Vighneshwaraay Vardaay Surpriyaay! Ganesh, Remover Of Obstacles, Giver Of Boons, Beloved Of The Devas!

Ganesh Image Solapur, India
Photo: Arvind Dhareppa Bagle. Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

The last four months of the year seem to be marked for festivities in Hindu calendar. Various festivals begin with the advent of the month of Shravan which usually falls in July-August. Thus Shravan is regarded as an auspicious month. With the rain showers which come and go, the countdown of festivals to Diwali begins. Some of the festivals such as Janmashtami and Navratri prescribe strict fasting. Some like Raksha Bandhan and Diwali are meant for good food.

Rakshaa Bandhan:  The first in line is the festival of Rakshabandhan which fell this year on August 30th. It is considered a day of expressing love of brothers and sisters with tying of the sacred thread ‘raksha’ or ‘raakhi’. Unspoken promises are made to uphold the honor, dignity and safety of the sister and prayers to ward off all evils from the life of the brother. Traditionally tied by the sister on the hand of the brother, ‘raksha’, as its name suggests, can be tied by anyone to anyone for protection, as the scriptures suggest. The practice was also part of the ‘rajputs’ who were tied ‘raksha kavach’ when they left for wars. An old Gujarati folk song ‘Kunta Abhimanyu ne bandhe amar rakhdi’ speaks of mother Kunti tying the protective thread on the arm of her grandson Abhimanyu before he went into the well planned war moves of the Kurukshetra war.

Krishna Janmaashtami:  Eight days after Rakshabandhan comes Krishna Janmashtami which usually falls in August, but fell on September 6th this year due to an additional month of Shravan, ‘adheek maas’ in the luni-solar calendar. The first day of this two-day festival is devoted to fasting until Krishna’s birth at midnight. Then follows the anxious wait till Krishna is transported in the midst of a storm to Gokul, resulting the next day in the joyous celebration of Krishna’s birth as Nanda’s son in Gokul. The day also imitates the play of child Krishna trying to steal yogurt from earthen pots in the houses of other Gops, or Gopis. Mumbai has a tradition of going crazy with that day’s celebration as ‘Govinda’ with singing of ‘Govinda aala re aala’ and various ‘matkis’ tied high up for a group of modern-day Gops to try and reach, making human pyramids.

Ganpati Festival:  If Krishna has arrived, Ganesh cannot be far behind. Falling on September 19th this year, the ten day Ganesh festival is a festival which brings joy into people’s homes. Some people fast on Ganesh Chaturthi, while some eat one meal all 10 days till ‘Anant Chaturdashi’ when Ganesh is bid farewell and an invitation to come again next year with ‘Ganpati Bappa Mor Yaa’ (Come again, Ganpati ji). Ganesh is called ‘Ganpati Bappa’ with affection in Maharashtra.

Mumbai Chira Bazar Ganesh Festival.
Photo: urbzoo. Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Most Maharashtrian households invite Ganesh home with a clay image which is placed at a special altar in the house. The altar is decorated with lights and garlands and flowers. Special food is prepared daily, samples of which are first placed at the altar to be blessed. Special ‘prasaadam’ is also offered. ‘Laddoo’ which is supposedly Ganesh’s favorite, is offered in varieties during the morning and evening prayers.

Mumbaikars and Maharashtrians can never forget the beautiful prayers ‘Jay Dev Jay Dev Jay Mangal murti’ or ‘Gan-naayakaay Gan-devataay Gana-adhyakshaay Dhimahi’ and the various celebrations.

In the U.S., the Maharashtra Mandal celebrates Ganesh at all of its chapters, as do several other organizations. In New York, it is a real treat to participate in the Ganesh festival at Sri Maha Vallabha Ganpati Devasthanam in Flushing, New York. The ten day festival at the temple is marked by prayers, havans and yagnas accompanied by strict rituals and recitation of the Sanskrit mantras. The daily evening ‘aarati’, resounding with the sound of the cymbals, takes hardly a moment to transport one to some holy space within with the thousand lamps circling in the hands of the priests and faultless chanting of the prayers in Sanskrit.

The ‘havan’ is amazing with chanting and offerings which last the whole day. And, one does not go without the free ‘prasaadam’ box which one can fill as one chooses. It is said that during Ganesh festival, more than 10,000 ‘prasaad’ boxes are given away at the temple each day.

The festival at the Ganesh Devsthanam which begins from the first day of the lunar month, as opposed to the fourth day of Ganesh Chaturthi on which other celebrations begin, ends with a ‘rathyaatra’. The ‘rathyaatra’ goes around 15 blocks from the temple in a circular path, with hundreds of devotees gathered to be part of it by getting an opportunity to hold the ropes that pull the silver chariot.

The real ‘prasthaapit’ (established) image of Ganesh can never be moved from its place. As such, an alternative image which has been consecrated, is taken out, carried by the priests for a circling of the temple with ‘mantrochchaar’ first and then placed in the chariot which goes around before coming back to the temple. That is one day when Ganesh goes out for a ride.

Popularly known as the South Indian Ganesh Temple, Ganpati Devsthaanam is the place to go if you want to experience ancient rituals and tradition. Temples and organizations all over the U.S. celebrate Ganesh festival in different ways.

Festivals of Navratri, Sharad Purnima, and Diwali follow soon after.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here