(I call this a story and not the story of Ganesha because there are many versions. This one is the most popular.)
There are two Hindu deities who were married named Shiva and Parvati.
Shiva was out for a long trip, doing what a god does when they are away. Parvati was at home and wanted to take a bath but there were no attendants around to make sure that no one walked in on her. So, Parvati became super creative and made a boy out of clay and turmeric then she breathed life into him. She told him to go watch the front door so that she wouldn’t be bothered during her bath.
Being a good bit of clay and turmeric, Ganesha did what he was commanded and stood by the door. Well wouldn’t you know it- Shiva comes home and he is a little miffed that someone he doesn’t know is blocking his door. So Shiva tells Ganesha to move out of the way. Ganesha doesn’t budge because Parvati had told him not to let anyone in and because Ganesha could only hear the words spoken by his mother. In my head the confrontation went like this:
Shiva: Oh hey. I’m back. Can you please move so that I can get in?
Shiva: You must be new here. That’s cool. This is kinda my place. Move, please. (Reaches for doorknob.)
Ganesha: (Still silent and unmoving.)
Shiva: Wait- is that my wife in the bath? What the hell is going on?
Shiva, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly (more stories about him to come in this blog), takes out his weapon and starts fighting with Ganesha. Ganesha of course loses and Shiva chops off his head with such force that the head gets knocked somewhere (Spoiler alert). The poor weird kid was only alive for like 15 minutes (depending on how long Parvati spent in baths); he never even got to see Paris.
Parvati finally gets out of the bath and figures out what happened. She is livid at the fact her husband just cut off the head of the person she had just created. She tells Shiva that he must bring Ganesha back to life immediately. And for all you couples out there, just think about what would have happened to Shiva if he said no to her request. Knowing that Ganesha would need a head to live, Shiva went looking for it but because his weapon was so powerful, the head was flung somewhere and could not be found. The conversation that followed probably went like this:
Shiva: (eyes downcast) Remember that guy you created and I accidently cut off his head? Yeah…anyway… I can’t find his head.
Parvati: (calmly- so you know she is very mad) What do you mean you can’t find it?
Shiva: I smacked it so hard I have no idea where it went.
Parvati: (hands on hips) Well, you better find him a head or so help me, I will destroy all of Creation!
Brahma: Whoa, lady…calm down! I made all of Creation. You can’t destroy it.
This is probably when Shiva and Parvati were a little annoyed that Brahma was listening to their fight. Brahma gets Parvati to not destroy everything if Brahma breathes life into Ganesha (after he has a head, of course) and if Ganesha is made a god. Brahma agrees and Shiva sends his armies out to look for a sleeping animal whose head is facing north. The first animal they came across was an elephant. And that is how Ganesha got his elephant head.