What is Ganesh Chaturthi?

Shri Ganesh

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India. Ganesha is the god of wisdom and prosperity, and Hindus joyfully and hopefully worship this god for an easy life ahead. Ganesh Chaturthi falls in the month of Bhadrapada, on Shukla Chaturthi. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated to commemorate Shri Ganesha’s birth and arrival to Earth.

A popular story behind the reason for this festival starts when Goddess Parvati goes to take a bath and makes a clay idol of a boy. She brings it to life and tells the boy to make sure no one comes in while she is bathing. Shiva, the destroyer, had tried to go through, but Ganesha would not allow him. In the heat of the moment, Shiva cut off the boy’s head. To make up for this sin, Shiva replaced it with an elephant’s head, representing animals, and granted Ganesha the power to create obstacles for the harmful deeds of the demons and remove obstacles for good deeds, hence his name Vighnaharta. Hindus celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in order to gain wisdom and succeed in whatever auspicious task they choose to complete.

The worship of the god himself has been recorded since the fourth century CE, but it was freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak who publicized this festival, around 1893. Because Ganesha represents all people, Tilak used this as a way to connect people and unite them as true Indians against the British, lighting a determinate fire in their souls. He used this as an opportunity to make plans with other leaders to overthrow the British government. Since the British could not deny the Indians of their religion, they had no choice but to let the Indians proceed. In this way, Ganesh Chaturthi became a public festival.

Ganesh Chaturthi is special mainly because he represents the union between nature, animals, and humans, and by worshipping the god, people symbolize the harmonious lifestyle between nature and humans, which help each other thrive by removing obstacles through their own work, and also helps remove their past sins.

In India, each area has its own way of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. In Gujarat, Ganesha resides in their homes for 10 days. A Ganesh idol is placed on a bed of rice and welcomed with showers of milk and water. Ganesh idol is decorated with chandlo which is made with kumkum and sandal paste and aarti is performed after lighting incense and saying many prayers.

In Andhra Pradesh, people perform a Ganesh puja and read mantras and stories about Ganesha. They throw rice mixed with turmeric onto the idol of Ganesha and offer prasad, which is tamarind rice and sweet Pongal.

In Rajasthan, people celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi publicly. People cover a large image of Ganesha with kumkum, then put a garland of red flowers around an idol of him. Motichoor laddoos are also made, as they believe it to be the god’s favorite food. A common tradition in India is to not look at the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi.

My family is from Maharashtra, where Ganesha Chaturthi is the most popular. We clean and decorate the house to welcome Ganesh for 10 days, though in different parts of Maharashtra, the day Ganapati goes back home depends on when his mother Parvati arrives, on Bhadrapada Shukla Saptami. We dress up in bright new clothes on this day. My mother makes twenty-one modaks, which is believed to be Ganesha’s favorite dessert, and are offered as “naivadyam”. We also offer durvaa-grass to Ganesha. My dad sets up the pooja. When everything is set up, we perform an aarti. Ganesha Chaturthi is my favorite festival of the year. There is always a happy environment in the home. Modaks are also my favorite food, and Ganesha is my favorite god. Most importantly, I continue to learn Indian culture even though I live in the US.

The Volcanic Eruption

A short story by Nandini Dharwadkar

VolcanoThere were many volcanoes near our village. For a long time they were dormant, but I knew that they were active volcanoes and would erupt sooner or later. I asked my father about this, but he always laughed it away and said that we will always be safe and nothing will happen to us. But I think, he too knew that the volcanoes would erupt soon and destroy our homes. He kept it from me so I wouldn’t be scared and worry too much. My sister Tallulah, was scared too and asked me, “Tehya, will we be safe?”
 
One day, there was a rumbling noise and earth shook violently. Suddenly, I realized that this is what I had feared the most. My father shouted, “Everyone! Get your most important belongings and let’s all hurry to a far place before the volcano destroys our village!” We all obeyed knowing he was right. We all ran to a far distance. When we stopped, we saw the lava bubbling down the mountain to where we first lived, destroying and burning everything in its path. We were all very distraught and heart-broken. I was extremely sad as that was the only place I knew as home.
 
We all recovered very quickly because we knew that if we stood there mourning about what had already happened, we would not get anything done and solve our problem. So my father gathered us all and we made a plan. We would first collect enough wood, enough to build 5 house (there were 50 people in our tribe). Then we would make weapons out of some of the extra wood to hunt animals for food and clothing and to protect ourselves. Tallulah and I were in charge of getting the wood for the houses. It was hard work, but we completed the task. After we were finished, some men started constructing the houses. It took our tribe a whole day to form a new village, but when we were done, we were all satisfied with our work.
 
At night, after everyone was asleep, I secretly went to our old, burnt village. I missed it very much! I thought of the good memories we had in the village. I thought of when Tallulah was born. That was the best memory. There was a lot of commotion around our house because everyone had come to see the baby. Suddenly, a hand on my shoulder interrupted my thoughts. It was my father. He said, “Those were some good memories, eh?” We both laughed and started back for our new home.

Dasara Greetings and Blessings

Greetings and blessings on the auspicious day of Dasara.

Dasara

On this very auspicious day of Dasara which marks the triumph of good and truth over evil, may the Lord bless your lives and bring joy to your lives. Dasara is the day on which Lord Ram killed the demon king Ravan to defeat Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) and ended a period of terror and torment of common people by the "Asuras"; evil personified.

Dasara (also called as Dusshera, Vijayadashmi) is celebrated all over India with much fan fare with exchanging visits and wishes to relatives and close friends and by seeking blessings of elders. In most parts of India, people enact "Ram Lila" a short play on the life of Lord Ram which culminates into Lord Ram burning the effigies of Ravan, Kumbhkarna (Ravan’s brother) and Meghnad (Ravan’s son). Watch this beautiful song from the film Swades which captures the spirit of Dasara very aptly and the burning of the effigy by Lord Ram.

The burning of the effigies is symbolic to cleanse society of all evil by burning it. The looks and the feelings on the faces of people when Lord Ram arrives is just great.

Here’s sharing warmest greetings and blessing with you all. I pray for us all to root out evil from our society and live in peace and harmony with each other.

दसरा!! Dasara – The festival of joy & righteousness

Apta Leaf
In Marathi, there is one saying
“दसरा सण मोठा,
नाही आनंदा तोटा”

This means that Dasara is such a festival which is full of joy, happiness and commemorates the triumph of good over evil. We celebrate the nine days beginning from Ashvin Shuddha Pratipada as “Navaratri” and the tenth day is celebrated as “Dasara / Vijaya Dashami”. In 2020 अश्विन शुद्ध प्रतिपदा falls on Saturday October 17th.

During this vowed religious observance, a pot is installed (घटस्थापना) at a sanctified place at home. A lamp is kept lit in the pot for nine days. The pot symbolizes the universe. The uninterrupted lit lamp is the medium through which we worship the effulgent Adishakti, i.e. Shree Durgadevi. During Navratri, the principle of Shree Durgadevi is more active in the atmosphere.

Mahishasurmardini

There are a lot of anecdotes relevant to Navatri and Dasara. They say the demon “Mahishasur” started terrorizing Swarga Loka (Heaven) and Prithvi Loka (Earth) after Brahma granted him a boon that no man or god would be able to conquer him. . He invaded Swarga Loka and defeated the king of gods Indra and took control of Swarga Loka. He drove all the Devas (Gods) out of heaven. Eventually, they created his nemesis in the form of a young woman, Durga, also known as Shakti or Parvati. She combined the powers of all the gods to fight Mahishasura. The goddess then attacked Mahishasura’s empire, and after nine days of fighting, during which Mahishasura’s army was decimated, he was finally killed on the tenth day of the waxing moon by her incarnation Kali (which appeared from her forehead). Durga was henceforth called Mahishasuramardini, the killer of Mahishasura.

9 Forms of DurgaNavaratri is celebrated to worship nine forms of Durga Maa with fervour and devotion. Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. In Gujrat, they try to please the Goddess by a special dance called “Ras-Garba”. In Bengal the festival of Durga Puja is celebrated. In Kearala, the “Onam” festival represents Navaratri and Dasara. They believe that Bali raja was so kind, that even if he was pushed to Patal lok (The nether world), he would come to the earth to see if everybody is doing good on Dasara.

In Mysore (an ancient city in the south Indian state of Karnataka, around 125 Km from Bangalore) there is a tradition of holding a grand procession through the streets of the city with the idol of the goddess Chamundeshwari riding in a golden Ambaari (elephant-seat).

Jai ShriramIn North India, Dasara is the day when Prabhu Shree Ram killed the demon Ravan. So the nine days are dedicated to Ramlila i.e chanting Rama Bhajans and on the tenth day statue of Ravan is burnt. The burning of the effigies is symbolic to cleanse society of all evil by burning it.

There is a very interesting story about why we give the leaves of “Shami” to each other on Dasara. They say that when Pandavas went to “Adnyatwas” they hid their weapons on Shami tree. And when the Adnyatwas was about to end the Kauravas took away the cows of Raja Virat under whose shelter Pandavas lived. So to save the cows Arjun got his weapons back from the “Shami” tree and that was “Dasara”

There is another very interesting story about the “आपट्याची पानं” (Leaves of Shami tree).
Apta Leaf
It goes like this:

Once there was a boy names Koutsa, who wanted to offer Gurudakshina to his Guru. his guru after Koutsa insisted, asked for 14 crores (140 Million) of gold coins. now Koutsa didnt have as many coins so he went to King Raghuraja. To fulfill his demand, Raghuraja decided to attack Indra and get the money. But when Indra came to know that Raghuraja was going to fight him he was scared, later he knew the main reason of the fight. So he requested Kuber (Treasurer of God) to load the “Shami” tree with gold coins. Now Koutsa offered all the coins to his guru but Guru accepted only 14 crores of coins nad asked Koutsa to put the remaining back on the tree. Later on those coins were distributed among people, and since that day was “Dasara” we give each other the “Shami” leaves symbolically.

Indians give a lot of importance to start any project, journey, activity or make a purchase at an auspicious time. According to Hindu Mythology there three and a half very auspicious days (साडे तीन मुहूर्तांपैकी एक) in an year on which you can start any project or make any purchase without waiting for an auspicious moment. Dasara is one of those days. Therefore many people buy jewellery on the occasion of Dasara. The 9th day is “Ayudha Pooja” when everyone gives their tools of the trade — pens, machinery, books, automobiles, school work, computers etc. a rest and ritually worships them. They start afresh from the next day, the 10th day which is considered as ‘Vijaya Dashami’. Many teachers/Schools in south India start teaching Kindergarten children from that day onwards. Students also pay homage to their respective teachers as they are considered the third god (माता, पिता, गुरू आणि दैव – Mother, Father, Teacher & God).

Are we becoming the mice of NIMH?

Introduction

Some time ago, I had written about people behavior and civilization. Those thoughts sparked from how people behave in less than optimal situations like a crowded train. But that’s nothing compared what’s happening around us nowadays. Last week there was yet another mass shooting in a public place in the US. This time the shooting was at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. There have been 248 mass shootings in US in 2019 and at this pace, it will easily surpass the 323 mass shootings that took place in 2018. Are we becoming the mice of NIMH?

Social Issue

What is the society now coming to? Are we really becoming the mice of NIMH where we are unable to handle the bounty that nature and our society is providing us? The video below is very distressing and is that a harginger for human society. All the indicators so far point in that direction only.

Will this human behavioral trend mean that all the social gatherings will cease to happen and everything will become virtual? Already the today’s kids don’t like to go and hang out together. Rather they choose hanging out together in virtual chat rooms like Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger. Messenger website evens has a catch-phrase, “Be together, whenever.”

Messenger Message
Is it worth it?

These kids are missing out on all the personal contacts gained by actual interaction. This kind of social interaction is not preparing them for the rigors of the real world and they become socially awkward. Will they become “The beautiful ones”? Only time will tell, but I am worried.

Already the upcoming social events like the Fremont Festival of the Arts will have enhanced security after the Gilroy incident. In that case, people immediately start viewing each other with suspicion and instead of what should be a celebration of art, culture and human interaction, the ambience becomes acidic and caustic and an ordeal. I have already made up my mind to not go to the festival.

Conclusion:

I just hope that good sense will prevail and human race will address this issue and halt the seemingly inevitable march towards doomsday.

I am not an ideal man

I am a man. Period. With all the fallibilities and weaknesses that accompany a man, I exist. I do not claim to be the perfect or ideal man. In the entire history of human kind, there has been only one perfect / ideal man – the supreme being if you will and that was Prabhu Sri Ramachandra.

And even he was unable to make everyone happy all the time and be ideal all the time. When he was an ideal son, he was not an ideal brother or ideal husband. When he was an ideal husband, he was not an ideal ruler… and so on.

I have never claimed to being perfect or ideal, but I do claim is that I am a good man and my heart is in the right place. Even if I am unable to convey my feelings and thoughts clearly at times, I never have bad intentions for anyone. Ever.

I have tried to be a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good son-in-law, a good brother and a good friend. But recently I have realized that I have failed miserably in everything. Possibly because, I have confused myself with the definition of good and ideal. It is OK to feel sad, angry and let down. It is also OK to not meet expectations every time as long as you are clear and upfront about it as to why you are doing what you are doing.

I always felt that I cannot let anyone down and I have to ensure that I meet everyone’s expectations else, I will lose my reputation and ruin my relation with whoever had the expectation. No. That’s not right. If the relation is so weak so as to break / ruin based on one transgression, then it was not a real and strong bond in the first place. I also know that all the interactions need to be transactional, but also realize that it is not possible for people to not remember earlier transgressions and treat every interaction as independent. But I think there is a limit to how long these things will be stretched and a person reminded of past errors.

As a man with fallibility, I am bound to make mistakes – To err is human – but it is also equally true that to forgive is divine – In forgiveness, both sought and given is where we find true peace and love.

Husband’s mother, wife’s father…

This is a relationship conundrum which I think most of the married folks out there can relate with. When I got engaged with my wife and I looked around and saw my friends’ behaviors as well, I realized that regardless of the situation at the home, in the relationship between a husband and wife, the husband’s mother and the wife’s father is the dominant personality. Whether the person’s personality is strong / dominant or not in reality, but the perception in a marriage is always the same. I always used to think, why is it always like this only.

I have been thinking about this for the past 15-16 years and suddenly I had a sort of epiphany and things suddenly got very clear. No matter how much a person loves his or her sweetheart, this conflict or situation if not a conflict will always arise in the relationship. According to me, there’s a simple reason for this. For every boy, his mother is his role model for a woman and for every girl, her father is her role model for a man. Subconsciously we are all comparing whoever we interact with, with our role models. For every action a partner in a relationship takes, it is instantaneously and perhaps sub-consciously compared with the person’s role model. “How my mother would have done this?” or “How my father used to do this?” While this is unfair for the person being compared, the stark reality of the situation is that it exists and there is no running away from it.

Do I know how to resolve the situation? Absolutely not. I do not claim to have an answer to this conundrum. My aim was to merely share the epiphany that I had and hope that it helps someone. We cannot hope to change the subconscious mind of a person, but the best that we can do is probably understand the person’s perspective a little bit and in that process make the relationship more enjoyable and fulfilling.

।।तथास्तु।।