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15 September 2007, 07:33 AM
Giving Thanks to Ganesh

Today, Many Hindus Will Begin to Celebrate the Birthday of the Popular Deity

By Ansley Roan
Religion News Service
Saturday, September 15, 2007; Page B09

When Davel Patel wakes up each morning in her home in Jacksonville, Fla. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Jacksonville+%28Florida%29?tid=informline), she performs a puja, or worship ritual, to the Hindu Deity Ganesh.

She will start today the same way. Then she will begin a one-day fast to mark Ganesh Chaturthi (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Ganesh+Chaturthi?tid=informline), a holiday known as the birthday of one of the most popular Deities in Hinduism.

Although the celebration is not familiar to some Americans, a growing number of Hindus in the United States participate in honoring Ganesh, who is usually depicted with a human body and an elephant's head.

Patel and her family will be one of many to visit a temple to honor Ganesh. Representatives from two of the U.S. temples where Ganesh is the presiding or primary Deity say the numbers attending the celebrations are rising.

At Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Temple?tid=informline) in South Jordan (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/South+Jordan?tid=informline), Utah (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Utah?tid=informline), 50 people attended the first Ganesh Chaturthi celebration in 1995; about 500 are expected this year. At the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Queens+County?tid=informline), N.Y. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/New+York?tid=informline), which was built in 1977, the festival has grown from three days to nine to accommodate worshipers.

The numbers are not surprising, said Deepak Sarma, an associate professor of religious studies at Case Western Reserve University (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Case+Western+Reserve+University?tid=informline) in Cleveland (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Cleveland?tid=informline).

"There are lots of different sects in Hinduism," he said. "Ganesh overlaps with all of them. Everybody likes Ganesh."

Observances vary widely according to regional or family traditions. Celebrations might last for one day or several, and they might start before and continue after Sept. 15. The celebrations have some common elements.

"One way to consider Hindu worship is, they worship Deities as revered guests, almost royalty," Sarma said. "If you were to have royalty in your house, you'd offer them something nice to eat. Hindus do those sorts of things when they worship. They'll offer sweets because Ganesh is notorious for eating lots of sweets. They'll burn incense and sing songs of praise."

Patel incorporates many of those elements in her holiday observances, in addition to the fasting, which is more of a regional tradition.

"I have a firm faith in Lord Ganesha, and it's my day to remember all the blessings that I've had from him thus far," Patel said. "The fasting is more of a cleansing of my body and thoughts and any bad karma, so I can continue to receive Lord Ganesha's blessings."

In the evening, she and her family will gather in front of the five-inch statue of Ganesh in their home. They will bathe the image in water, then in milk.

They will offer flowers and special sweets and light candles. Once the moon rises, they will break the fast first with something sweet, then with a celebratory meal. Then, they will visit their temple.

Although sects and observances differ, the temples in New York and Utah share an aspect of the celebration. In the weeks before the holiday, the priests make a clay image of Ganesh.

"In Hinduism, there's usually an established temple image, often made of stone, occasionally of metal," said Timothy Lubin, associate professor of religion at Washington and Lee University (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Washington+and+Lee+University?tid=informline) in Lexington (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Lexington+%28Kentucky%29?tid=informline), Va. "There are also images that are used at home or in businesses. This particular holiday is unusual in that special, very colorful images made of unfired clay are produced."

In Mumbai (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Mumbai?tid=informline), the clay images might be 20 feet tall; in the United States, they're more likely to be about two feet tall. The priests invite the Deity to inhabit the temporary image.

"When the clay Ganesh is made, priests will be chanting some ceremonies to instill life into it, to sanctify it," said Uma Mysorekar, president of the Queens temple. "You invoke Lord Ganesha into it."

Just as Patel made offerings to the deity at her home, temple visitors make offerings, adorn images of Ganesh, and pray and chant. At the Queens temple, devotees chant a mantra to Ganesh more than 400,000 times during the festival.

"Each time we do that, we are invoking the Lord Ganesha, asking for His grace for us and for the world," Mysorekar said.

When the celebrations end, believers carry the clay image in a joyful procession to a nearby body of water and leave it there to dissolve.

"At the time of the immersion, we pray, asking the Lord to give us blessing and to come back next year to be with us," Mysorekar said.

Source: The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/14/AR2007091402082.html)

15 September 2007, 11:39 AM

on this Chaturthi

I offer a Poem:

This is my hand
Small as it may be
To touch you and to hold you
My hands you have given me when I am grown, look to these
Remember how they touched you
Remember how they held you
Remember how tiny they were indeed

Maste nam,


16 September 2007, 11:51 PM
Here are some nice Ganesha portraits, thanks to Vikas of Orkut who mailed them to me:


The rest of the pictures I have sent to Satay by PM by a zip file named ganap.rar. Members may please obtain them from him as too many pics here would use up precious database space in the HDF server.

Eastern Mind
17 September 2007, 08:50 PM
Ganesha must have more pictures than any other God by far. I love them all. BTW, we had a wonderful Chaturthi puja here at the MahaGanapati temple in Edmonton. Live thavil and nadeswaram (That always adds a lot) For those of you in America who didn't know, there is a musical company in Toronto that co-ordinates several duos of musicians for weddings, festivals, and the like. They fly anywhere in NA, I believe. An evening parade (although it can be quite chilly here in September.. about + 13 Celsius.) around the temple, and about 400 people, I'm guessing. Nice high vibration. Aum Namshivaya