Ganesha, also known as Vinayaka, is the elephant-headed Hindu god of wisdom, literature and worldly success. He is thought to derive from an animistic deity, possibly a Dravidian (aboriginal) sun god. Ganesha is a propitious god, promising success, prosperity, and peace and is invoked before any sort of enterprise. It is his responsibility to decide between success and failure, to remove obstacles or create them as necessary. His potbelly symbolizes a pitcher full of prosperity, a sort of abdominal cornucopia.

Ganesha is said to have been the son of Parvati and Shiva. His task in life was to guard his mother and once while doing so he foolishly failed to recognize Shiva himself who had come seeking his consort. Trying to defend his mother's bath, Ganesha was beheaded by Shiva who later was persuaded by Parvati to revive him. He promised Ganesha that he should have the head of the first creature who happened along. An elephant, the wisest of animals, appeared and became the involuntary donor in the first successful head transplant in history.

Ganesha was a glutton. One evening, having stuffed himself to capacity, he decided to take a post-prandial ride on his favored mount, Mooshika, a rat or shrew. Along the moonlit road they chanced upon a large snake and the startled rat bolted, throwing the gross Ganesha. Ganesha fell heavily; he hit the ground so hard that his stomach burst open. Gathering up the remains of his self-esteem, his ample guts and the snake, Ganesha wittily used the reptile as a belt and tied himself up together again. Howls of derision shattered the peaceful scene; it was the moon who had witnessed the whole incident with great relish. Ganesha lost his temper and angrily looked about for something to throw at his tormentor. Finding nothing suitable, he ripped off one of his own tusks and hurled it at the moon. He added a vindictive curse that every so often the moon would lose its power of giving light.

Another explanation of his missing tusk is that he plucked it out in his enthusiasm to write down the Mahabharata, the Hindu religious epic, at the dictation of sage Vyasa. He was after all the Hindu god of literature. Would that all in the literary world were as kind, gentle and well meaning as Ganesha.