The Hindu elephant headed God Ganesha shares some interesting features with the Egyptian God Thoth, and Thoth’s Greek counterpart, Hermes.
Like Thoth, he is the inventor of writing; as the story goes, the Hindu Epic Poem the Mahabharata was dictated to Ganesha, who broke off one of his tusks to serve as a quill. Also like Thoth, he is zoomorphic – while he has the head of an elephant, Thoth has the head of an ibis, a bird native to Africa and Australia; his other form is that of a baboon.
Like Thoth’s Greek version Hermes (in turn the Roman Mercury), he is a trickster. From the fact that his sacred animal steed is a mouse, to his fabulously round belly, his appearance belies his powers – he is both the placer and the remover of obstacles.
Few practicing Hindus would start a venture, or an adventure, without seeking the blessings of Ganesha.
For his origin story, which is replete with sex and violence, take a look here.
His brother, on the other hand, has fewer myths, and fewer followers. Known as Kumara, Skanda, Murigan, Subramanya or Karthakia (there are more names, but these are among the most significant), he is a warrior God. He carries a spear, and he rides a peacock. Beyond that, and common images depicting him with his two wives, he doesn’t enjoy nearly the same traction as his brother, though like Ganesha, his origin story is also replete with sex and violence.
But let’s leave origins behind – the point of this story is to demonstrate Ganesha at his most Hermes like: a trickster God who wins the day.
Once upon a time, Shiva and Shakti, Ganesha and Kumara’s parents, challenged their children to a race. Whoever could circle the wide expanse of the heavens first would be declared the winner.
Kumara immediately mounted his peacock, and sped across the heavens, never stopping to look back.
We’re taking light speed, navigating wormholes, racing across space and time.
The Starship Enterprise, hell, not even Doctor Who‘s Tardis could keep pace with this kid.
What did Ganesha do?
He just sat and ate his favorite fried donuts.
Kumara sped across the stars, circling galaxies, piercing event horizons, moving through the most remote regions of the universe.
Ganesha still sat, eating more of his favorite fried donuts.
Kumara watched existence collapse as he sped through it. He fell through singularities, and saw countless worlds.
Ganesha still sat, finishing off his last fried donut.
Kumara’s journey was almost complete, but before he could reach home, Ganesha slowly got up and dusted off his sugar-coated hands. As Kumara streaked past the final lights of dying stars. Ganesha rubbed his belly.
As Kumara prepared for descent, he watched his brother yawn. Stretching his arms, Ganesha casually took a stroll around Shiva and Shakti.
Shakti was puzzled, but Shiva was amused.
“You win, Ganesha. Congratulations.”
By this point, Kumara had landed.
Shatki asked Shiva what just happened. Kumara had literally gone around the universe, while Ganesha, who was gloating, had done nothing but eat donuts.
Shiva responded sagely.
“He circled us, beloved. We’re his universe.”
And the moral of this tale?
Work smarter, not harder, and always know when to be tricky.