“Never had such a battle been fought outside a bathing room.”
Answer: from the account of the birth of Ganesha as told in the Svetavaraha, or the kalpa of the White Boar. (There are different versions for different kalpas, including one where Shiva and Parvati are so excited by the sight of elephants mating that they assume pachydermic form themselves and go at it vigorously right there in the jungle; the son subsequently born has an elephant’s head etc.)
The bare bones of the Svetavaraha version (familiar to most Amar Chitra Katha readers but well worth reading in a more elaborate, uncensored form) is that Parvati, annoyed by Shiva’s frequent intrusions into her bathing chambers, decides to create a son of her own who can be a loyal dwarapalaka (unlike Shiva’s pot-smoking ganas, who think it’s quite all right if a husband wants to enter the room where his wife is bathing, even if it’s only to peer at the naked sakhis who are bathing with her). Anyway, the valiant boy is fashioned out of the dirt she has washed from her body (it’s been a really long time since her last bath) and he proceeds to not only keep Shiva at bay but single-handedly defeat all the devas, ganas and other celestial beings who come to his aid (for the collective storming of the bathing room, one must pause to wonder?). Eventually, he is killed by deceit (Vishnu comes forth to wrestle with him, while Shiva lops off his head from behind), whereupon Parvati turns into the demoness Bhadrakaali, rolls her eyes horribly and threatens to destroy the world unless her son is revived. So they attach the head of a white elephant onto the headless trunk, and when Ganesha comes to life all the Gods are so relieved that they decide he will be worshipped before any of them.
It being Ganesha Chaturthi and all, I revisited the relevant chapter in one of my favourite books, Ramesh Menon’s vivid translation of the Siva Purana, and discovered many sentences (like the one at the top of this post) that are quite amusing when read in isolation. Examples:
“And I must bow to the whim of an arrogant obstinate woman who is my own wife? Thrash the boy. Kill him if you have to, or they will say Siva is henpecked.”
With his mother’s danda, he smashed the gana force like eggshells, laughing all the while in his clear, fresh voice.And my favourite:
Her terrifying karalis, hunchbacked kubjakas, lame kanjas and long-headed lambasirsas set about their task like fire in dry grass. They picked up deva and asura, rakshasa and Sivagana, and flung them into yawning maws like bits of candy.Stop gaping with your yawning maws. Go buy this book.
Update: given some of the enthusiastic early reactions to this post, I feel impelled to throw in a bonus from the Menon book. The section dealing with the birth of Karttikeya (who is destined to kill the tyrant Tarakasura) is even more exciting and contains the following passage, with the Gods waiting impatiently for the birth (or at least the conception) of Shiva's son:
Vishnu said, "The time has come and the constellations around the earth have reached their destined places. The heavens tremble with the mating of Siva and Parvati, yet he does not spill his seed. How will Rudra have a son unless he emits the flaming gold of his loins? Come, let us climb Kailasa."How will Rudra have a son unless he emits the flaming gold of his loins? Wouldn't you just know that cheeky fellow Vishnu would say something like this? (For a taste of what happens next, check this old post. And for more on scriptural seed-spilling, see this one about wondrous births in the Mahabharata.)