Dear Friend and Reader,
Today is the Hindu holiday Ganesh Chaturthi, and one of our friends, Priya Kale, has taken the helm to explain its significance religiously, astrologically and personally. You can see it below, and for more writing from Priya, you can check out her blog here.
Also, our photo editor Danielle Voirin contributes, with beautiful pictures from the celebration in Paris.
Millions of Hindus all over the world celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi today. Ganesh as many know is the pot-bellied, elephant-headed God of Wisdom, heralded as “the remover of all obstacles.” He is the God we pray to before we start any new ceremony, or before we pray to any other God.
Paris’s Indian and Sri Lankan community celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi. Photo by Danielle Voirin.
Although celebrated all over India, the celebrations are the most magnificent, vivid and vibrant in the states Maharashtra and Goa. Mumbai truly comes alive during the Ganapati festival during this time of the year. It’s quite a trip to watch 20 foot high clay idols of an elephant-headed God, rolling down the main road in rush hour traffic on the back of a truck.
“Chaturthi” in Sanskrit translates to the “fourth day” of the lunar cycle and this festival begins each year on the fourth day after the Virgo New Moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapad. On this day, people bring home idols of Lord Ganesha made of clay for a varying period of 1 1/2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 or 21 days (I’m hoping I got this correctly,) and on the final day of the festival is the immersion ceremony. At this time Ganapati returns to the sea (his mother Parvati) with people chanting for his return next year.
We perform one main “puja” on the first day, to mark the beginning of the festival and then we perform an “aarti” two times a day, every day after. As I write this, I know my parents are on their way over to my grandmother’s house. My father will read the shlokas while my Mama (mother’s brother) performs the Puja. Meanwhile, my mom and aunts will be gathering together the offerings needed for the ritual, while my grandmother makes moduk’s (and I help.)
Moduks are Ganapati’s (and mine) favorite food so we offer 21 moduks along with a specific menu of his other favorite food at the time of the puja. Every offering is chosen and selected with care and precision; Ganapati liked Durva — a kind of grass used in most vedic rituals. But we only offer a specific number of blades of grass, with only a specific number of leaves per blade (generally three or five, but in odd numbers). I am not sure of the meaning behind it, but its on one of those things on my list to ask grandmom the next time I speak to her.
Man preparing his offering to Ganapati, Paris. Photo by D. Voirin.
Its definitely times like these that I miss being home the most. What I have always loved about all the Indian festivals and pujas is that the rites are performed with such a sense of devotion. It is more than just the idea of some form of idol worship, but rather a way of bringing us completely in the present moment. Asking for total attention and concentration in the here and now, where God dwells.
Getting back to the astrology, today Mercury enters its shadow phase — yes, it’s that time of the year again. Pay attention to the conversations you are having now, these are bound to undergo a more thorough examination over the coming weeks, especially when it comes to relationships. It seems we all need to learn a thing or two about how we communicate with each other. Do you feel heard? With Mars on one side and Venus on the other, it seems like we are vacillating between love and fury. Perhaps we need to just get our heads out of this one.
Also today the Sun makes its annual conjunction to Saturn — we are growing up. But don’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t hear life beckoning you. It’s indeed time to shed the past, learn the lessons but leave behind the baggage. An important part of growing up is we gain wisdom and the wisest are those who are children at heart.
Ganapati Bappa Morya!
Priya in NYC