Thursday, September 20, 2007

he comes home on saturday and departs on sunday- the elephant god






om sri ganeshaya nama:

last saturday(15th september) was the day of ganesh chaturthi.i was returning from orissa where i had gone on work.while driving back home,i spoke to my daughter who informed me that she and her mom had bought a beautiful ganesha idol and were installing it in her home.she wanted me to come over and do the official puja.after all,i am the uncrowned priest of our family! whether it is a sacred thread ceremony,wedding,seemantham(baby shower),or the naming ceremony i am there around. my family members are reassured that should something happen to the chief priest and he doesn't turn up at least i am there,as a back-up, to see the function through.early this year my mom-in-law was greatly relieved when her archbishop(our family priest's pet name) dropped out at the last moment for an important religious function and i was available to substitute him. i am grateful to my family members to repose so much of faith in me.

during this month,many devotees take a vow that they will not kill any rat.mumbai's rodent population is massive. and for ten days they breath fresh air.the rat is the official vehicle of lord ganesha. each hindu god/ goddess has his/her own vehicle.the chairman of the bmc health committee is worried that eliminating rats,which they regularly do, will attract lord ganesha's curse.he has issued a diktat. "no killing of rats till visarjan(immersion) is over on ananthchaturthi day(25thSeptember). the joy of the rats knows no bounds. indeed they are having a field day.

lord ganesha's rat is lovingly called mooshika.actually he rides a mouse.an elephant god riding on a mouse.isn't that a huge paradox? and how does hinduism explain this puzzle? the sanskrit word mooshika is derived from the root'mush' which means stealing or robbing.our neighbour prez(musharaff) has no doubt an appropriate name. mooshika represents fear and nervousness. by praying to lord ganesha his devotees can earn his grace and overcome their fear,doubts and apprehensions. assured in the belief that the 'vignahartara' will remove all obstacles from the way.the rat is a destructive pest. and lord ganesha is around to keep the mouse under check. according to puranas,when lord ganesh was a child,a big mouse started terrorising all his friends.lord ganesh trapped him with his lasso and made him his mount.

mooshika was in his earlier birth a 'gandharva'(celestial musician). by mistake he walked over the feet of a rishi called 'vamadeva' who was absorbed in deep meditation.the rishi lost his temper and cursed that the gandharva be transformed into a mouse. later, when he calmed down, he promised mooshika that he will attain salvation one day by being the mount of lord ganesha.



my daughter had prepared some delicious modaks(lord ganesha's favourite) which we offered to the lord and did an aarti. the next day,again after puja,we took the idol to girgaum chowpatty and immersed it in the sea.there are young boys who volunteer to take the idol quite deep into the sea and immerse it. i hired one of them and walked with him till the water had reached my waist level and then handed over the idol to him for a safe immersion.

'ganpati bappa morya,putch varsha lavkar ya' (dear lord ganpati, our salutations to you,do come early next year). mumbai is in a joyous mood celebrating its biggest religious event of the year.matunga's gsb mandal had decked up its 21 feet ganesha idol with jewellery valued at rs 7 crores.60 kg gold and 175 kg silver.and 'lalbag cha raja' is no less wealthy. and do you know that if lord ganesha's trunk is turned to the left,it indicates spiritual blessings. and if it is turned to the right,it indicates prosperity,health and blessings.

lord ganesha is also called vinayaka because he was born without the intervention of man.vinayaka generates jealousy in shiva and provokes him to aggression.one day ganesha is beheaded by shiva.parvati is inconsolable in grief. and when shiva resurrects parvati's creation and appoints him as the leader of his followers(the pati of the ganas),ganesha represents the change in shiva .from a recluse hermit(hence parvati had to create ganesha from the turmeric in her body) to a householder.ganesha is the intellectual.unlike his brother karthikeya who is a superwarrior.he has an elephant's head,a pot belly and a serpent tied around his stomach.these signify shiva and shakthi,a merger of the god and goddess.soul and substance.wealth and wisdom are his wives(riddhi and siddhi). his daughter is santoshi,satisfaction.the rat which is symbolic of human problems of life is kept at bay.

why an elephant head? elephant is indra's vehicle.it signifies material abundance.elephants flank lakshmi,the goddess of wealth and prosperity,gajalakshmi.shiva is known as gajantaka.he who flays the elephant and uses its thick skin as his angavastra(upper garment).

lord ganesha is the god of learning and knowledge.through devotion to him one learns to be responsible,to differentiate between good and bad and develop farsightedness.he teaches discipline.he is easily pleased.just by offering him a little durva grass.this grass collected from mount kailas came to lord ganesha's rescue when after swallowing the great asura anlasur,he suffered a burning sensation in his stomach.anlasur was creating havoc swallowing saints,sages and innocent people alive.even lord indra could not contain him.all the gords rushed to lord shiva who suggested that only lord ganesha could help them as he was potbellied and could swallow anlasur.the moment he ate the durba grass the burning sensation vanished.

he is pleased to grant one's heartfelt desires.he is very fond of modak.modak is derived from two words,mode meaning pleasure and 'k' denoting a little bit.something that gives pleasure even when it is in a small quantity.he is fond of jaggery too.

whoever offers durba grass to lord ganesha becomes like kubera,the god of wealth.whoever offers rice and paddy achieves success and fame.and whoever offers a thousand laddoos to lord ganesha has his personal desires fulfilled.

10 comments:

Kavya said...

Hello Uncle...nice kozhakattais..I saw a closeup shots of them in lulu;s blog..mouthwatering :)

Thanks for the green chutney recipes....

gs said...

hello kavya
did you make kozhakattais too? and how did the chutney taste? :i)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, gs!

Another great post! I love that you're the unofficial priest of the family. Knowing the prayers and the ceremonies for all the different pujas is a very useful thing indeed.

I didn't know that Ganesh devotees take a vow not to kill rats over those 10 days...so I guess rat exterminators forgo business for 10 full days?

Is it true that you have to make sure that the Ganesh idol doesn't chip or crack while it is in your care? I was told that any damage (minor even) could bring on bad luck for the rest of the year?

Also once you bring a Ganesh idol home, is it true you can never break the practice?

As you know already, these are my favorite posts and I really enjoyed reading through this, thank you, thank you!

gs said...

HI LR
i know that you are very interested in our religious ceremonies and i think you already have a very good knowledge.one has to take the utmost care in ensuring that the idol is damge/crack fee.having said that, a chip or some slight crack really doesn't matter.i don't believe it brings bad luck.however if the crack is quite wide or the chip is very significant,it would be advisable to replace the idol. of course,this applies before installation of the idol.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, gs

I really love our ceremonies but having come from a fairly non-religious family I don't really know too much about them. I am planning to buy a book called "What You Will See Inside A Hindu Temple" by Mahendra and Vandana Jani so I can teach my kids. Wish you would write a book on Hindu customs and rites.

gs said...

hi lr
frankly,that would be a far cry.i am on a fulltime job and which includes a fair amount of travelling.maybe when i hang up my boots i would take on your suggestion.
but then "main hoon na".if you have any doubts or need any clarifications on any such topic under the sun do email me.i will give you an answer to the best of my ability.
i forgot to reply to your comment on whether when once you bring ganesha home,you should do so every year.my resposnse is that there is nothing in the shastras that say so.but,the happiness and auspiciousness about this ceremony is so profound that as far as possible one should,if begun,continue it.no adversity will befall if you discontinue it for personal reasons.

Kavya said...

No uncle...My mom was here and she made kozhakattais this year..The chutney was good and so was vada pav...

maya said...

very nice write up on ganesha. There were many things i had not known before. This year I decided not to subject poor pillaiyar to my kozhakattais (they were a disaster last year) and so we stuck to fruits and paal payasam this year.t

gs said...

hi maya
many thanks. kozhakattai is a toughie.you did the wise thing.your paal payasams are always a hit.lord ganesha must be pretty happy!you could have offered chundals too.

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