Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati lived in Kailash with their two children – Ganesha and Kartikeya. Kartikeya was a beautiful boy with strong limbs, whereas Ganesha had the head of an elephant and was pot-bellied with short stubby legs.
Kartikeya's vehicle was the swift peacock and Ganesha’s vehicle was a mouse. But both of them were brave, caring, intelligent and were loved by all.
Once Sage Narada – a mischievous sage visited Kailash to see Shiva and Parvati.
Narada claimed that he had come to pay respects to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. However the real reason for Narada's visit was to see who among the two brothers was more intelligent.
Neither Shiva nor Parvati were fooled. They both knew that Narada was upto some mischief, but however they were not sure as to what Narada had in mind.
Sage Narada with a mischievous twinkle brought out a mango. He presented the mango to Shiva, ‘Lord, this mango is a very special mango. It is sweeter than the nectar of the Gods and whoever eats this mango would become wise and learned.’
Thanking Narada, Shiva was about to cut the mango and give half of it to Parvati, when Narada stopped him. ‘My Lord! Please do not cut the mango! The mango has to be eaten by one person only. If it is cut or shared, it would lose its value.’
Shiva frowned and immediately handed over the mango for Parvati to eat. He smiled, 'Enjoy the fruit, my dear!'
Parvati hesitated as she too was unwilling to eat something which her husband would not eat. ‘I do not want to eat anything which I cannot share with my husband.’ She said returning the mango to Sage Narada.
Narada pretended to be crestfallen that his offering was rejected by the Lord and the Goddess.
At that time Ganesha and Kartikeya came inside their home to find their parents talking seriously with Sage Narada.
'What is happening? What is in your hands, Sage Narada? Kartikeya came up from behind and asked Narada, eying the mango.
''Oh this...' Narada said with innocent eyes, pulling up the mango. 'The Lord and the Goddess rejected an offering that a poor soul like me gave them.'
The mango looked deliciously ripe and its aroma wafted through the entire home. Ganesha looked at the mango, licked his lips and patted his stomach. Wondering why his parents had rejected such a delicious gift, Ganesha asked his mother, 'Why did you refuse the mango, mother?'
Parvati explained how the mango could not be shared. She finished saying that neither of them wanted to eat the mango without offering it to the other and so they were returning the gift.
The aroma wafted even more strongly as Kartikeya said, 'Mother I will take it, it smells so delicious... and I like mangoes too...’
Ganesha interrupted, 'I saw it first, I want it...I like eating.. it is mine....’ Ganesha yelled as he tried snatching the mango from Narada's hand, only to be stopped by his brother Kartikeya.
Narada safely moved to the side, lest he come to any harm due to the fight between the brothers. His mission accomplished he watched the fight with twinkling eyes.
Both Shiva and Parvati realized that Narada had created a rift between the two brothers with his mischief. Shiva angrily shouted at Narada, ‘You came here to start this fight! I hope you are satisfied now...’ He blazed at Narada.
Unmindful of their father's outburst, Kartikeya and Ganesha were yelling loudly at each other. They looked ready to rain blows at each other.
Narada shook his head, pretending to look shocked, ‘I had no idea that the children would fight for the mango, my Lord! You cannot blame me for this! Your Lord should remember, I had offered the mango to you and not to the children. If I had known this would happen, I would never have brought the mango here.’
Shiva angrily shook his head, not believing Narada, ‘You purposely brought this mango, knowing this would happen…’
Parvati knew it was time she intervened, as Shiva, Ganesha and Kartikeya were all angry.
She held up her hands, ‘This does not have to be this way. We can resolve this. Stop it....’
Shiva stopped advancing towards Narada and looked at Parvati. Both Ganesha and Kartikeya stopped their bickering and looked at their mother expectantly.
'We will organize a competition, whoever wins the competition, gets the mango, ok?’ Parvati said with a quiet smile.
Both the brothers nodded realizing that this was the only solution.
Now that his sons were not fighting, Shiva was also pacified.
‘Mother, shall I suggest the competition?’ Narada asked playfully, plainly happy that Shiva was not angry with him any more.
Parvati nodded. Then Narada said, ‘Whoever goes around the world three times and returns first would win the mango.’
Kartikeya smiled. There was no way Ganesha could win this competition. Kartikeya was sure he was going to get the mango.
Without saying another word, Kartikeya ran to his peacock and starting his flight around the world.
Ganesha was perturbed. He knew that he could not run faster than his brother and neither could his mouse match the speed of the Kartikeya’s peacock. He was wondering what to do, when an idea struck him.
Meanwhile Kartikeya after circling the world three times came home to claim the mango.
Much to his amazement, he saw the mango in his brother's hands.
Kartikeya could not believe that Ganesha had circled the world faster than him and had claimed the mango! Bewildered he turned to his mother, ‘How did Ganesha complete the race first?’
It was Sage Narada who replied, ‘Ganesha said that Shiva and Parvati were his parents and were his whole world. He had asked Shiva and Parvati to stand together and had circled them three times and had taken the mango.’
Kartikeya looked long at his brother who had the mango in his hands. He knew that his brother had beaten him fair. Kartikeya smiled.
Ganesha smiled back and offered the mango to Kartikeya!
We all follow the path of either Ganesha or Kartikeya in our lives. Some of us gather knowledge by traveling the world – like Kartikeya, whereas some of us gather knowledge by staying at the same place and observing people– like Ganesha.
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SA Krishnan, Sancheta Jain and families