By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Ghantakarna, GhaNTAkarNa, Ghantaakarna
Ghaṇṭākarṇa literally means ‘one wearing bells on the ears’.
Ghaṇṭākarṇa was a great devotee who went to a great extent for the worship of his iṣṭadevatā or chosen deity. He was a staunch devotee of Śiva and an inveterate hater of Viṣṇu. He could not stand even listening to the name of Viṣṇu. He used to hang two bells from his ears, so that their sound could cover the sound of the name of Viṣṇu if ever uttered by anyone in his presence. However, he overcame this abhorrence towards Viṣṇu and became his devotee due to the intervention of Śiva.
According to another story, Ghaṇṭa and Karna were the two rāksasa brothers who attained salvation by propitiating Viṣṇu through severe austerities.
Ghaṇṭākarṇa was also the name of a terrible goblin created by Śiva to eradicate cutaneous diseases like small pox. In course of time, he became a minor village deity established in his own temple and worshiped by villagers. By his grace several diseases, especially those born out of sins committed in the previous lives are cured. His image has 18 hands holding several articles like:
- Vajra - thunderbolt
According to another version in the purāṇas, Ghaṇṭākarṇa was a ghoul devoted to Viṣṇu. He was ultimately saved by Kṛṣṇa.
Ghaṇṭākarṇa is counted among the attendants of Skanda (Subrahmaṇya) and Kubera, the lord of wealth presiding over the northern quarter.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore