Ganesh Purana describes the incarnations of Lord Ganesh as taking place in four yugas viz. the Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yugas, to destroy the Asuric forces and re-establish the equilibrium of the cosmic life.
I Mohatkata Vinayaka:
In the Vana kingdom, on the banks of river Ganga, there lived a pious Rishi Rudraketu with his wife Sarada. After a long time two sons were born to them, who were named "Devantaka" and "Narantaka". The boys were handsome and strong and they propitiated Lord Siva and got a boon from Him that none whomsoever, whether it be a god, angel, human, demon or animal, could kill them. Thus they became invincible, and conquered all the three worlds. Narantak assumed sovereignty over the nether worlds and human world, and Devantak that of the heavens. Soon they upset the normal equilibrium of universal life by unleashing the rule of demonism everywhere.
The ancient sage Kasyapa and his wife Aditi were living happily in their Ashram. Aditi approached Kasyapa one day and said : "I have begotten as sons all the gods like Indra, Varuna, Vayu, etc. But I wish to have the Supreme Lord Himself as my son, so that I can love Him and serve Him in the form of my son. Kindly instruct me on the austerities that I should follow to fulfil my desire. The sage thereupon initiated Aditi into the secrets of meditation on Lord Vinayaka She performed severe penance and propitiated Lord Vinayaka. The Lord promised to be born as her son.
All the three worlds were suffering from the demonic rule of Narantak and Devantak and it was high time that the rhythm and harmony of universal life was set right And so Lord Ganesha decided to descend to the world as the son of Aditi. He manifested Himself in the humble Ashram of Sage Kasyapa and Aditi in all divine splendour The mother praised Him and at her request. He vieled His divine form and assumed the form of a normal human baby. His body was strong and muscular, and his face was serene and beautiful- Sage Kasyapa named him Mahotkata, meaning a person of strong physique. Hearing the news of divine child, all the rishis came to Kasyapa's Ashram and blessed him.
The Asuras who were having a great time under the demonic rule of Narantak and Devantak also heard about the child and his million to destroy the evil doers. They also came disguised as humans and rishis to the Ashram to rid themselves of their enemy, Mahotkata, but they were all slain as stealthily by the child, as they approached.
The king of Kashi one day paid a visit to the Ashram to request sage Kasyapa, the preceptor of his dynasty, (Kula-guru) to solemnise the wedding of his son, the crown prince of KasiSage Kasyapa was at that time engaged in a long austerity and therefore he deputed his son Mahotkata who had attained sixteen years of age by then, to do the needful. The boy was ceremoniously taken to the kingdom. On their way, while passing through a forest, they suddenly beheld all the quarters filled with a strange light. Mahotkata jumped out of the chariot and rushed through the forests in the direction of the light and came upon Dhoomraksha, a demon who was practising severe austerities. He had succeeded in propitiating the Sun deity, and was about to receive an invincible weapon of destruction from the Sun. As the weapon was being given out to the" demon, the entire world was lit up by its brilliance Mahotkata dashed to the spot and grabbed the dazzling weapon and threw it on the demon himself which killed him instantaneously. The king was aghast with astonishment.
The king reached his capital along with Mahotkata, and since there were a few more weeks to go before the wedding ceremony was to take place, the intervening time ' was spent by Mahotkata in sportive acts. He was out most of the time exhibiting his talents and strength which kept the citizens wondering at his super-human powers and skill. Soon he won the hearts of everybody, and the people could not just think of passing a day without meeting Mahotkata. He destroyed a number of demons who had disguised themselves in the palace and in the kingdom as citizens.
Narantak had placed his spies all over the worlds. The reports from Kashi were very disturbing. Soon a time came when Narantak had to drop all disguises and attack the kingdom straightaway. People became panicky at the sudden assault of the most powerful ruler of those days, but Mahotkata gathered them up and put up a great fight and killed Narantak.
Oevantak could not tolerate the humiliation of a mere brahmin boy killing his invincible brother. He sent his eight powerful demons Kardama, Deerghadanta, Taalajangha, Yakshma, Ghantasura, Raktakesa, Kalaanthaka and Durjaya to destroy the armies of the king. But they were killed by the eight powers materialised by Mahotkata in the form of goddesses, namely Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Eesithwa, Praapti and Praakasya. Thereafter, it was a direct confrontation between Mahotkata and Devantaka. When Devantaka resorted to mean methods of fighting through black magic, Mahotkata assumed his divine form as Ganesha and confronted the demon. In the fierce battle that followed, Devantaka managed to catch hold of both the tusks of Lord Ganesha, but he was thrown away by the powerful push of the Lord- The demon's hold on the tusks were however so strong, that while he fell on the ground, the tip of one of the tusks broke and came off in his hands. Lord Ganesha thrust His other tusk into the head of Devantaka and killed him.
Thus the demonic rule came to an end and peace and goodwill returned to all the three worlds. Mahotkata was honoured profusely by the king and the citizens. After solemnising the marriage of the crown prince, Mahotkata returned to his earthly parents, sage Kasyapa and Aditi. He told them that the purpose of His incarnation was over and that He had decided to withdraw from the world of humans. The parents were overcome by sorrow at the thought of separation from their darling son, but Mahotkata assured them that He would be present in astral form wherever the Divine Mother Bhavani is worshipped. And then He folded up His human form and ascended to His heavenly abode.
In the Treta Yuga. there lived a righteous King named Chakrapani who ruled over the Mithila kingdom with Gandaki as its capital city. His queen was Ugra. The king was sad that he had no son to inherit the kingdom. Sage Saunaka of Puranic fame advised him to propitiate the Sun deity to beget a son, and initiated him and the queen Into a year-long austerity. After a few months, the queen became pregnant. As the child developed in her womb, she was subjected to extreme physical uneasiness and her body temperature started rising. A time came when she was unable to bear the foetus in the womb any longer and so she secretly went to the sea shore along with her nurses and abandoned the foetus in the sea. The king was sad at this act but he could do nothing.
The foetus developed into a boy It had a brilliant face with three eyes and its body was strong and muscular. When it cried, the whole earth trembled, and the terrified creatures of the sea fled for their lives. The sea god brought the boy to the palace and handed him over to the king. The king was overjoyed to get his son.
The boy was named Sindhu because of his birth on the sea shore He grew up fast, and after completion of his studies, performed severe austerities, propitiated the Sun deity and obtained from him powerful weapons of destruction, which made him invincible. The king handed over his kingdom to the son and retired to the forests with his queen. Sindhu defeated all the kings on earth and even extended his power to the nether worlds and heavens. He invoked Lord Vishnu by his penance and requested Him to come down to earth and stay in his capital city. Hearing this. Lord Siva decided to go away for the time being from Kailash along with Goddess Parvati and all the attendants (Ganas). As they passed over the plains. Mother Parvati was attracted by a serene and beautiful place, and alt of them decided to settle down there. Lord Siva, as usual, went into long spells of meditation while the Ganas served and worshipped Him along with the Rishis and other pious people who had gathered and camped around the place.
One day Mother Parvati asked the Lord: "On Whom are you meditating?", and He said: ' On Him, Who is the supporter of the entire universe". "Can I also meditate on Him and behold Him ?" she asked. "Of course", said the Lord, and initiated Her into the mono-syllabled Ganeshamantra Gem, She repaired to a lonely and beautiful place on Lekhanadri hills and performed penance for twelve years. Lord Ganesha appeared before Her and asked what boon She wanted. Mother Parvati said : "I wish to have You as my son so that I can always see You and serve You". "Be it so" said the lord, and He vanished.
Lord Siva, the Ganas, the Rishis and pious men greeted the news of Lord Ganesha's incarnation as Mother Parvati's son with great enthusiasm. And in due course, on the fourth day of the bright half of the Bhaadrapaada month, when the Swati star was in combination with the Moon, when the constellation of Leo was ascending (Simha Lagna), Lord Ganesha manifested Himself in front of Mother Parvati in all His divine glory. After prostrating to Him, the Mother requested Him to veil His divine form and assume the form of an ordinary child so that She could take Him in Her arms and fondle Him. The Lord accordingly assumed the form of a handsome young child.
All the three worlds rejoiced at the "birth" of the Lord. Lord Siva performed the Jata Karmas of the child. The Rishis and the pious men beheld the boy as a personification of all great qualities (Gunas). On the eleventh day. Lord Siva named the child "Gunesha". meaning the repository of all gunas. Gunesha grew up under the tender care and love of the divine parents ang in the company of the children of the Rishis. A number of demons who came to disturb the peaceful life there, were killed by Ganesha.
Once while chasing a demon, Ganesha along with the children came upon a mango grove full of ripe juicy fruits. They let themselves loose in the garden, plucking and eating the mangoes and throwing the seeds at each other. In that garden, atop a tree, a woman was keeping guard over a big egg and one of the seeds thrown by the children fell on her. Disturbed in her roost, she came down and started chasing the children. Gunesha immediately climbed the tree and took the egg in his hands. As soon as he did so, the egg cracked and out came a huge bird from it having a blue neck, a powerful peacock. It was so hungry that it jumped down in search of food and tried to swallow the running boys Ganesha jumped on the bird caught hold of its wings and beat it up. Then he mounted the bird and brought it under his control.
Seeing the victory of Ganesha the woman prostrated to him and said : "Lord I I am Vinata, wife of Sage Kasyapa This bird is my son My husband had told me that the person who would break the egg that I had laid, would become its master. I had been waiting here for years on end for this to happen- Now I am happy and have fulfilled my duty- My other sons like Jatayu, Shyena. Sampaati and others are held captive by the powerful serpents in their kingdom- Please be kind enough to release them."
The peacock by this time had recovered from the pains of fight with Ganesha and surrendered to him. Mounting his new vehicle, Ganesha returned to his parents He was given the name MAYURESH the Lord of Mayur, by the Rishis Thereafter he conquered the serpent kingdom and released the celestial birds from captivity. He conquered a number of demons who had become powerful under the reign of the demonic king Sindhu. Seeing the superhuman capabilities of Mayuresh, Brahmaji offered His two daughters Siddhi and Buddhi in marriage to Mayuresh. However, he declined to marry them immediately. He wanted first to fulfil his mission of destroying Sindhu.
Seeing that Mayuresh had come of age. Lord Siva and Parvati decided to return to Kailashh, and the whole entourage set forth on their journey. On the way, a number of Asuras attacked them, but Mayuresh vanquished them all.
Sindhu became restless. He waged a war against Mayuresh, and sent his two powerful sons Dharma and Adharma to defeat the enemy. They were killed in the battle. Sindhu himself came upon the field; a fierce battle ensued and at last Sindhu was killed. With his death. Lord Vishnu and others were free to go back to their respective worlds. The cosmic rhythm disturbed by Sindhu, was set again to its normal equilibrium The marriage of Mayuresh with Siddhi and Buddhi was solemnised.
It was time for Mayuresh to fold up his manifestation in the world. So, one day, he conveyed his intention to Lord Siva, Parvati and others "When can I again have the privilege of having you as My son " asked the Mother. "In Dwapara Yuga. I will again be born to you to kill the terrible demon Sindur, said the Lord. Kartikeya, younger brother of Mayuresh said : "Please don't leave me alone- Take me also with you." In a sweet brotherly voice Mayuresh replied: "Where am I going away from you 7 I am the inner consciousness in all beings, and so I am very much in your heart also, at all times." He then gave His Mayur (Peacock) to Kartikeya and addressed him as "Mayuradhwaja i ", and then ascended to His imperishable world.
III Sri Gajanana
It was Dwapara Yuga. The Lord of Kailash, Sri Mahadeva, one day paid a visit to the abode of Brahmaji, the Creator. Brahmaji was having a seista then; he woke up, stretched him self up and yawned. And lo ! from his yawning face manifested a big and beautiful male form. As soon as he materialised, he roared and his roaring rent the skies, upset the oceans and shook the mountains. Brahmaji recovered from his sleep and asked him : "Who are you, and wherefrom are you? What do you want?" The male said : "You are the knower of everything and why do you ask me these questions? I am your son, born out of your yawning face. Please accept me, give me my name, allot me a place to live, grant me my food, and tell me my duties." Brahmaji was enchanted by the ravishing handsomeness of his son, and said : "Because of your flawless pink complexion, your name shall be SINDUR; you shall have the power to conquer all the three worlds. Whomever you would catch hold of in anger will drop down in a hundred pieces from your arms. You shall not fear anyone anywhere in all the three words, and you are free to roam about wherever you want."
Sindur was happy and wandered through the worlds, setting waves of fear wherever he went. As he went about, a thought came to his mind : 1 did not perform any penance or undergo even the rudimentary education. How is that Pitamaha bestowed on me all these boons? How can I verify whether they are true ? He did not find anyone on whom he could experiment his strength. So he returned to Brahmaji and wanted to try the strength of boon on him. Brahmaji was taken aback. He said "Sindur ! I was enticed by your beauty and gave you all the boons, little knowing that behind your charming form was concealed a crooked mind. You have become a demon now. Lord Ganesh will soon incarnate as Gajaanan and destroy you."
But Sindur did not leave Brahmaji in peace. He chased the Creator. Brahmaji took to his heels and ran all over the three worlds. He reached Vaikunta, the abode of Vishnu and sought shelter. Vishnu stopped the demon who was close behind Brahmaji and said : "Calm down, my son ! Your father is such an old person that it does not behove a man like you to fight him. Leave him alone." "All right, then you fight with me I" said Sindur. Vishnu was in a predicament. He said : "Look I am a Satwic person and am engaged in the maintenance of this universe. To defeat me is not at all a problem for you. Well, if you really want a good fight there is Lord Siva in Kailash and He is an equal to you.'
"Be it then Lord Siva", said Sindur and went straight to Kailash, He saw the Lord sitting in meditation there and thought : "This is a forest-dweller, an ordinary mendicant, with matted locks. He is not fit for a fight with me. But then his wife is a beautiful woman. I would rather have her." And so he caught hold of Mother Parvati and carried Her away. The Ganas of Lord Siva gave a stiff fight but they were all defeated by Sindur. The commotion woke up Lord Siva from His Samadhi and He became red with anger at the act of Sindur. Immediately Mother Parvati thought of Mayuresh, and He appeared between Siva and Sindur. With a few powerful blows. Lord Mayuresh vanquished the demon and sent him down to the worlds below. He then assured Mother Parvati that as promised earlier. He would be born as Gajaanan through Her and redeem the world from the cruelties of demon Sindur; so saying He disappeared.
In the lower worlds, Sindur, the personification of brute force and blunt intellect, easily became a hero of the demons. He organised them into a powerful gang and let loose a reign of terror in the world. The pious and learned ones left their homes and took shelter in mountain caves. The gods were also not spared by Sindur and his gang. The helpless victims of his tyranny assembled together and sang hymns on Lord Ganesha.
In Kailash, Mother Parvati developed signs of pregnancy. After a few months, She told Lord Siva of Her wish to go down to the plains. And so they all came down, and while moving about, they spotted a beautiful lake surrounded by deep woods, and set up their camp there. In due course, Mother Parvati gave birth to a divinely beautiful child. It immediately took the form of the Supreme Lord in all His replendence. The Mother praised Him with divine hymns, and at Her request, the Lord changed Himself into the form of a small child, but with a difference. It developed a round bulging head, its eyes were small, its ears were like two windows, and its nose was like the trunk of an elephant. It had four arms, its stomach was pot bellied and its legs were short and its complexion was red.
The Mother was sad to see the distorted form to which the child had turned. All the people around Her were expecting to see the handsome child of the divinely beautiful Mother Parvati and the Supreme Lord Siva. How could $he show this deformed child to them? They would all laugh at this ugly form, and would even say : 'Is this the end result of all careful tendering and nursing with which the Garbha (foetus) was protected and developed by Mother Parvati ?' When she was thus lost in Her thoughts, Lord Siva came there, and immediately understood the mind of Parvati. He said to her : "Please don't be carried away by the external appearance of things. By looking at the external appearance, no one can know the inner make-up of people. Who do you think this red complexioned, four-handed elephant faced, pot-bellied form is ? Remember the Lord's promise to you that He would be born as your son in Dwapara Yuga as Gajaanana to kill the demon, Sindur ? How is it that you are not able to recognise Him in all forms; for He is the One in Whom all these worlds exist, and all forms are His only. And He is again going to be born of you in Kali Yuga with the complexion of smoke (Dhoomra Varna)"
The child turned to the Mother and said : What the Lord has said is true. I have been born to kill the demon Sindur. Now, you have to do a job for me. Please transport me immediately to the palace of King Varenya in the city of Maahishmati on the banks of river Narmada. Varenya and his queen Pushpika are both deeply devoted to me. Pleased by their devotion, I had promised them that I would be born as their son. Pushpika has just given birth to a baby, and she is lying unconscious by the pains of labour; and the baby has been stolen by a demoness. If the queen comes to know of that, she will die of sorrow. So before she gains consciousness put me by her side, so that she will be convinced that I am her child". Lord Siva immediately summoned Nandi, the chief of the Ganas, and asked him to carry out the mission.
When queen Pushpika came to her senses, she saw her newborn child lying by her side. She was aghast to see the weird form of the child, which had four arms, an elephant face, potbelly and of red complexion. All the people who came to see the child were taken aback by its ugliness. The court astrologer predicted that the child would be the cause of destruction of the royal dynasty I So they decided unanimously to abandon the child in the forests where it would be eaten up by wild animals. And thus the child was carried to a deep jungle and left there.
Sage Paraasara had his ashram nearby He spotted the child laughing away in its innocence, and was struck with wonder at its strange form. He took a close look at the child and saw divine signs on its legs, hands and forehead. With least hesitation he lifted the child, embraced it and took it home. He explained to his wife, Vatsala, the strange signs on the child. They brought him up with all tender love and care. Lord Siva and Parvati were happy to know that Gajaanan was safe in Sage Paraashara's ashram. They decided to return to Kailash.
Gajaanan mastered all the knowledge and arts which his foster father imparted to him. When he was nine years old, a strange thing happened in the ashram. A huge mouse appeared there and it set about destroying everything that came its away. It was so big and powerful that all creatures in the forest were afraid of it. Mother Vatsala and sage Paraasara were helpless against the ferocious mouse. Gajaanan who was playing outside, came in and saw the terrified parents.
On seeing Gajaanan the mouse disappeared into the lower worlds. Gajaanan however, made a loop with the rope in his hands and threw it down and entangled the huge body of the mouse in it. The mouse tried to wriggle out, but in vain. Gajaanan pulled it up to his side and subdued it. He then mounted it and made it his vehicle The humbled mouse then narrated its story. It said "I am a Gandharva; once, while hurriedly getting out of Indra's durbar, I happened to trample on sage Vamana, the short statured tapaswin. and he cursed me to be born as a mouse. When I appealed for mercy, he said that his curse could not go in vain, but that I would meet Lord Gajaanan in sage Paraashaa's ashram and would become his vehicle, whereby I would become worthy of worship even by gods." So saying, he surrendered to Gajaanan, and became his vehicle.
Gajaanan now decided to fulfill the mission of his life After taking his foster parents' permission, he equipped himself with Arnkusa, Parasu (axe), Paasa (rope) and Padma (lotus flower) in his four hands, mounted the mouse, and reached the eity of Sindur and challenged the demon. In the fight that followed, Gajaanan strangled the demon by his powerful hands and killed him. The Rishis and Devas showered flowers on the victorious Gajaanan and sang his praises King Varenya who had abandoned him because of his ugliness, repented and prostrated to the Lord. Gajaanan then gave a sermon to the king, which came to be known as GANESH GEETA. And then. He disappeared from the mortal world.
In Kali Yuga, the present cosmic epoch in which we are now living, the Lord will incarnate as Dhoomraketu with smoky complexion and riding a horse. In Kali Yuga people will be short-lived and their minds will be laden with all kinds of negative thoughts and feelings There will be general chaos in all spheres of life, and people will give up all good and noble values of life. Dhoomraketu will redeem the world from its fall into dark age of Kali and restore peace and happiness and re-establish the righteous pattern of living.