Ganesh Chaturthi – celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesha
Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals. This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha who is endearing and widely loved.
Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God and is worshipped first in our prayers. His names are repeated first before any auspicious work is
undertaken. This is because He is the Lord who removes all obstacles, both worldly and spiritual, and bestows success upon the devotees.
He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is the son of Lord Shiva and brother of Skanda or Kartikeya.
When we visit Prashanti Nilayam the most holy abode of our dearest Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, we first have the darshan of Lord Ganesha, be it the Ganesha entrance or the Gopuram gate. Like many, it has always been my practice to seek His blessings as soon as I enter the portals of Prasanthi Nilayam. I pray to Him to bless me with gift of darshan of His divine father Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Lord Ganesha has always fulfilled it.
Lord Ganesha is the most popular God for children. He is invoked by them for success in their studies, good luck in their examinations, etc. As a child, Lord Ganesha was my favourite deity too. In the Balvikas classes I was taught the following sloka,
Vakratunda Mahakaya Surya Koti Sama Prabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva Karyesu Sarvada
Salutations to the One who has a curved trunk, who has a Large Body and whose splendour is similar to million suns; O Lord, please make my undertakings free of obstacles, by extending Your Blessings in all my works, always.
While chanting the sloka I often wondered how God can have a human body and an elephant head. The advantage of attending the Balvikas is that all these questions get answered and the early impressions on our young and fertile minds heightens our devotion and dedication to our Lord. The following story was narrated by my Balvikas guru about Lord Ganesha’s birth and how He came to have the head of an elephant: Once upon a time, Goddess Parvathi (consort of Lord Shiva), while bathing, created Ganesha out of the sandal paste of Her Body and placed Him at the entrance of the house. She told Him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for a bath. Lord Shiva Himself was returning home and was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. Shiva became angry and cut off Ganesha’s head as He thought Ganesha was obstructing and challenging Him.
When Parvathi came to know of this, she was sorely grieved. To console her grief, Shiva ordered His servants to cut off and bring to Him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing north. The servants went on their mission and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was thus made, and the elephant’s head was brought before Shiva. The Lord then joined the elephant’s head onto the body of Ganesha.
Lord Shiva made His son worthy of worship at the beginning of all undertakings, marriages, expeditions, studies, etc. He ordained that the annual worship of Ganesha should take place on the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapada. (The sixth month of the Indian Hindu Calendar.)
Riding on a mouse, one of nature’s smallest creatures and having the head of an elephant, the biggest of all animals, denotes that Ganesha is the creator of all creatures. Elephants are very wise animals; this indicates that Lord Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom. Elephants are also known for their absolute loyalty to their master. The direct proof of this is Sai Geetha (Sathya Sai Baba's pet elephant). Ordinarily hundreds of cars would pass by her shed with Sai Geetha taking no notice of them. But when Swami's car happened to pass that way, she would instinctively notice it and rush to the road raising her familiar cry. It was pure love for Swami! It will be no exaggeration if faith is equated with the elephant.
There are many interesting stories on Lord Ganesha, one of them being in Mahabharata.
Sage Vyasa is the author of Mahabharata, one of the greatest epics in the world. The Mahabharata War was fought between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
From the excerpts of the divine discourse rendered in the Sathya Sai Boys Hostel on September 4, 1989 we learn this short story from Bhagawan:
“Once Vyasa embarked upon writing the Mahabharata. Because of the immensity of the task of writing down millions of verses, Vyasa sought the help of Brihaspati, the preceptor of the Gods, for a suitable scribe. Brihaspati told Vyasa that none but Lord Ganesha could carry out the task. Vyasa appealed to Ganesha for aid. Vyasa stipulated that everything that was written should be understood by the scribe. Ganesha agreed and in his turn, laid down a condition that Vyasa should not pause in dictating the verse so that the stylus with which he would be inscribing the verses on the palm leaves should write continuously without interruption. Ganesha could write down the entire Mahabharata because He was the embodiment of all knowledge and wisdom. Vyasa could accomplish his prodigious task with Ganesha’s aid.
Another popular story narrated by our Balvikas teacher on Lord Ganesha that made a deep impression on me as a child was that of Ganesha circumambulating (going around) His parents. Ganesha showed by example that reverence for one’s parents will bring about success in one’s life.
Ganesha and His brother Lord Subramanya once had a contest to go around the world in the shortest time. The matter was referred to Lord Shiva for final decision. Shiva decided that whoever would make a tour of the whole world and come back first to the starting point should receive the prize. Subramanya flew off at once on his vehicle, the peacock, to make a circuit of the world. But the wise Ganesha went, in loving worshipfulness, around His divine parents and asked for the prize of His victory.
Lord Shiva said, “Beloved and wise Ganesha! But how can I give you the prize; you did not go around the world?”
Ganesha replied, “No, but I have gone around my parents. My parents represent the entire manifested universe!”
Thus, the dispute was settled in favour of Lord Ganesha, and Mother Parvathi gave Him a fruit as a prize for this victory.
Lessons to be learnt from Lord Ganesha are manifold as He represents the life principle of humanity. I give below a few that I learnt:
- Regard for parents: Ganesha is the divine parent of all and loves all His children. He considers them as His only property. Emulating his example, all parents should consider their children as their property. Similarly, the children should also have utmost regard for their parents. Never forget your mother, never forget your father. (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol 42)
- Be devoted to ones’ duty in life: The story about how Lord Ganesha got his elephant head also tells us about his commitment to duty. Goddess Parvathi once asked Ganesha to stand guard outside the door to their house while she went to take a bath. And, Ganesha refused to let even his father, Lord Shiva, enter the house. He chose to face the wrath of Lord Shiva instead of giving in to Him by letting Him in. This story teaches us that it’s important to do our duty and stand by our decision despite the consequences.
- Be attentive and focused: In today’s world of decreasing attention span, children often have problems in focusing and concentrating on their tasks. Lord Ganesha showed by example by writing the Mahabharata his ability to focus our energies on one thing at a time. This helps us engage with the world in a deeper and more meaningful way.
- Become a leader: Ganesha is the master of our life. There is no leader other than Him. Ganesha is the bestower of intellect and spiritual attainments which gives one the ability to lead. If our intellect is good, everything will become good for us.
- Finally merge in the higher self: At the conclusion of the Ganesha Chaturthi festival the Ganesha idol is immersed in water, thus losing its form and signifying that the Ganesha Principle becomes all-pervasive.
Ganesh Chaturthi is an important festival that is celebrated with piety and gaiety. Thousands gather at Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate this sacred festival in the Divine Presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Swami’s students and staff of all Bhagawan’s educational institutions and even other institutions bring their Ganesha idols to the Mandir, depicting different themes and enthroned on chariots for their Lord Bhagawan Sathya Sai to see and appreciate. After this the idols are immersed. What is the significance of immersion of idols in water? When the idol of Ganesha is immersed in water, it loses its form, and the Ganesha Principle becomes all-pervasive. If you put sugar in water, it will mix with water, permeating its every molecule. Likewise, the merger of the idol of Ganesha with water signifies His all-pervasiveness. (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 42)
Have a happy Ganesha Chaturthi!
Sis. V. Rao