It’s that time of the year when the elephant headed god descends on earth to witness the gala celebrations that people take part in to commemorate his divine emergence. Ganesha, the supreme most Hindu deity manifests into a number of clay idols that are symbolic of his literal presence. Children, youth and the old all welcome him with open arms and pamper the childlike God who represents auspiciousness.
Ganesha, also popularly addressed as <i>Vighnaharta</i> (remover of obstacles), is like a phenomenon whose reverence prior to any new beginning is bound to reap fruits. Son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, Ganesha emerges as that invincible power, who provides refuge to all who seek wisdom.
However, as I write more about my source of strength, Ganesha, I would like to share something I learnt recently.
As a child I often used to wonder if the <i>Mooshak</i> (Ganesha’s vahan) was strong enough to withstand pot bellied Ganesha’s weight on his tender frame! And I grew up thinking the lord was kind enough to not let the poor mice struggle while carrying him and instead shared his favourite <i>Modaks</i> with the little thing.
Like many, even I was oblivious of the actual meaning of a <i>vahan</i> with respect to a deity. I was amazed when I learnt great deal about the significance of <i>vahan</i> when I followed a great show called ‘Engae Brahmanan’, aired on a regional channel. The novel show was a brain child of Cho Ramaswamy, a former Rajya Sabha MP, actor, columnist and the editor of a popular political magazine Tughlak.
‘Engae Brahmanan’ (Where is the Brahman?) translated the true essence of Hindusim and cleared the myth surrounding the term ‘Brahman’. I realised anyone irrespective of his caste could be a Brahman, for it means the Absolute or the Supreme Power. Most people believe that Hinduism is a polytheistic faith but it is actually monotheistic in nature. The 300 million gods and goddesses we offer prayers to are manifestations of the Supreme Being. Any individual can relate himself with the Brahman, for he is a part of it.
Sanatana Dharma, the original name of Hinduism is purely symbolic in nature - every gesture, every ritual, every customary practice that we do has an inherent purpose. Likewise the Gods and the Goddesses and their respective <i>vahans</i> have specific meanings and objectives.
Coming back to the show and the significance of a Vahan - a character in ‘Engae Brahmanan’ was an atheist and kept ridiculing the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. He confronts a priest and asks him to explain the silly representation of the <i>Mooshak</i> as Ganesha’s <i>vahan</i>. The priest explained, “Ganesha attributes wisdom, knowledge, compassion while the Mooshak represents the inherent greed in human beings. Have you ever observed what a rodent does? It leaves whatever it finds to eat half-finished making the food unusable for others! The “self-centered” nature and the “want for more” attitude of the rodent symbolize the greed and hence Ganesha intervenes to suppress the “greed” found aplenty in people. Ganesha doesn’t ride on a <i>Mooshak</i> in the literal sense but curbs the gluttony that often erodes humanity from humans.”
After following such an information based show that was high on its spiritual quotient, I couldn’t stop raving the teachings of my faith. To summarise all what my faith conveys in 600 words is an unfeasible task, for it’s a way of life and ever evolving.
However, with Ganeshotsav round the corner I hope one and all seek refuge in him. Ganpati or Ganeshotsav was a domestic practice that was initiated as a Sarvajanik (collective) movement by freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1893 during British Raj. And since then has been celebrated amidst much fanfare!
Here’s wishing everyone a joyous Ganesh Utsav and hope we celebrate the true spirit of the lord with utmost devotion.