Giver of Gifts: Inviting Ganesh Home On Ganesh Chaturthi

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People wearing protective masks carry an idol of the Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, for immersion off the coast of the Arabian sea during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, India, August 23, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Remember the story from childhood days about the smart kid who could beat even gods in logical thinking and argument?

The story goes that once there was a test set for two brothers Kartikey and Ganesh by their parents, Gods Shiva and Parvati. Kartikey, the good looking boy, was quite confident that he could follow any orders and instructions from his parents better than his lazy brother Ganesh. Not to do injustice to either, the parents finally assigned one task to them, that of going around the earth four times, and stated the one to complete this Pradakshina would be the winner.

Kartikey was slim and agile and had the flying peacock he used to ride. Ganesh, the laddoo lover, the one with rounded belly, was a bit lethargic and he had only his mouse to ride. Kartikey took off immediately, rushing to be the winner. Ganesh seemed to think a little and then went where his parents were sitting, bowed to them with folded hands and went around them in Pradakshina four times.

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Kartikey came back tired and out of breath from his enormous task. When both Kartikey and Ganesh stood before their parents, Kartikey, sure he had won, described everything he saw on his way. It was Ganesh’s turn now. He told his parents, “The Shastras say mother and father are the whole world.” “How can Shastras be wrong? So I went around you two, mother and father, not once, but four times,” he said. With that argument, his parents had to declare him the winner.

This trait of his thinking prowess, and his intelligence, seems to have accompanied him over thousands of years. Ganesh, who was a prolific scholar, also wrote down the whole Mahabharata as Sage Ved Vyas recited it. Or we would never have had the great epic.

Ganesh who became Ganapati, the head of the group when he grew up, is said to also have a very kind heart. He is said to have helped everyone, making life easier, and came to be known as Vighnaharta. It is not for nothing that people think of him first and call him in their minds to complete any difficult task without hurdles – Nirvighnam Kuru Mae Deva Sarva Karyeshu Sarvada.

It is said that, as Ganapati, the chief, he must have worn the head dress which was an elephant head. Who needs such explanations? The promise of his father to his mother that Ganesh would be the first to be called upon and prayed to and invited to any auspicious, any good event, seems to be so true. His father, God Shiva, had to make sure this became true. He had cut off the head of his little boy guarding the door of his mother’s bath, not recognizing him as son when he returned from a long tour.

And so, Ganesh is first to be remembered in almost every event. In old times, students began their test papers with Ganeshay Namah. Wedding invitations have a picture of Ganesh. Ganesh is part of every pre-wedding ceremony at Hindu weddings. In the morning of the wedding, Ganesh is invited with special prayers and Pooja, to come and stay in the house – Ganesh Sthapana – till the entire wedding is over. His blessings are sought and then he is also invited to the Mandap, the venue of the wedding.

Ganesh seems to come whenever called. He seems to be especially partial to students, being an avid student himself, and is believed to grant expertise and knowledge to the aspirants. Ganesh is also believed to grant boons easily. Easily pleased, taking obstacles out of one’s path to success, Ganesh is one of the most important and most loved and worshipped Gods in Hinduism.

While Ganesh is always invoked and invited at special occasions all over India, his visit to the Maharashtrian household is unparalleled. Ganesh is the love of Maharashtrians. He is Ganaraya, Vinayak, Vighnaharta, Gauriputra, Vakratunda, Ekdanta, Lambodara, Gajanan, Ganapati.  Maharashtrians take great pride in having him in their house as a guest, even for half a day, or ten days till Anant Chaturdashi, and the preparations and festivities go on for days before his arrival. Special Modakas are made for him and special food is first offered to him. His seat is greatly decorated. The morning and evening prayers make beautiful music and everyone joins in. Mumbai is famous for its Ganesh Utsavs. In the old days when having the tallest image of Ganesh was not a competition, every society, every temple, and every public office had their own little Ganesh image and the Aaratis and Prasad. Every evening there were musical performances and then, after 10 days of visiting the earth, Ganesh would be bid goodbye with Ganpati Bappa Mor Ya, Pudhcha Varshi Laukar Ya, Come again, Ganpati Bappa, and come soon next year!

In Maharashtra, and Konkan, Ganesh is quite well known for his annual visits. In Gujarat, although Ganesh Sthapana during weddings is common, there was not much of a tradition of inviting him home.  However, most Gujaratis make the well known Wheat Flour Laddoos, different from Modakas, as offerings to Ganesh on Ganesh Chaturthi. Of late, Ganpati Festivals with Ganesh in the house, have become common in Gujarat, and are celebrated with as much joy and festivities.

Southern India has attached a lot of importance to Ganesh. Ganesh festivals are celebrated with Vedic Mantrochars and austerities, in the South. The Mahavallabha Ganapati DevSthanam in Flushing, New York, better known as the Ganesh Temple, celebrates the festival with Havans and Abhishekams and Aaratis, ending in the famous Rathayatra. Ganesh festival is celebrated all over the U.S., Europe and Australia by Indians.

Whichever way he is worshipped, Ganesh’s ten day visit to the earth is much looked forward to. Afterall, he is Sukhkarta, bringing happiness, Dukhharta, removing grief, and only a look at him would grant your wishes.

Jai Dev Jai Dev Jai Mangal Murti.

Darshan Deve Matra Kamana Purti.

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