Mooshika, the mouse wasn’t always a mouse. He was, once upon a time, a gandharva named Kroncha who lived in Indra’s heaven, the Devaloka. Gandharvas were the celestial musicians to whose tunes the exquisite nymphs, the apsaras, danced. Handsome as they were, the gandharvas were not exactly very bright.

One day, while rushing out of the palace hall, Kroncha accidentally stepped on the feet of Sage Vamadeva, who was, unfortunately for the both of them, coming that way. Now, our sages, for all their wisdom, are not exactly patient and tolerant of little slips, be it from man, god or, in this case, demi-god. “Sorry!” said Kroncha in a small voice.

“How dare you step on my toes, you foolish being? For your lack of respect, I curse you . . . to become a mouse!” thundered the angry maharishi. Poor Kroncha was shocked, frightened and shaken with grief.

Cursing his misfortune (silently, of course), he fell at the rishi’s feet, crying, “Have mercy on me, oh learned one, please forgive my foolish mistake. You know us gandharvas, we do not mean to be unpleasant to anyone, especially venerated beings such as your esteemed self.” He would not let go until the sage cooled down a little and had a slight change of heart. It helped that the sage was feeling a little uncomfortable with someone clinging to his legs so tightly. “All right, all right,” said the rishi. “I will do something. I will make you an honourable mouse. You will become the vahana of Devi Parvati’s son, Ganesha, and a day will come when even the gods will bow before you.”

A curse is a curse and Kroncha found himself turned into a mouse. But no ordinary mouse did he become. He began to grow and grow and very soon became as huge as a mountain – a monster mouse! But sadly, he was no longer affable and bumbling. He began to destroy everything in sight and terrorised everyone wherever he went. And where did he end up? At the hermitage of another rishi, Sage Parashara, where Ganesha, in the form of his incarnation Gajanana, was growing up. Ganesha, like most other Hindu gods, had several incarnations too.

On seeing the giant creature and the trouble he was creating, little Gajanana took a lasso and flung it at the mouse. Yes, our elephant-headed god could be quite the cowboy when he pleased! The lasso found its target and soon he was tightening the noose around the neck of the monster mouse.

A frightened Kroncha was crying in pain. “Stop! Arrrrgh!” Soon enough Ganesha got on to the back of the giant mouse he had so playfully tamed. “Oooooh, you’re crushing me . . . I’m sooooo . . . sorry for everything! Please, please stop!” cried the mouse. A giant mouse being crushed by the weight of a mere elephant-headed boy? Well, in this case, the boy was a god.

“You’re really sorry, aren’t you? Since you have asked for forgiveness, I will pardon you. But from this day, you will be my vahana, my own private mode of transport, taking me wherever I wish to go,” said Ganesha. “But, but . . . you are so heavy,” whispered the monster mouse. Ganesha smiled and instantly became light as a feather. The mouse could now carry him around easily. From that day on, Mooshika, the mouse (for that’s what he came to be called), became Ganesha’s vehicle, companion and playmate.

Excerpted with permission from ‘How Ganesha Met His Mouse’, Tails and Tales: Animal Tales From Indian Mythology, Reeja Radhakrishnan, illustrations by Megha Punater, Puffin.