Monday, September 9, 2013

Ganesh Chaturthi

~Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha ~

(Ganesh in our home)

My most favorite Hindu God is Ganesh, and today is his birthday!

I don't know why I love Ganesh so much - I was always drawn to him in particular out of all the Hindu deities. In a way, he speaks to me like a kindred spirit. I was actually fascinated by him from when I was a little girl, and then I just happened to marry a Hindu man (coincidence? I think not!) Now, whenever we go back to India, I like to collect idols of him and give them to friends and family, as well as for our house. I'm just waiting for the chance to celebrate this festival in India itself which would be absolutely amazing.

For those of you who don't know, Ganesh is the elephant God who is prayed to for removing obstacles, success, triumphs over adversity, new beginnings, and wisdom. You'll notice that during a religious ceremony, he will usually be prayed to first before starting anything. Even during a Bharat Natyam performance, he is prayed to by honouring him at the beginning of the dance.

The legend of Ganesh is that the goddess Parvati (who is seen as his mother) created him to guard the door and protect her while she took her daily baths. Shiva (Parvati's husband) returned and Ganesh wouldn't let him in. Shiva got mad and called his followers to destroy Ganesh, and one-by-one Ganesh defeated them all. He wanted to protect his mother at all costs. Even Indra (the king of the Gods) tried to defeat him but he didn't stand a chance. Ganesh was too strong. Shiva then cut off his head and Parvati totally flipped out. She vowed to destroy the universe unless Ganesh was brought back to life. The trinity searched the world for a head and came across an elephant - thus, Ganesh became the elephant-headed God.

Ganesh is not just celebrated in Hinduism, as he is also popular in Jainism and Buddhism as well. He is one of the most loved Gods all across India. His iconography is hugely depicted in Indian Art, in both paintings and sculptures. I did a series' of paintings on him 4 years ago and during that process I learned the meaning behind his symbolic iconography.

Ganesh symbolism

- large elephant head: wisdom
- large ears: good listener to his devotees
- elephant trunk: ability to know between good and evil
- one broken tusk: sacrifice of growing wisdom
- snake on shoulder: rising kundalini
- conch shell: call of prayer
- lotus flower: symbol of greater spiritual rebirths
- sweets in hand: sweetness of rewards
- goad: towards enlightenment
- ax/sword: cuts attachment
- trident: the power of love, wisdom and action
- upraised hand: protection and sanctuary for devotees
- large round stomach: universe
- mice at feet: ability of Ganesh to reach everywhere


In our house, we have a Ganesh near the front of our door, and we also have an idol that faces South East towards the rising sun. During our wedding, we also had our Ganesh at the entranceway. When I researched more about him online, I noticed that he is also the patron of writing, which I was so happy to find out about considering I'm so passionate about my writing! In fact, 2 of his idols watch over me from my favorite writing spot!

(Ganesh at our wedding entranceway)

The Ganesh Chaturthi festival is celebrated annually in early Autumn and it lasts for ten days. Idols are usually immersed in water on a specific day (usually an odd-numbered day) depending on the family traditions. There are huge street festivals with giant hand-painted Ganesh idols (by giant, I mean some are as tall as buildings!) It is a very jolly, happy festival, and a lot of people celebrate it out on the streets which gives it "the more the merrier" feel.

Today is a great day to honour Ganesh and say a prayer to him to remove any obstacle that you are facing and for greater wisdom in your life. Say a prayer or chant to his idol and offer him some sweets, fruits or flowers. You can also submerge his idol in water or light a diya (candle or ghee lamp) for him.

~Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha ~

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Readers, are you familiar with Ganesh? How do you celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in your homes?


Wishing all my wonderful readers a Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!!!!!


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3 comments

  1. Lord Shiva is my favorite God because he is very naive and also my love for Srisailam (pilgrim place in AP). I went there the first time when I was 13 years old and fell in love with the place since then. It is heaven for me. I might be partial because it is Lord Shiva's place. lol.

    That said Ganesha is very special to me. Every year, school started in mid-June and vinayaka chavithi was in aug-sept. We put our books in front of Ganesha and ask him to remove any obstacles in our school year and give us wisdom. This puja is so close to my heart because our family did everything together. I actually believe that my dedication to this puja and love for Ganesh, Saraswathi helped me with my education until now.
    After I came to US, I was in a major accident, and my car got totaled. I thought I was going to die at the same moment, I saw Ganesha's image before me. I got out of the accident without a scratch. It might be just my brain doing its tricks, but I think that shows how much he means to me.
    Your post is really informative. I have a small thing to point out, I might be wrong because the story of vinayaka chavithi might differ from state to state or even from family to family.
    It is my understanding that Vinayaka Chavithi is the day when Ganesha was made the head/leader of preventing the obstacles. When I was a kid, I thought it was Ganesha's birthday too but later when I read the story by myself, I realized that it is the day when he is made the head of preventing obstacles. Not a big deal like I said before. It is the day when the moon laughed at Ganesh as his tummy was full, and he was not able to bend down to touch his parent's feet. That caused Ganesha's tummy to burst and die and so Godess Parvathi cursed moon that who ever see's him will be accused of the wrongful doings. That is why we read the story and put akshatha in our head. The story jumps from one incident to another to another that is why it gets little confusing. This is just my understanding.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the correction, I wasn't sure also. Some say it is his birthday and then some say that it is his re-birth day of the Elephant head that was put on him to make him the "Lord Ganesh". I will find out from my MIL, you are probably right though!
      I love Ganesh's story and I just found a children's storybook for Maya with excellent pictures to tell her the story too.
      I never went to Srisalam but we did go on a pilgrimage somewhere near Kurnool.
      My husband was also in a serious accident after he came to the US, what a coincidence! That story is going to be in the next Jab We met series :)
      Every time Ganesh Chaturthi rolls around, I feel so happy, grateful, and re-birthed. So much more than New Year's day in Western culture! I've got my aarti's playing all day today and feeling great!

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    2. Husband-ji seems to think his birth day and the day they made him the Lord Ganesh is on the same day. Who knows?

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