This is a tale that describes the wisdom of the great Lord Ganesh, son of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
Lord Ganesh being the elder son, was full of patience and wisdom. Lord Karthik, his brother, on the other hand, was impish and playful. But both of them were intelligent and powerful.
The two brothers had much difference in their physique. While Ganesh had a massive body with a big belly and an elephant’s head, young Karthik was a beautiful boy with strong limbs. They were kind to everybody and were loved by all.
Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi loved their two children and they in turn were devoted to their parents. The Devas (deities) were pleased with the lovely divine children and they worshipped them.
But one day, as the Devas talked about the qualities of the brothers, a doubt arose in the mind of one of them.
“Who is the wiser of the two brothers?” he asked the others “Ganesh or Karthik?”
Soon this doubt spread to all the Devas. All of them were talking and expressing their opinion about the matter. But no one could surely decide upon the matter. As they racked their brains to solve the issue, suddenly, a Deva got an idea.
“I know whom to ask!”, said he. As others looked at him curiously, he continued, “Lord Brahma. He is the Creator of the world. He should know the answer, so let’s ask him! He can surely solve this doubt.”
Without any more delay, the Devas rushed to Brahma and asked their Creator about their doubt. Brahma was surprised to see all the deities, together.
“Such a pleasant surprise! What brings you here?”
The Devas told Brahma about their doubt. “O lord Brahma, who is the wiser brother?”, asked they, “Ganesh or Karthik?”
“Alas, I do not know!” replied Brahma. “I am the creator of mankind, not divine beings. Ganesh and Karthik were born to the celestial gods Shiva and Parvathi.”
The Devas were disappointed. Even the great Brahma did not know! Then they would not be able to have an answer, after all.
Looking at their glum faces, Lord Brahma decided to help them. “It is true that I do not know who is the wiser of the two young Gods”, he thought. “But I can probably find it out with the help of my son, Narada”.
Narada, the son of Lord Brahma, was a mischievous and trickster sage who was famous for creating disputes. Wherever he went, he created trouble.
But if he got away with all his pranks and without getting cursed it was only because the trouble he caused usually ended on a happy note.
“Narada, help the Devas. Find the answer to their question,” said Brahma after explaining the problem.
“Certainly, Father,” replied Narada, and his eyes twinkled naughtily, smelling an opportunity to play a prank.
Using his magical powers Narada swiftly flew over the white mountains of Kailash and, in no time, arrived at the divine abode of Shiva and Parvathi. He was warmly welcomed by the heavenly couple.
“O Shiva, Savior of the Universe!, O Devi Parvathi !” Narada praised the lord. “I thank you for your warm welcome. It is indeed a pleasant joy and an honor to see you both together as the Divine couple”.
Everyone knew about Narada’s mischievous nature. Shiva understood that Narada was up to some mischief. “Now tell us the truth. I can sense some mischief brewing in your mind. What is the prank you are planning to play on us?” he said jokingly.
Narada pretended to be hurt. “You greatly insult me, Lord Shiva! I have just come here to give you a gift,” he said in a sorrowful voice.
“A gift for me? What is it Narada?”, asked Lord Shiva. Narada, hearing the eagerness in Shiva’s voice smiled to himself in amusement. He produced a golden mango and gave it to the Lord.
“A mango!” exclaimed Shiva. “Now don’t say you traveled all the way here to give me this fruit.”
“It is no ordinary fruit, my Lord,” Narada replied. “The taste of this fruit is said to be sweeter than nectar. This is the divine fruit of knowledge that bestows eternal wisdom to those who eat it.
“Is it so?” asked Shiva, looking at the mango. He then asked his wife Parvathi to have a bite.
“No, stop!” cried Narada. “What are you doing?”
Lord Shiva looked at Narada curiously. “Why? Do you want me to eat it without letting Parvathi taste it? I am going to share it with her”. Saying so, he turned to share the fruit with his wife, Goddess Parvathi.
Narada shook his head in disagreement. “That cannot be done, Lord Shiva. It is a magical fruit, blessed by the sages and Devas. It is not possible to cut the mango into pieces. It should be eaten by a single person as a whole fruit”.
The divine couple looked at each other. They were confused. Then Lord Shiva shrugged. “If that is the case, let my better half have this fruit. Here Parvathi, you can have this whole mango,” he said, offering the mango to his wife.
Parvathi was surprised. “Oh no, I don’t want it! You are my husband. How can I eat it without you having a taste of it?” she refused.
Both Lord Shiva and Narada requested her to eat the fruit but Parvathi steadily declined. “Instead, let one of our children have the fruit,” she suggested.
“But, how is that possible?” asked Narada slyly. “There is one fruit and two children. Who should be given the fruit – Ganesh or Karthik?”
While the elders were talking, Ganesh and Karthik appeared in Mount Kailash. They saw that their parents and Sage Narada were having some serious talk on something. Then Karthik noticed something yellow and round in Narada’s hand.
“What is Uncle Narada having in his hand ?” Karthik asked to Ganesh. Ganesh was equally curious.
“This is a magical mango, Karthik, “Narada replied, as he heard Karthik’s question. “I gave it to your Father but he wanted your Mother to eat it. But she won’t have it. She wants to give it to one of you”.
“A magical mango? I love mangoes!”, shouted Karthik, “I want it! I want it!”.
“No, no, it should come to me. I love mangoes too! I’m the eldest son and the right one to eat the fruit,” argued Ganesh. Soon the brothers started fighting.
The divine parents were perplexed. Lord Shiva looked at Narada. “So.. This is why you came to Kailash! I knew it! I knew there was something in your mind. Well done Narada, you have finally played the trick. This is why you came here. But now that you have created trouble, please solve it. You decide to whom the mango should go to,” he said firmly.
Narada was delighted that his plan was working so well. “Why don’t we could have a competition to settle the matter?” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
The children agreed to Narada’s suggestion. Lord Shiva thought over the matter.
“All right, then.” said he, “We’ll have a contest. Whoever of you goes around the world three times and returns first will get the fruit ,” he said to his children.
Hearing this, Karthik immediately mounted on his vehicle, the peacock. His brother Ganesh was slow and fat. Karthik laughed to himself in glee. He was very certain that he would win.
Ganesh too, understood that his vehicle, the mouse, could not compete with the peacock’s speed. So he thought for a moment. Suddenly, he got an idea. Ganesh smiled to himself.
Karthik with no further patience, flew around the world stopping at all temples and sacred spots on the way and offering his prayers. To his astonishment, after circling the world three times, he found Ganesh to be the first one to arrive. Karthik was puzzled. How did Ganesh managed to be so fast?
The reason was the razor-sharp intelligence and the great wisdom of Ganesh. Back in Kailash, Ganesh remembered that his parents Shiva and Parvathi represented the entire universe. Without delay, the young elephant-headed god walked around his parents with great devotion, folding his hands, circling around them three times.
“Why are you circling us Ganesh?” asked Lord Shiva.
“I’m your son and to me, you two make up my whole world. Why should I go further to win the contest?” replied Ganesh.
Shiva was pleased with his elder son’s smart answer and gave the magical fruit to him.
When Karthik returned after his voyage, he learned and understood what had happened and accepted the superiority of his clever brother Ganesh. The Devas found the answer to their doubt. They praised and blessed Ganesh.
Narada chuckled to himself. He succeeded in the task of knowing who is the wisest of the two. Narada’s father, Lord Brahma had praised Narada too for solving the matter. So did the Devas.