initiation of every task.
So as Ganesha was summoned to Lord Brahma’s presence, he appeared and agreed to be Vyasa’s scribe, but on one condition — that the sage must dictate continuously without pausing. Vyasa too laid down his own condition — that Ganesha must understand every word and its implication before writing it down.
Thus began the partnership to create an epic, the like of which the world had never seen. Vyasa recited at great speed, while Ganesha wrote it down at equal pace. Before long though, his stylus broke.
Ganesha now realized he had been a trifle proud, and had underestimated the sage’s intellectual powers. Not wishing to disturb Vyasa’s flow, he quietly broke off one of his tusks and continued writing.
Soon the great sage and his celestial scribe settled into a rhythm. Whenever Vyasa grew tired, he would compose a difficult stanza with complex layers of meanings. As Ganesha slowed down to stop and think it over, the few moments would be enough for the sage to refresh himself.
Thus they spent three years in writing the epic. Although several stanzas are known to have been lost, even today the great epic stands 1,00,000 stanzas long.
It also has a lesson for mankind, that the Mahabharata should not be hurriedly read, rather it should be understood and digested, heard patiently and rumited upon.
In fact, there is a superstition that the Mahabharata should never be read at all, only listened to, one small part at a time. Only then can one understand the depth of the meanings underlying the events in the epic.
Having used one of his tusks to complete this magnum opus, Ganesha henceforth came to be known as ekadanta. His act symbolizes that no amount of sacrifice is too much for a seeker to gain knowledge.
And for all time, his elephant head has come to typify supreme wisdom, his trunk represents ‘Om’ or the sound of cosmic reality, his large ears highlight the importance of listening more, his small mouth on talking less, while his eyes are rrowed in eterl concentration.
Ganesha’s blessings are showered on seekers of the noble and supreme path, the modaka on his palm is to reward sadha, while he is ever ready with his large belly to peacefully digest the bad with the good things in life.