FESTIVAL OF GANESA.
BY R. KULASEKARAN, B.A., L.T.
It has been aptly said that no country in the world rejoices in a longer list of holidays, festivals (utsava), and seasons of rejoicing, qualified by fasts (upavasa, vrata), vigils (jagarana), and seasons of mortification than India. Several of these fasts and festivals take place on certain lunar days. Each period of lunation consists of about twenty seven solar days and is divided into thirty lunar days. Fifteen of which during the moon's increase constitute the sukla paksha or the bright half and the remaining fifteen the Krishna paksha or the dark half of the month. Some festivals are however regulated by the supposed motions of the sun through the different signs of the Zodiac.
The first of the festivals observed this month was Ganesa chaturthi. It usually falls on the 4th day of the bright half of the month Bhadra (August-September). This is the popular least per excellence. On the morning of this day, the bazaar streets and thorough fares are crowded to suffocation. As one sees the large number of people of different grades and varying ages carrying home the clay image of the God and the variegated flowers and leaves for his worship, one cannot but feel moved by the religious earnestness with which the votaries are filled. Vinayaka or Pillaiyar as the God is known in southern India is no respecter of caste or wealth. Even as the earthly emblem of the great God be of either gold or clay, so are his votaries drawn from all ranks of life. Vinayaka is neither a fastidious God. All the flowers and leaves of forest and even the blades of lowly grass are acceptable unto him if they are but offered with devotion. Rice puddings, beaten rice, gram boiled, or fried things eaten by the common people are his favorite dishes. Great is the return that he makes for these things offered in devotion. He fulfills all the longings of the votary's heart. He give wealth. He wards off obstacles.
The worship of Ganesa is prehistoric. The Rig Veda speaks of Brahmans-pati or Brihaspati; "lord of prayer" the personification of religion and devotion – who by the force of his supplications protects the pious from the machinations of the impious. Gananam Ganapathi, which occur in Rig Veda II.2.3.1 refers to this Brahmanaspati who is the lord of Ganas or troops of divinities. But we cannot be sure that Ganesa as he is worshipped at the present time was foreshadowed in the Vedic Brahmanaspati. The very name Ganesa or Ganapati meaning the lord of hosts is also a name of Siva who is surrounded by innumerable ganas or hosts. These servants and officers of Siva are of two classes viz., good and bad. The bad ones carry out the behests of the God in his aspect of Rudra or Kala directing and controlling dissolution and death. The god ones on the other hand serve him in his aspect of Siva or Sambhu, helping in creation and reintegration. Siva is the sovereign over these hosts, but the actual command is delegated to his two sons, Ganesa and Skanda. Skanda is the generalissimo of the ganas. Ganesa unlike Skanda is not the commander and leader, but rather the king and lord of the bhuta ganas* [* Ganas symbolize our Paneha Bhutas and their products which though under the complete control of the supreme, yet control and constrain Jivas.-Ed] both good and bad alike and controls the malignant spirits who are ever plotting and causing hindrance and difficulties.
What Ganesa or Pillaiyar of the present day really represents is a complex personification of sagacity, shrewdness patience and self-reliance-of all those qualities in fact which make for success in life. His blessing is therefore invoked before undertaking anything. His worship is combined with that of almost every other God and all sects unite in claiming him as their own. His images are often found associated with those of other deities and are often found in the approaches and vestibules (prakaras) of large temples. 'Often however they stand alone and are then to be found outside villages, under trees or in cross ways' or indeed in any kind of locality but always smeared with saffron powder in token of good-luck and auspiciousness.
At the present time there are few people who worship Ganesa exclusively. In former times there was such a class of people known as Ganapatyas. These were divided into six sub-sects who worshipped six different forms of the God names respectively Maha-Ganapati, Haridra-Ganapati, Ucchishta-Ganapati (also called Heramba), Navanita-Ganapati, Svarna-Ganapati and Santana Ganapati.