12 September 2008

More on Ganesha Festival

One version of a legend relating to the source of Ganesha’s elephant head goes that at the behest of the Gods, who needed a deity able to remove obstacles from their path of action, Shiva himself was born from Parvati's womb, under the form of Gajanana.

According to the Linga-Purana, Ganesha was created by Shiva in order to triumph over the enemies of Gods and the image of a child was born from Shiva’s mind which had the head of an elephant. Looking at the child, Parvati took him on her lap and made the vow that any undertaking, would not be successful unless Ganesha be first worshipped. Shiva declared the child to be Ganapati, Lord of the Ganas (celestial hosts).

In the Varaha-Purana, Ganesha is depicted as a young man originating from the glittering forehead of Shiva absorbed in deep meditation. Parvati was disappointed that the boy was born without her intervention. So, she wished that his head became the head of an elephant. However, when she saw the elephant-headed child, she loved him immediately, and declared that any human or divine undertaking, should not be successful unless Ganesha be worshipped first.

Another Puranic legend tells that Parvati longed for a child and informed Shiva about her desire. He requested she observe a one-year penance. Thus, the Sage Sanatkumara submitted Parvati to various tests in order to ascertain the force of her will. Eventually a glorious child was born and the Gods and nine Planets (Navagrahas) went to Mount Kailash to admire him. One of the Planets, Shani (Saturn) would not raise his eyes to look at the child. Parvati requested him to view and admire the baby. When Shani raised his eyes and looked at the child, the baby's head instantaneously separated from the body.

In response Vishnu left on his vehicle Garuda in search of a new head to replace the lost one. On the banks of the Pushpabhadra River, he met a herd of sleeping elephants. Choosing a resting animal, whose head was turned northwards, he cut if off and brought it back. According to a version of this legend, this elephant was actually a Gandharva who desired to obtain liberation from his terrestrial life. On Vishnu’s return, the elephant head was attached to the child and Vishnu gave him the following eight names: Vighneshvara, Ganesha, Heramba, Gajanana, Lambodara, Ekadanta, Soorpakarna and Vinayaka.

The current Ganesh Chaturthi festival ends with Visarjan or immersion of the idol in water. Normally the immersion ceremony takes place on the Ananta Chaturdasi day. In 2008, the date of Ganesh Visarjan is September 14th however as this Festival is not codified, the date of the immersion ceremony is arbitrary with no strict rules and depends upon the wishes of the person performing the Visarjan.

Ananta Chaturdasi is believed to be the day when Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Anantapadmanabha, the Ananta Sayana form of Lord Vishnu in which he is reclining on Ananta.

Wood carving at Suddhananda Ashram

Many folk at Tiruvannamalai completed the immersion ceremony at the beginning of the Ganesha Festival and the next three photographs are of an immersion at the local Tamari Nagar Tank here at Tiruvannamalai. 

Procession of many Ganesha idols on way to Tank

Tamari Nagar Tank and Arunachala


Many places throughout India have made concerted efforts this year to persuade people to return to the immersion of traditional, plain mud Ganesha idols and NOT use representations that are made from highly toxic materials. 

To see photographs of the aftermaths of the immersion festival which involves Ganesha statues that are not made of ‘mud’ here are several profoundly sad photographs of the day after a previous Ganesha Visarjan Festival at Mumbai.


Veronica said...

Its just so sad - how horrible.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

The sad thing is that as the festival is becoming increasingly popular,the pollution is getting worse each year.

In the case of the Tamari Nagar tank in the posting - that is a water reservoir for local homes - so very dangerous considering the toxicity of the many statues being immersed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and the coloured statues for immersion is a new idea - it used to be traditional mud statues.

Eileen said...

Yes it is indeed so sad, people seem to compete to make their statues bigger and bigger and more and more gaudily colored with chemicals. What a shame! :-(

Anonymous said...

The statues look so pitiful.

Anonymous said...

For the love of the Holy Ganga and Ganesh: Respect, please, with conscious awareness of what you do!