Lord Ganpati, the cutest of the Gods in the Hindu pantheon is being celebrated and revered as a personal guest in every household that has brought him home this year on Ganesh Chaturthi
By Manjulaa Shirodkar
The fourth day of Shukl Paksh in the month of Bhadrapada, as per the lunar calendar, is celebrated as Vinayak Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi across India. However, the fervour with which it is celebrated in the central Indian state of Maharashtra, is incomparable to the rest of the country.
Huge idols of Ganpati (as Lord Ganesha is lovingly called) are installed in public places and throngs visit these pandals for a darshan and to seek His Blessings. Not just this, almost all Maharashtrian and now non-Maharashtrian households too, bring home their own idol of Ganpati and reverentially worship it before immersing it into the waters a few days later – sending Him back home as it were.
The mood across the Central Indian state is one of festivity, cheer and joy as the cutest of the Gods in the Hindu pantheon is celebrated and revered as a personal guest in every household that chooses to bring him home. The festival is as huge as Diwali and celebrated with sweets, special dishes and new clothes especially made for the occasion.Relatives and friends are invited home to seek the Lord’s blessings.
However, as a Hindu hailing from Northern India I observed that, Vinayak Chaturthi was not a festival which was celebrated with such grand enthusiasm in Delhi. It was but one of the many festivals that we Hindus had round the year and acknowledged as being dedicated to Lord Ganesha – as his birthday.
Still, with my interest and ever growing faith in our traditions, rituals and religion per se, September of 2012 saw me bring home my first ever Ganpati with much fanfare. Since, at the time, I wasn’t in sync with the Maharashtrian rituals, I went about venerating Him as I knew how.
A panditji was duly requested to preside over the daily puja that would be conducted over the next 11 days, with sweets and prasad being made at home. Everyday, our Ganpati was bathed and dressed in new clothes, decked up with fresh flowers and lovingly offered incense and modaks or laddoos alongwith durba (shoots of tender grass), coconuts and bananas – his favourite foods.
One of us was always home to make sure He didn’t feel lost or alone and the house was not to be locked during these days. Mornings and evenings had the whole household, including house helps, friends, relatives joining in lustily to sing Aarti and bhajans for the Lord.
In short, the love and affection for Ganpati increased manifold as everyone joined me in celebrating these very special days. As per custom, He was dutifully and respectfully sent home a few days later, after immersion in the Yamuna waters– after undertaking a promise from Him to return the following year!
What many would consider coincidence, I call a miracle. Within two months of celebrating Vinayak Chaturthi thus, I was able to begin construction on a plot of land that I had purchased two years prior. Some thing or the other had stalled that project until then.
In March the following year, I met my partner – now husband, a true blue Maharashtrian from Mumbai. I had always wanted to live in Mumbai but work and home responsibilities had not accorded me that opportunity. Now, I was to be married and shift cities.
All the other work – small or big, that had been hindered for one reason or the other, suddenly seem to be getting done on its own with no obstruction whatsoever. As I reflect upon these changes that occurred almost imperceptibly in my life in the months immediately after Ganesh Chaturthi, I realize that it heralded a change from some very tough times that I had been living before this. And truly, our Vighnaharta (one of Lord Ganesha’s many names) had indeed removed obstacles from my path and life.
But I am not alone, when I speak of miracles. Many of us may recall the frenzy of Lord Ganesha drinking milk across temples worldwide, one fine day in September 1995. It is still considered somewhat of a miracle by millions that the Lord himself should appear before a devotee in his dream and ask for milk and then proceed to drink gallons of it in temples the world over. Scientists may have been dismissive about the phenomena as capillary action, but the larger point of the story is this.
That our Lord is not someone distant or another. He is very much a part of us and our lives everyday. We love Him, talk to Him, welcome Him into our homes, fight with Him when annoyed or upset and cajole Him just as we would someone we know in the physical form and in a body we recognize. To us Hindus, Gods are very much a part of our being.
Ganpati especially is invoked before every act, and worshipped before any other God or Goddess. He is a powerful and immediate presence in everyone’s lives. Also known as Vigneshwara, the Lord of obstacles, he creates them when we steer off our path in life and removes the same as Vighnaharta, when we are on the right path and our success is guaranteed.
As Ekdanta or the Single Tusked One, he is the patron who undertook to write the epic Mahabharat when Maharishi Vyas sat down to recite it. He is the Lord of wisdom and knowledge and is said to be the material manifestation of the mind, or Manas. He’s there to steady our mind and removed our fickle and distracting thoughts. He opens doors for us as we evolve and progress.
For those who still cannot wrap their heads around the miracles that the faithful see and experience in their daily lives, I can only say, miracles happen to those who believe. Being steeped in science is great, but surrendering to a Force you may not fully grasp is another level of being altogether. Try it, who knows you may experience a miracle all of your own.
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Manjulaa Shirodkar (nee Negi) is an established film critic and author, having worked in leading national publications. She is also a Film Selection Committee member for various film festivals.