Of the search for Vinayaka’s head under the bus!

 “Then Shiva caaame, looked all over for the head… “

“Where all did he look, Arch?” 

“He looked evelywhele! He looked under the bus, over the bus, inside the bus, in the lolly (lorry), on the beach, inside the house, on the terrace, in the auto… evelywhele he looked!”

“Then what happened?” 

“He diddint find it anywhele!”

“And then… ” so went the story… from the lips of my sub-two year old.

A couple of days earlier, I’d told her the story of how Lord Vinayaka had got his elephant head. How Parvati was having a bath and asked Shiva’s Nandi (the bull) to guard the door and not let anyone in. When Shiva came back, Nandi naturally had to let him in because his first allegiance was to Shiva. Parvati was furious and created her own image of a boy out of the turmeric paste with which she was bathing and breathed life into the image. The next time, she set the boy on guard when she went to bathe. The boy refused to let in Shiva and the latter, in a fit of rage, lopped off his head (the boy’s, that is!). When Parvati came out, she was so angry (i love these divine tantrums!) that she vowed to destroy all of creation unless the boy was brought back to life and worshipped before all other gods. Shiva, to appease her, sets off to look for the boy’s head…

He searches and he searches… evelywhele! My version to Arch was that he searched in the sky, on land and the sea – everywhere, in fact! She figured out that he had searched in many places and told me her version of the story a couple of days later – in the bus, on the bus… in the auto, at the beach… all over her little world, in fact!

In our own childhood, Vinayaka Chavithi (the festival to celebrate the birth of Vinayaka) always saw a flurry of activity in the days before it. We created little umbrellas for the image with cardboard, paper streamers and cooked rice paste for glue, made little decorations and waited for the sweets that the festival inevitably brought!

For some reason, this prasadam (offering) has always reminded me of this story… though it is made for a completely different festival – Varalakshmi Vratam – the paste that is cooked was irresistable to us small fry when we wanted to mould images out of it!

Also because of the myth associated with it. 

Once upon a time, there was a goldsmith who was trying to make an idol of Vinayaka. He kept failing as each time, the head came out looking more like a horse than an elephant. Fed up, he threw it away and went to bed (now do we know that feeling or what?!). That night, in a dream, Lord Vishnu appeared to him in his horse-faced incarnation – Hayagreeva and asked him to worship the image! It is made with chana dal because horses are supposed to love it. Never having come very close to a horse (except an occasional ride in a jutka (horse-drawn carriage) in small towns, I cannot verify this! I do, however, love it!

The prasadam is called Hayagreevam and is incredibly simple and delicious – and my mom makes the best version… here’s her recipe.


  • Chana dal (Bengal gram dal) – 1 cup – soaked for two hours and drained.
  • Jaggery – 3/4 cup
  • Cashewnuts – 10-12
  • Cardamoms – 3-4 powdered with a tsp of sugar
  • Ghee – 3 -4 tbsp

Boil the soaked dal with a couple of tbsp of water in the pressure cooker for 4-5 whistles. Let cool and take out.

Grind the dal to a very coarse paste along with jaggery. 

Pulse the cashewnuts to a rough powder and set aside.

 Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed vessel and add the dal paste. Cook on a low flame while stirring continuously. Add the cashewnut powder and mix in.

After a few minutes, add the ghee and continue to cook.

The mixture will form a lump around the ladle. Add the cardamom powder. Mix well and switch off. The prasadam thickens as it cools, so add 2 or 3 tbsp of water if it is too thick – while cooking. 

And oh, in case you’re wondering, what Lord Shiva finally found was a severed elephant’s head that he fixed on to the torso of the boy – and that is how Ganesha got his head and i firmly believe he found it on the beach, not in the bus!

 (Pic courtesy: Internet)