Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
It is a very popular belief that Ganesha worship came to South India from the north. The southerners are said to have worshipped Murugan and the northerners are said to have worshipped Vinayaka. It is also popular belief that the first Vinayaka idol was stolen to the south from Vatapi. Hence, many people believe that if the Vinayaka idol is stolen, it brings better luck to the stealer!!
Both these beliefs do not have a firm base.
Narasimha Pallava I aka Maamallan, one of India’s greatest kings, waged war on the Chalukya king Pulikesi in 642 AD. Paranjothi, the commander of the armed forces of Narasimha Pallava, worshipped the idol of Ganesha on the fort walls of Vatapi (the capital city of Pulikesi). He prayed that if they were successful in the war, he would take that sculpture to his native and worship it. The Pallavas were victorious and Vatapi was burnt. As promised, Paranjothi took the Ganesha sculpture alone and installed it in a shrine in Thiruchengaatukudi in Thiruvarur district. Paranjothi then became a Nayanar (a Shaivaite saint) and took on the name of Siruthondar.
Paranjothi didn’t steal the sculpture! It was his prize capture upon a victorious battle.
Appar and Sambandar who lived during Narasimha Pallavan’s period have sung verses praise of Pillayaar. If people knew how to worship Ganesha, it means it existed signifying that worship of Ganesha in South India predates the Pallava conquest of Vatapi.
Pillayaarpatti is a village in the Sivaganga district of Tamilnadu. The main Pillayaar statue is carved out of a rock in the cave. This statue is dated is 4th century AD, more than two centuries before the Vatapi conquest.
References to Vinayagar are found in Purananuru, which is dated circa 500 BC.
1) tan2tOL nAn2kin2 on2Rukai mikUum
kaLiRuvaLar peruG kATAyin2um
oLiperitu ciRantan2Ru aLiyaven2 neJcE
2) taTantATku otta taman2iyac cilampu
paTantAz kaccaip pAmpoTu miLira
ven2RATu tiruttAtai viyantukai tuTikoTTa
nin2RATu mazakaLiRRai nin2aivArE vin2aiyilarE
All these are clear evidences to show that worship of Pillayaar existed in South India much before the reign of Narasimha Pallava I. And Paranjothi never stole the Vinayakar statue from Vatapi!!
What rumours people have spread!!
It is only fact the Ganesha worship became popular after the successful Vatapi siege. Previously, Murugan was a more popular deity in the south. Post victory in Vatapi, we have almost equal Pillayaar and Murugan worship.
And stealing Vinayaka idols will not bring anyone luck! So just be careful in case you were planning something.