Ganesha is one of the most popular and loved of the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Everything auspicious starts with invoking his name. Here’s a selection of wonderful books that I’m sure will delight readers and storytellers of all ages, and would brighten your collection of books on Hindu mythology and Indian culture. All of them well illustrated, entertaining and promises interesting reading.
This rare collection of Hindu mythological tales for young readers features 17 stories about Ganesha – ‘Ganesha’s Head,’ ‘The Broken Tusk,’ and ‘Why Ganesha Never Married’ – including one from Mongolia, where Ganesha entered the Buddhist tradition. Full of entertaining pen-and-ink illustrations, it also includes a pronunciation guide, glossary, and a prefatory discussion on Hindu mythology.
This book makes a great gift for someone at the threshold of a change or venturing into a new territory – entering a new job, new house, new business, or kicking off a new relationship. It comes in a box, and contains tales of Ganesha’s powers as a protector, beautifully decorated with 30 illustrations, and includes mantras, prayers, sacred symbols, songs and instructions on conducting a Puja.
Author Amy Novesky retells the authentic version of how the Ganesha got his elephant head as told in the ‘Brahma Vaivarta Purana‘. Belgin K. Wedman’s lovely illustrations reminiscent of classic Indian miniatures add to the beauty of the book. The narration is direct and suitable for read-alouds to small children. This is indeed a beautiful book to possess.
Once Ravana performed a sadhana and received as reward a jyotirlinga from Shiva himself. Shiva told Ravana to carry the jyotirlinga to his land with the caveat that wherever Ravana would place it, it would remain stuck there for ever.
So Ravana carried the jyotirlinga with great care. He held back every physical urge such as eating or attending to calls of nature and walked almost 4,000 kilometres from Kailash to a place called Gokarna in Karnataka. Since he had been walking without food or rest, he felt weak and he wanted to ease himself. Unable to eat any food, he must have sustained himself on water alone and his bladder must have been bursting. But he would not keep the jyotirlinga down either. And he would not be able to make water — an unclean act — while holding the jyotirlinga with his hands.
Presently, he saw a cute and innocent-looking cowherd boy. Ravana said to the boy, “Hey you, come here.” The boy came. Ravana said, “If you hold this for five minutes, I’ll give you a pearl necklace. Just hold it, don’t keep it down. Understand?” The boy agreed. Ravana gave the jyotirlinga to the boy and turned around to ease himself. His call of nature done, he turned around to look. What did he see? The boy had kept the jyotirlinga down and, of course, it had sunk into the earth as per the caveat. Then Ravana looked up. In place of the cowherd, it was Ganapati standing there, in his true form with a grin on his face.
Ganapati did not want Ravana to take the jyotirlinga to Lanka, because if he did, he would have become superhuman. Even today if you visit Gokarna, you will see a small hole in the rock through which you have to put your finger and feel the jyotirlinga. Ravana got so furious he knocked Ganapati on the head so hard that his head was dented. That is why you will also find a Ganapati statue with a depression in his skull at Gokarna.
For these thousands of years that day of Ravana-Ganapati encounter has come down to us as Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganapati, one of the most popular gods from India, is the one who mastered all the knowledge that was in the land. Even today when a child commences his education, the first thing parents do is invoke Ganapati, the scholar-deity. He is believed to like food. Usually scholars are skinny, but Ganapati is a well-fed, smart scholar, who outwitted Ravana.
The Matsya Purana says that Ganesha (lord of the ganas or hosts) was lovingly moulded by his mother Parvati out of the scented scrapings of bath-paste and oil from her own body. The Varaha Purana has it that Ganesha sprung from the radiance of his father Shiva’s luminous gaze. A popular legend recounts how Parvati’s “baby shower” for her handsome son turned into a terrible tragedy when the malefic gaze of Shani or Saturn fell upon the child, causing its head to burst into a thousand pieces. This resulted in a unique identity for Ganesha or Ganapati as an elephant-headed, corpulent personality who loves his modaks and laddoos. The elephant is regarded as wise and mature in Indian lore, hence Ganapati’s formidable intellect continues to inspire men of letters.
The story of how Ganapati came to possess the privilege of being the foremost among the devas is variously told in the Puranas but the broad consensus is that both his powerful parents granted him this boon in different contexts.
That he should be worshipped first by all humans and celestials is a dictum followed to this day by the devout as well as the ritually casual. Commencing a pilgrimage or any new venture with an invocation of him is a time-honoured tradition handed down to us by our ancestors. The first invitee to a wedding is always Ganesha.
Modern variants involve the collection of Ganesha figurines to tastefully decorate our homes.
Inherent in these practices lies an instinctive belief in the power of Ganapati to grant kaaryasiddhi or success in our efforts. He is the Vighna-nashak or remover of obstacles and is therefore famously saluted as Jai Mangalmurti (Victory to the auspicious being). Bringing Ganesha home and keeping him in it, figuratively speaking, is to usher peace and prosperity into our homes. Great powers are attributed to this lovable deity.
A hymn venerates him as parabrahma roopam or verily the Supreme Absolute:
Ajam nirvikalpam niraakaaram ekam
Niraanandam aanandam advaita poornam
(He is the unborn, formless, unique embodiment of the supreme, the absolute, the infinite and the complete. He is bliss.)
One may offer garlands and sweets to a bejewelled, richly clad Ganesha at a large temple this Ganesh Chaturthi. Or one may dip one’s head in hasty obeisance to a vazhi pillaiyar (Tamil term for the roadside Ganesha peeping out of niches in boundary walls).
Our prayerful sentiments are beautifully captured in the celebrated hymn, Bhadram Karnebhih (from the Ganapati Atharvashirsha): May we always hear and see auspicious things; may we live our entire lifespans healthy even as we praise the lord, who guides our thoughts and deeds and protects us from evil.
Power can be self-destructive. Hence, with great power comes a great responsibility.
For an elephant, the trunk is the most important part of his body. It enables the animal to pick up food, collect water, breathe and also communicate with each other.
The elephant, when angry, also uses its trunk to punish miscreants.
If you observe the trunk of Ganesha on any idol, it is always rolled up in a certain fashion. This suggests that he controls the power he wields.
While it is important to possess power, which can come from wealth, intelligence or one’s success, it is equally pertinent to have control over it.
It is human to crib and complain about what we don’t have. But this story of Ganesha shows you how to make the most of what you do possess.
The winner of the challenge, they said, would earn a miracle fruit — a fruit which would provide supreme knowledge and immortality to its owner.
The challenge was that both of them had to run three times around the world. Whoever came first would earn the fruit as a gift.
As soon as the task was announced, Kartikeya left immediately. He rode his peacock and left on his world tour. On his way, he halted at every sacred place, praying and seeking their blessings.
On the other hand, Ganesha stood there and put on his thinking hat. He looked down at his stout body and his vehicle — the rat. In his head, he was sure that no matter how hard he tried, it would be impossible to compete with his brother.
He collected his thoughts and turned to face his parents. When Shiva asked why he did not start on the journey, he replied: “To me, my parents are my world. I would prefer circumnavigating you thrice.”
Needless to say, when Kartikeya returned, Ganesha was already smiling because he knew he had won the race.
This story tells us how we must not fret over our physical weaknesses or limitations, and instead use our wisdom and intelligence to overcome difficult situations.
- Is Lord Ganesha Married? (mylordganesha.com)
- Story of Ganesha as Gajanana and Lobhasura (mylordganesha.com)
An art teacher from Sangamner, Anil Kamble, has claimed that he has created the world’s smallest Ganesh idol. The idol is smaller than a mustard seed, approximately .68 mm in size, measured with the help of a micro meter screw gauge and a travelling microscope.
Kamble, who was recently in Pune and has done his Applied Arts and procured an arts ‘teachers’ diploma from the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya, said, “The weight of the idol is 0.022 miligrams. I have not used any magnifying glass or lens while creating this idol and all body parts, including the idol’s left hand and the ‘modak’, are clearly demarcated,” he said, adding that the idol has been made using the glue M-Seal.
“25% of the proceeds will go an organisation working against female foeticide, while another 25% will go to the Sangram Mukbadhir Vidyalaya and Niwasi Matimand Vidyalaya in Saykhindi,” he said.
The Lower Parel railway workshop Ganesh idol is a burning example of how to put waste to best use. The six-foot-tall idol made entirely from dumped railway bogie parts stands proudly inside a temple made from scrap generated by the workshop. The Lord and His abode are so unique, it is hard to miss them even amid the hectic activity around.
“I created the idol around three years ago. All of us who work here pray to it every day. It is a symbol of our dedication to railways. It sends out the message that even scrap is given the form of God here,” said Santosh Gajakosh, a grade-I fitter who maintains old coaches, beats iron panels into shape and repairs equipment.
While the idol trunk is made of equalising stay rods, milk tank brass hangers make its ears and air suspension cylinders the body. The idol is repainted and decorated before every Ganesh and other festivals.
The heavy duty railway workshop at Mahalaxmi too is a proud possessor of two such Ganesh idols and an ‘iron man’.
“It takes 10-12 days to complete the work,” said Ganesh Laxman Ambekar, a grade-I welder who has made the two idols, one showing Ganpati playing a musical instrument.
The ‘iron man’ gifted by bogie assembling unit staff to Indian Railways on the 85th anniversary of electrification of WR, is symbolic of the core nature of the Mahalaxmi workshop that maintains local trains.
Ambekar and Gajakosh’s enthusiasm is shared by Rajan Bhagwat, a junior engineer in the mechanical department of the diesel locomotive shed in Pune. He also spends considerable time and effort in creating idols from scrap.
“In 2001, I made an idol of Lord Ganesh for installation in the bungalow of then Central Railway general manager. In 2003, I made another idol for then GM’s Peddar Road bungalow using scrap from diesel locomotives at the shed. I used the lid of a filter drum to make the face of the idol. I have also made idols of Balaji and Padmavathi from scrap. The satisfaction is immense,” said Bhagwat.
Seventeen years after she married Yunus Ansari against her family’s wishes, a lot has changed for Rajeshree Naishetty, except her religion.
Rajeshree says that besides her’s, she applies to the Ganesh Utsav Samithi of Surat for permission to hold the puja in the name of Rehana and Arefa Shaikh.
Rajeshree, who runs Ekta Mahila Vikas Mandal in her area for the welfare of women from downtrodden sections of society, says several people from the two communities in the area participate in the puja organised by her.
“We celebrate Ganesh festival every year, which brings communal harmony in our area. Hindus and Muslims take part in puja and other activities in the pandal for 10 days. I wish festivals were celebrated in this manner across the country to develop a good bonding among people,” Rajeshree says.
She further says she celebrates festivals of both the religions with equal fervor and even observes fasts during the month of Ramzan.
Rajeshree says she and Yunus, who runs a textile business, got married after eloping 17 years ago. After the marriage, their families maintained a distance from the couple but they reunited after the birth of their first child Amena.
“I am happy with what I have got from my family and relatives,” says Rajeshree, adding that her in-laws never pressurised her to change her religion or customs.
Limbayat is not the lone area in the city where such communal harmony prevails.
Artsites who make Lord Ganesha idols are usually men but the idols made by the Ponarkar family in Hubli get an elegant feminine touch. It is the women of the family who have been making Ganesha idols for the past several years and what distinguishes them from others is that they make eco-friendly earthen idols as against the regular POP ones.
There are more than 10 households belonging to the Ponarkar family in the city. Women of these families are adept at preparing idols of the Elephant God using clay and natural colours.
Women of Ponarkar family begin the auspicious work of making Ganesha idols soon after Ugadi. They get clay from Heggeri, Keshwapur and Gopankoppa for Rs 2,800-3,000 per kg. Each family will make about 300 idols, to be finished in about six months. Men of the family too extend a helping hand to women in the process.
Speaking to TOI, Priya Narayan Ponarkar of Hosur, said, “I have been making Ganesha idols for the past 15 years. Preparing idols out of clay is a laborious task when compared to POP idols. Every day we get on to idol making after completing the household chores. We spend nearly 6 to 8 hours per day in making idols. I make one or two idols in a day.” Priya’s household has prepared 200 idols this year and most of them have already been sold for Ganesh Chaturthi on Wednesday.
Nanda Ponarkar, who is involved in idol making for the past 20 years said she learnt the art from the elders in the family. With the help of her family members she has made 400 idols this season.
Over 8,000 colour pencils and 12,000 erasers have been used to make the Ganesh idol of the Jai Ambe Mitra Mandal, Raval Nagar, Bhayander (East). The mandal’s theme is ‘when you educate a girl, you educate a nation’. When the mandal turned three in 2009, its members felt the need to use the 10-day festival as a platform to spread social messages. This year, when the mandal was deliberating on themes, stories of female foeticide were making headlines, said mandal president Mukesh Ufale. “We worship goddesses. But when it comes to our daughters and sisters, we want to simply marry them off. That is when the idea of educating the girl child occurred to us.”
After deliberations, it was decided to use stationery to make the pandal’s idol.