Saturday, October 02, 2010


An unusual depiction of Ganesh; my photograph, expressionistically taken in a hotel suite in Calcutta in 2010

Ganesh is very lovingly revered by all Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.

He is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He has a human body with an elephant's head.  He is the Remover of Obstacles, and is worshipped at the beginning of  every new venture, to ensure its success.

Here is one invocation of Ganesh, written by Girish Karnad at the beginning of his play Hayavadana:
May Vighneshwara, the destroyer of obstacles, who removes all hurdles and crowns all endeavours with success, bless our performance now. How indeed can one hope to describe his glory in our poor, disabled words? An elephant's head on a human body, a broken tusk and a cracked belly -- whichever way you look at him he seems the embodiment of imperfection, of incompleteness. How indeed can one fathom the mystery that this very Vakratunda-Mahakaya, with his crooked face and distorted body, is the Lord and Master of Success and Perfection? Could it be that this Image of Purity and Holiness, this mangala-moorty, intends to signify by his very appearance that the completeness of God is something no poor mortal can comprehend?

Like most of the gods, Ganesh has many names, which refer to their various attributes. One, which is used most endearingly, is Lambodara, One Who Has a Potbelly. (Lamba + Udara)

Ganesh with his two consorts, painted by Raja Ravi Varma, from my collection at home

One of his names is Ganapati, the Captain of the Ganas, an army of weirdos that follow Lord Shiva.

For more information about Ganesh, see his Wikipedia entry.

Ganesh's birth festival, Ganapati Chaturthi, is celebrated with a frenzy almost unparalleled in the Hindu pantheon of gods. Media, especially cinema and TV, do not tire, year after year, of depicting the frenzy with song and, dance, often performed under the influence of intoxicants.  Each successive year surpasses the previous year in its depiction.

This year, for me at least, who has never stepped out, not only to participate, but even to get a glimpse of these events, brought a slew of shocking and revolting pictures of the aftermath of these celebrations. Some soul decided to circulate these in an email, so I have no means of acknowledging, giving credit, or attributing motives, except to say that it can benumb you, whether or not you are a believer. The email exhorted the reader to circulate them. Here are three of them. If you are aroused to revulsion, introspection, and a sense of feeling stigmatised, maybe the purpose would be served.

Ganesh, Following the Celebrations at His Consecration


pravingandhino1's travel blog said...

Whether Durga or Ganesh..
The purpose of immersion is (I think) a solution to problem of disposal after the festival.
Earlier the idols were made of natural materials. Nowadays, to fetch more visitors to pandals, metal and toxic paints and raw material are used. These are not only non-soluble but also kill marine life. This year there has been an appeal for "green" idols.
Like all festivals, Ganeshotsav has been hijacked by political parties who set up rival camps and banners for their respective MLA or Corporator; and by corporate sponsors like gutka barons,big names in Plastic furniture, moulded luggage the like. With so much sponsorship money and collections from the faithful, the pandals have to be exotic and even non-Hindus take to setting up sarvajanik pandals with elaborate sets and lighting.
Some of my Maharashtrian friends have their own idols which they do not immerse like the sarvajanik one, they bring them out from their family troves every year and put them back...

Anonymous said...

Ode to Ganesh

I am surprised by your shock and disgust. I was expecting you to comment that man creates and then destroys including “Gods-Patthar ki Murat”. I am also surprised that you did not take this opportunity to write about the total waste of time and money during these spectacles. They keep making statues bigger and bigger. I think that the last year’s special was four stories high.

Someone did pass those photos that I sent you more than a year ago. That person was trying to create an outrage about desecration of Ganesh after celebrations. In Calcutta, we have the same event for Durga by sinking her statues in Ganga. We never saw the aftermath, but it was all about the celebration. And remember Ratha-Yatra in Puri; right after sinking the Ratha (which took ayear to build), they would start building another one for the next year’s Yatra.

Couple of years ago someone (not Indian) came up with an idea of putting picture of Ganesh on flip-flops (rubber slippers). There was uproar in the Indian community about putting Him under your feet. I only saw the picture of slipper but do not know if it was ever manufactured.

My favorite story goes back quite a few years. A committee of Indian doctors and engineers were planning a temple in Chicago on a few acres site they had purchased. It had an existing gazebo on the site and Ganesh’s sthapana was made first in the gazebo. While the temple was being constructed, one guy had an idea of putting gazebo to great use after Ganesh would be moved inside the main temple with other Gods. Finally, when he proposed that the gazebo should be converted into a urinal, other member really beat him up, though only verbally. In India a person can lose a life for such indignity, especially in Maharashtra.

Of corse, I speak of Ganesh fondly,"Ganaptidada moria, udhman ladoo Choria"


Anonymous said...

I forgot to add an important item. After those pictures were circulated on the internet, I had heard that Maharashtra Government was planning to build a permanent statue of Ganesh in the harbour taller than the Statue of Liberty at a cost of crores of rupees, as a "Praschyatap". I do not know if this was just arumor or if the project is undergoing now.


Anonymous said...

mitti ki murti,
logo ne devta manayi,
jeetni hi uper uthayi,
utni hi niche girayi.


Sunil Subramanian said...

A very interesting perspective. I feel over the years people are getting more conscious of the fact that they are not doing this the right way. I am not sure if Ganesha ever wanted to be put away in this fashion after being celebrated with so much care over a fortnight.

Hopefully in the years to follow these things will get more regulated and people see the true idea of the festival.

Thanks for visiting my flickr page.

For other viewers - Have a look at my 2012 Ganesh Utsav album

Anonymous said...

I am not a supporter of immersion.

In all Hindu homes, there is a Ganesh idol, which is given a fresh coat of Sindoor and a new Jahnoi (thread) every year with an offering of delectable laddoos. It is never given away, and passed on from generation to generation. I believe mine is my grandmother Jadi Maa's ganapati.

Lokmaya Tilak, if he is watching from the heavens would shudder at what he started.

A diety does not have the Godliness until the praan-pratishtan is done; likewise, the godliness is given a fond farewell at the end of the festival, so the idol no more has the Godliness and needs to be disposed, just as the human body devoid of life needs to be disposed after death.

Ironically, the ACTUAL diety is always a small one placed in front of the highly visible one. The praan-pratishta, and daily puja is sone on the small deity. However, people do not notice that and bow to the large one which is actually only a display.

Having said this, I am fond of one of the pandals in our neighbourhood which has a social theme every year. This year it is against female foeticide. The background is pasted with pictures of Indian female achievers, the small Ganesh idol is in the company of revered female dieties, and a large scroll has been offered to Ganapati invoking him to protect the girl child.