Ganesh Chaturthi becomes an online Festival across the world
The decorated Deity of Lord Ganesha at the home of the author Mallika Janakiraman (Photo Supplied)
Standfirst: Ganesh Chaturthi or Lord Ganesha’s Birthday will be marked by Hindus all over the world today- Friday, September 10, 2021. With Covid-19 imposing restrictions of large gatherings, Devotees have turned to electronic, online platforms to celebrate the single most important day in the Hindu Calendar. Mallika Janakiraman turns the pages of Sacred Scriptures of India to recount the importance of the Hindu God.
Ganesha or Vighnaharta, ‘Remover of All Obstacles,’ both of material and spiritual order, has 108 names to His credit. In any name or form, He reverberates the same energy to every devotee who surrenders at His feet to understand the mythology, the mystic and magic of Ganesh Chaturthi.
The Birth of Lord Ganesha
Lord Shiva was considered as Yaksha Swarupa (not of human origin) because of which Goddess Parvathi could not bear His child. Out of loneliness, Her desire and maternal instinct, She took a part of herself, the sandal paste that was on her body, mixed it with the local soil, made it in the form of a baby and breathed life into it – a little boy was created!
This may have been the very beginning of science and the phenomenal transformation from a single-cell organism to more complex forms of life, namely human beings.
Today, we understand the science of In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), a process through which a child is conceived outside a woman’s body.
(The Pooja Room in the home of Mallika Janakiraman- Photo Supplied)
The Mystic of Ganapathi
As told by Sadhguru, a few years later, when the boy was about ten years of age, Lord Shiva, a vivid traveller returned with his Ganas. Parvathi was having a bath and had told Her Son to stand guard and make sure that no one came that way. The boy stopped Shiva, as He had never seen him. Shiva, challenged by this and not willing to be stopped, took his sword and cut off the boy’s head.
Later, to appease Goddess Parvathi and contrary to the popular belief, His head was not replaced by that of an elephant; Lord Shiva took the head of one of the Ganas – his otherworldly companions. Ganas were not made on Earth, but they had limbs without bones. Therefore, the mythology and the mystic behind the image of Ganapati – the head of Ganas.
Over the years, artists used their creative liberty to draw an elephant face and a trunk to depict the limb without the bones.
Therefore, He is known as Ganesha, Ganapathi, Vinayaka but not Gajapathi.
Beyond the Mythology
Gana means a group and Isha or Pathi means the Lord, Ganesha, Ganapathi.
The Ganas are the letters or mantras of Sanskrit and Ganesha as ‘Om’ is their ruler. The Ganas are the pranas and sense organs, and Ganesha as the inner self is the foremost. The Ganas are the Tattvas, or universal truth principles, starting with the five elements, of which Ganesha as the inner self is the pivot.
The Ganas are the events and rhythms in time as the movement of Karma. Ganesha is the Lord of Karma, the cosmic intelligence that dispenses the fruits of our actions.
Lord Ganesha’s image of a huge body and an elephant face is insightful symbolism.
Vakra Tunda Mahakaya
Surya Koti Sama Prabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva
Sarva Kaaryeshu Sarvadaa
“I worship the Lord with a curved trunk and huge body with the effulgence of a core (ten million) Suns. Let Him remove the obstacles to all my deeds and lead me to fulfilment.”
The True Essence of Lord Ganesha (World Press)
The huge belly symbolises the created Universe. The elephant head is the symbol of Gyan, (wisdom, understanding and a discriminating intellect) that one must possess to attain perfection in life. The two tusks denote the two aspects of the human personality, wisdom and emotion. The right tusk represents wisdom, and the left tusk represents emotion. The broken left tusk conveys the idea that one must conquer emotions with wisdom to attain perfection. The large ears signify the need to listen to others and assimilate ideas. The trunk can hold anything and everything existent in this Universe, symbolising flexibility and adaptability to every situation or circumstance in life.
The eyes are said to possess natural deceptiveness that allows them to perceive objects to be bigger than what they really are, indicating that one should surrender pride and attain humility. The four arms of Lord Ganesha represent the four inner attributes of the subtle body, namely mind (Manas), intellect (Buddhi), ego (Ahamkara), and conditioned conscience (Chitta). The hand waving an axe is a symbol of the retrenchment of all desires, bearers of pain and suffering. The second-hand holds a whip and conveys that worldly attachments and desires should be rid of; the third hand, turned towards the devotee, is a pose of blessing, refuge and protection (Abhaya); the fourth hand holds a lotus flower (Padma), and it symbolises the highest goal of human evolution, the sweetness of the realised inner self.
The snake that runs around his waist represents energy in all forms. The big belly signifies that a person should face all pleasant and unpleasant experiences during his or her life span with patience and calmness.
(more than 1400 years)
Achieving the Ganesha Consciousness
Lord Ganesha uses the mouse as his Vahana (vehicle), representing the need to control ego. It is therefore said that one who controls his ego has Ganesha consciousness. Ganesh with a huge body and elephant head is close to the mouse which is a tiny creature. This indicates all lives are equal and it is the duty of every human to take care of the humble lives around.
The Magic of rituals and reasoning and some hidden truths: Of the many stories and versions, one is found in Mahabharata. Ganesha pulled out his left tusk when his quill began to wear out, to continue writing the Great Epic as recited by Maharishi Ved Vyasa.
Thus, he acquired the name of ‘Ekadantaya.’
Ganesha and Durva Grass
There is a fascinating story of how Lord Ganesha conquered an Asura (demon) known as ‘Analasur’ who tormented sages and saints. Taking the form of a child, Ganesha confronted the demon and a Sarvaksha (war of projectile weaponry, with eyes used as weapons) ensued. Then, Ganesha took the Virat Roopam (Giant) and gulped the Asura. As He did so, He felt a severe and unbearable burning sensation. Kashyap Muni and other sages showered 21 stacks of Durva grass all over Ganesha’s body and soon he was relieved of the suffering. It is therefore believed that Durva became His favourite herb. It is a household ritual to offer Durva stacks or garlands on His Birthday.
Bermuda Frass or Durva grass in Hindi and Sanskrit, Arugampul in Tamil, Karuka in Malayalam and Garikagaddi in Telugu has been used extensively in Ayurveda and Siddha forms of Medicine for thousands of years for its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. The Grass is used in the treatment of various ailments including piles, skin and eye problems, bleeding disorder and gynaecological problems.
Thoppukaranam: Super Brain Yoga
Legend has it that ‘Gajmukhasur,’ a demon, was creating havoc killing Devas and humans. Lord Ganesha intervened and during the fight, started swirling Gajmukhasur in the air. Frightened and to avoid getting hurt from the violent swirl, Devas and saints started bending down and performing the Thoppu Karanam as an act of self-defence. At the end of fight, it was victory of good over evil and the reason why Lord Ganesh is known as Gajamukha.
Thoppukaranam in Tamil, Uthak-Baithak in Hindi or Baski in Kannada is a ritual done by catching hold of the left earlobe with the right hand and the right earlobe with the left hand. The individual then performs repeated squats; breathing out as they come down into a squatting position and then breathing in as they come back up to the standing.
It was not only used as a form of corrective punishment that was actually aimed at enhancing brain function in slow learners but also used by devotees to pray forgiveness for mistakes caused intentionally or unintentionally.
In recent years, this form of exercise has gained popularity as Super Yoga in the West. This is another example of wisdom and evidence, based on Hindu traditions that even many Indians may not be aware.
Ganesha and His favourite Modak
Once the Devas came to visit Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi and gifted them a very special Modak with powers to make the person who ate it to become knowledgeable in all scriptures, science, art and writing. When Lord Ganesha and his brother Lord Kartik (or Lord Murugan, celebrated as The Tamil God) refused to share the Modak between them, Goddess Parvathi asked them to take a test to prove the true meaning of sincerity and devotion.
Kartik mounted on His Vahana, the Peacock and started visiting all the spiritual places while Lord Ganesha went around Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, on his mouse, indicating that ‘parents are the world for a child.’
Impressed by the enunciation of true devotion, Goddess Parvathi gave Ganesha the Modak. Modak (Moddakam in Tamil) is offered as a steamed delicacy at Ganesha Pooja.
Significance in India’s Freedom Struggle
Ganesh Chaturthi has acquired mass following in the past few decades, but its celebration goes back to 1892, when Krishnajipant Khasgiwale, a resident of Pune (Poona) visited Maratha-ruled Gwalior, where he witnessed the traditional public celebration and brought it to the attention of his friends Bhausaheb Rangari and Balasaheb Natu.
A royal physician and freedom fighter, Rangari inspired Lokmanya Tilak to turn Ganeshotsav into a Festival that instilled nationalistic fervour among Indians to fight the British.
He then installed the first ‘Sarvajanik’ or public Ganesha idol made of wood and bran that depicted the Deity killing a demon. The imagery was far from the usual calm and composed demeanour of Lord Ganesha, as it was symbolic of the victory of good over evil.
Thus, Ganesha represented India as a nation fighting for its freedom against the colonialists.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival observed worldwide and the Lord has become one of the most exported Gods from India.
Freedom fighter Bal Gangadar (Lokmanya) Tilak initiated the Ganesh Festival in Maharashtra in 1893, making it the most celebrated event in the State today (Photo from Pinterest)
Ganesh Chaturthi is the day the head transplant happened.
Ganesha is said to be the most energised on Ganesh Chaturthi, the main day of the year for His worship. That has also been my personal experience for almost 60 years.
Mallika Janakiraman is a Nutritionist by qualification and profession and has worked in multinationals such as PepsiCo and Nestle. She was also engaged in Social Media Marketing at Unitec. She lives in Auckland.