Ganesh’s Broken Tusk ~ Thailand


The Hindu God Ganesh's hand holding his broken right tusk in a temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

During a visit to one of the most peculiar temples in Chiang Mai (more on this temple another time), I noticed a statue of Ganesh, one of the most worshiped gods in the Hindu religion represented with an Elephant head, a big belly and four arms.

Ganesh is also known as Ekadanta, “the lord who has only one tusk”. He has a broken right tusk and is often represented with his right hand holding his broken tusk.

There seems to be multiple stories on why his tusk is broken:

The first legend is related to a battle between Parashurama and Ganesh:

Parashurama was an incarnation of Vishnu. He had received the Divine Axe from Shiva to defeat the corrupted kings on Earth.
Deeply grateful for the weapon, Parashurama went to visit Mount Kailash to bow before him. He found Ganesh guarding Shiva’s inner apartments and opposing to his entry without his father’s permission (Ganesh is Shiva’s son).
Parashurama tried to force his way but they ended up fighting against each other. Ganesh had the advantage, against Parashurama who became angered and threw his axe at him. Ganesh, recognizing his father’s axe turned his face and received it with humility upon his right tusk which it severed.

– The second legend narrates:

Ganesh was asked to scribe down the epic of Mahabharata, dictated to him by its author, sage Vyasa. Taking into note the enormity and significance of the task, Ganesh realized the inadequacy of any ordinary pen to undertake the task. He thus broke one of his own tusks and made a pen out of it. The lesson offered here is that no sacrifice is big enough in the pursuit of knowledge.

-The third legend says:

One day, after stuffing himself with sweets from his devotees, Ganesh rode his rat (yes, Ganesh rides a rat in the skies) back home. It was sunset and in the darkness, a snake appeared out of nowhere causing the mouse to stumble and Ganesh fall to the ground.
But he had eaten so much that his over-filled stomach burst and the sweets poured out.
Ganesh collected and stuffed them back in his open belly and used the snake as a belt to hold everything in place (try to find a rational meaning to this).
Looking at this funny performance, the Moon burst out laughing which made the god upset. He snapped off his right tusk and threw it at the moon and put a curse on her, so that she stops shining at night and disappears from the sky.
Since then, the moon being missing, there was neither moonlight neither twilight.
Without the moon, the gods found the heavenly life as unbearable as the men found on earth. So, they asked Ganesh to fix the situation.
He complied with their requirement but decided that the moon would not be allowed to shine every night as she did before.
Henceforth, she was sentenced to wax and wane, alternating a shining fortnight and a dark fortnight, each of these periods ending by the full moon and the new moon.

Quick Tips:

Sometimes focusing on and capturing details is more interesting than trying to get the whole subject in the frame. Take a step forward and try to find a detail that could tell a story or even represent the subject without showing it.

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  • mediasres

    Which temple was this?

    • It’s Wat Sri Suphan, also known as the Silver Temple in Chiang Mai (on Wualai Road).

      • mediasres

        Thanks Daniel, will definitely head over there this week. Genesh is a big inspiration and the temple sounds beautiful. You know we’ve lived here a year and hadn’t even heard of the temple..TY. .