Insatiable fondness for Ganesh Chaturthi

Lata Jain

In today’s global village, you don’t have to be Hindu to worship Ganesh, the elephant god. He is known as the remover of obstacles, a deity of prosperity and the lord of new beginnings.

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the major festivals celebrated in India with great enthusiasm and devotion. The festival marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha; the Lord of knowledge, wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. The festival is also known as Vinayak Chaturthi or Vinayak Chavithi. This day, observed as one of the most auspicious in the Hindu religion, is widely celebrated especially in the state of Maharashtra history.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi finds its origin in the Maratha reign, with Chatrapati Shivaji starting the festival. The belief lays in the story of the birth of Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

The 10-day-long festival represents the typical Indian celebratory madness, with colours, music and dance. It is mainly observed in Maharashtra, Gujarat and South India and mostly falls in the month of Bhadra, i.e, from mid August to mid September, according to the Hindu calendar.

According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvati created a little boy by using her sandalwood paste in Lord Shiva’s absence. She asked him to guard the entrance while she was bathing. As he didn’t know who Shiva is, the child got into a tiff with him when Shiva tried to enter. An angry Shiva severed the head of the boy, enraging Parvati.

Witnessing her pain and anger, Shiva promised to bring back the boy. He asked Brahma and his followers to bring back the head of the first creature they see with its head facing north. They brought back the head of a mighty elephant, which Shiva placed on the boy’s body and brought him back to life. He was then named as Ganesh. That’s how Gajanana was born.

A ritual known as Pranapratishhtha, that involves chanting of mantras by the priest, is a common sight during the occasion.

The festival also was a rallying point for the Indians against the British rule. Among the different aspects of the festival, there is a saying that on the Ganesh Chaturthi day, one should not see the moon; else one will face false allegations in the coming year. The story behind that belief is set in Indian mythology.

One day, the celestial wandering sage, Narada, arrived at the kingdom of Ugrasena where Lord Krishna was staying. With the intent of having a Darshan of his Lord, he entered the sanctum. Whichever room the Lord decides to reside becomes the sanctum sanctorum right? When he went in, to his great shock, he found the Lord of the universe in a downcast mood! Approaching him, Narada asked,

“Lord! What is it that is bothering you so much that the eternal smile on your face seems to have faded away? Share it with this humble servant of yours…”

Krishna looked up at Narada and a weak smile broke out on his face.

“What shall I say Narada? The events of the past few days have been intriguing and perplexing at the same time. I do not seem to understand what is happening.”

“Oh my god! Lord, if you speak in this manner in spite of being omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, then what should be the fate of ordinary people? Please divulge what happened. I know that this is all part of your drama but I would like to play my role to perfection.”

When Narada implored him thus, Krishna began his elaborate response.

“You definitely are familiar with the name Satrajit. He is a nobleman in one of our subsidiary kingdoms. More importantly, he is an ardent devotee of Surya, the Sun God. Pleased with his devotion and worship, Surya appeared before him and presented him with the unmatched Syamantaka gem.”

“Ah! That gem which multiplies wealth and provides the owner with several measures of gold daily?”

“Exactly the same Narada! The brilliance of the jewel is such that on one occasion, when Satrajit came to visit me at Mathura, people mistook him for the Sun God, Surya!”

“They cannot be blamed my Lord”, said Narada, “when often, the celestials do come down on earth to meet you.”

“Ah yes Narada! See, today the celestial sage has come to meet me.”

“Do not pull my legs Krishna. It is my privilege to be in your presence today. Please continue your narrative.”

“The jewel was producing about 170 pounds of gold every day. Besides that, it is learned from Vedic literature that in whatever part of the world this jewel is worshiped there is no possibility of famine. I felt that such a gem should be owned by the monarch so that the whole world could benefit. I made that request to him. But Satrajit refused and installed the jewel in a personal temple to be worshiped by brahmanas (priests) whom he engaged for this purpose.”

Narada could not contain himself. He said,

“This is an instance of a less intelligent person worshiping the creation instead of the creator. Satrajit missed a golden opportunity. Instead of offering everything to the divine, he chose to go against the divine for the sake of worldly riches.”

Until next year, until a bigger, louder, richer Ganesh festival.

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