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In many idols of lord Ganesha, I saw that the left tusk is broken.

lord Ganesha with broken tusk

Credit: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/64.102

What is the story behind that broken tusk? Does it signify something?

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  • The incident that caused the tusk is explained in the above answers where Ganesh tries to stop Lord Parashurama from entering Kailash. It is said that Ganesha is made the first Devatha for receiving Avirbhagam(offerings in Yajna) after this incident, due to the recognition of his patience and tolerance by Lord Vishnu. The more important symbolic meaning behind the broken tusk is that Buddhi(symbolized broken tusk) should always be less than Shraddha or faith(symbolized by full tusk). This is one of the many symbolisms attributed to the broken tusk.
    – Naveen
    Apr 4 '15 at 18:02
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The story of how Ganesha broke his tusk is recounted in this excerpt from the Upodghata Pada of the Brahmanda Purana. Parashurama, the axe-wielding incarnation of Vishnu, had sucessfully defeated his enemy Kartavirya Arjuna and the kings allied with him, and so he wanted to thank Shiva for giving him the power to fight these enemies. Parashurama went to Mount Kailash to pay his obeisances to Shiva, but Ganesha stopped him, saying his father was sleeping along with his mother, and he didn't want Parashurama intruding on them in case they might be engaged in amorous pursuits. Parashurama was enraged that he was being prevented from seeing Shiva, and so he started fighting Ganesha. Ganesha was winning handily, but then Parashurama threw his axe at Ganesha and Ganesha didn't fight back against it, because the axe was a gift from Shiva: enter image description here

Perceiving that the axe had been given to him by his father, Ganesha became desirous of meaning it not to go in vain. Hence he received it with his left tooth (tusk). Chopped off by the axe, the tusk fell on the ground, covered with blood like a mountain that fell on the ground when struck by Indra's thunderbolt.

Note that there are other stories about Ganesha losing his tusk, most famously the story included in some manuscripts of the Mahabharata concerning Ganesha breaking his own tusk off to continue writing the Mahabharata as Vyasa was dictating it to him. But this story is widely agreed by scholars to be a later interpolation, and it's not found in any critical editions of the Mahabharata, and you can see for yourself that it's not even included in this translation of chapter 1 of the Adi Parva. So the most prominent story that's actually grounded in scripture is the one I gave above.

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  • Who is the author of the cited excerpt from the Upodghata Pada? Based on the description of the reason behind Ganapathy stopping Parashurama, this seems to from an author with a bent for Freudian interpretation of Hindu scriptures.
    – Naveen
    Apr 4 '15 at 16:51
  • @Naveen The excerpt is from the verse-by-verse translation published by the Indian publishing company Motilalal Banarsidass, and it's written by G.V. Tagare. You can read the whole thing in my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/6738/… In any case, the translation isn't doing any Freudian interpretation or anything. It's accurately conveying the original Sanskrit meaning: sanskritdocuments.org/doc_trial/fortransfer/brahmANDapurANa.itx The excerpted portion starts from where it says 2\.41\.15|| Apr 4 '15 at 17:10
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    Does shiva really need all this copulation business?? since he is yogi and also mahdeva thus he as total control over his desires why would ganesha think of such acts?
    – Yogi
    Sep 26 '15 at 19:58
  • @Yogi Of course Shiva doesn't "need" to do it. Shiva and Parvati do it out of divine love, not out of base human instincts. In any case, this isn't the only story where Shiva and Parvati engage in amorous pursuits; it's also mentioned in the Bala Kanda of the Ramayana, and as I discuss in this answer it's mentioned in the Padma Purana: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/122/36 Sep 26 '15 at 20:05
  • And why is it so that only shiva has such persuits and not shri vishnu?? ( I don't mean to be offending to anyone specially vaishnavs) I've not found any single instance in shastras like this for shri vishnu
    – Yogi
    Sep 26 '15 at 20:12
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Skanda Purana narrates different story for his broken tusk. It says Lord Ganesha broke his own tusk for YOGADANDA.

Chapter 10 "Shiva Swallowing Poison" of Skanda Purana says

He (Ganesha) pulled out his own huge tooth for sake of "Yogadanda" (the mystic wand of Yogic practice) and held it in his hand.

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