This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly describes the rituals and spiritual significance of an 11-day Hindu celebration called Ganesha Chaturthi, honoring Lord Ganesha. Widely regarded as the Remover of Obstacles, Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular gods of India. On the final day of the festival, Lord Ganesha’s image is paraded through the streets accompanied by drum beats, devotional songs and dancing, and then immersed in a river or sea.
Hinduism Glossary (Document)
The holy day of Ganesha Chaturthi marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha. Hindus across India believe the deity comes to Earth on this day to bestow his blessings upon devotees.
The origins of Ganesha Chaturthi can be found in the story of Goddess Parvarti who, having no one to guard her bathing chamber, decided to create Ganesha from sandalwood paste and her own dead skin, breathing life into him. Parvarti’s consort, Shiva, angered that her bath was taking so long, confronted Ganesha, who denied Shiva access.
An angry Shiva cut off Ganesha’s head and sent it tumbling down Mount Kailash. Parvarti, furious over her son’s death, commanded Shiva to restore his head. A repentant Shiva sent his officers down the mountain to collect the first head they saw, which was that of an elephant. To further appease Parvarti, Shiva stated that anyone who worshipped Ganesha first would be most favored.
Lord Ganesha is a popular god for a number of reasons. Known as the Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings or Lord of Wisdom, Ganesha is an auspicious part of any new enterprise or project. He is also regarded as fun-loving, happy and clever. And he has unique characteristics: large ears to listen, a large head to think, a small mouth to talk less, and a large stomach to digest the good and the bad. He rides a mouse which represents either desire or ego, both of which must be kept under control. When Hindus adopt a personal god, they tend to select Lord Ganesha more than any other diety. Before making offerings to Vishnu, Shiva, Kali , or any other deity, offerings are first made to Ganesha. For this reason, Ganesha may receive more offerings than any other Hindu deity.
Two to three months before the Ganesha Chaturthi celebration, life-size models of Ganesha are made from plaster of Paris or traditional clay. A priest must enliven the statue prior to devotees making pujas, which involves purification followed by offerings of prayers, flowers and food. Some devotees perform these rituals daily in their homes, while others enlist the help of a priest at a temple. On the eleventh day, the deity is taken to a river or sea, in a journey representing Lord Ganesha's removal of all obstacles as he journeys back to Mount Kailash.
Professor S. N. SRIDHAR (Professor of Linguistics and India Studies and Chair, Department of Asian and Asian-American Studies, State University of New York, Stony Brook): Every Hindu has a personal god, a favorite god. There is no particular rational justification for choosing this god or that. But Ganesha is a god that is chosen by almost everybody because he is the remover of obstacles.
Hinduism inherently allows a tremendous amount of freedom to the devotees in imagining their gods in different ways. Who are we to say that my way is better than yours?
Ganesha is represented as a happy, fun-loving god. And that is part of the reason why he is so popular.
When you look at Ganesha in profile, the upraised trunk of his elephant head can give the impression of "aum." "Aum" is the most sacred syllable in Hinduism.
In pronouncing "aum," you start with the vowel "ah" and end with the consonant "mah." So, "ah" with your open mouth and "mah" by closing the lips. Between them, these two sounds incorporate, encompass, encapsulate everything you could possibly articulate in the entire universe.
Hindus use this as a symbolic way of representing God. Mantras usually start with "aum."
The Hindu worship ritual begins by invoking the presence of a particular god -- inviting and installing the gods in the image.
Then you offer them hospitality. It's just like a guest visiting your house. You offer them a seat to sit on, drink, food, clothes, flowers -- all sorts of things that you would normally offer a guest.
What I pray for depends on the particular circumstances in my life. Generally, I pray, "Give me the right sense so that I do the right things. Give me the right judgment. Inspire me with the right thoughts so that my instincts, reactions, judgments, and actions would all be according to the principles of dharma." The Hindu belief is that, if you lead a life of dharma, everything else will fall in place.
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