The Elephant God Ganesh’ festival

In beautiful India there’s always time for a festival. Recently it was Ganesh’s turn to be celebrated. Welcome to Ganesha Chaturthi – Ganesh ‘festival.

Hindus celebrate the birthday of the colossal God with proboscis – Lord Ganesh, also known as Gajanana (Elephant-faced Lord), Devendrashika (Protector of All Gods), Kaveesha (Master of Poets), Lambodara (Huge belly Lord), Vignavinashanaya (destruction of all barriers and prevention), Akhurath (He who has Mouse as his chariot man, or any of the 101 names he is known.

Ganesh is perhaps the deity with the most special appearance of the Hindu pantheon, and his birth was as unconventional as his profile…

The Elephant God Ganesh. Photo published with permission from http://picturesqueworld.wordpress.com

The Elephant God Ganesh. Photo published with permission from http://picturesqueworld.wordpress.com

When Lord Shiva was away at war, his wife Parvati was going to take a bath, but she feared that someone could come in while she was naked and vulnerable. So, to guard her door, she created a son. She fashioned a model out of clay or sandalwood pulp, which she breathed into life and placed outside the door with instructions not to let anyone enter.

Chance would have it that Lord Shiva returned from the battlefield while Parvati bathed. Ganesh did not know who he was and prevented Shiva from entering. Shiva was in no mood to be stopped in his own house, having fought against the demons all day, so he took his sword and cut off the head of Ganesh.

Needless to say, when Parvati came out of the bathroom and found her new son with a chopped off head, she was angry as only a woman can be! Parvati threatened to destroy the three worlds: earth, heaven and hell (she was certainly not either the first or the last woman in history to make such a threat, but she was the first that actually had the power to do so).

Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Like any good husband would, Shiva instructed his men to go out and retrieve the head from the first living creature they found. They came back with the head of an elephant, which Shiva placed on Ganesha’s body, and with a holy breath, he gave him his life back. Ganesh is the great protector, and also the one who brings good fortune and prosperity.

People celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with a festival lasting from ten to twelve days. Large and small clay and metal models of Ganesh, sometimes 6 meters high, is made for festivities. Holy, traditional food is offered to the god, together with lotus flowers, fruits, sweets, and prasada. At the end of the ten days models of Ganesh are being brought in a procession to the nearest water source and immersed in it.

Immersion of Lord Ganesh
These days, most of the idols of Lord Ganesh made of a special type of plaster instead of clay. Unfortunately the immersion of thousands of idols in local rivers and lakes can be very polluting on this last day of the festival. Indian activists are trying to combat, or at least reduce pollution by encouraging participants to complete a short, symbolic immersion, or by using traditional natural materials such as clay in their models of Ganesh.

Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

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