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Ganesha Chaturthi: Symbolisms and Celebrations

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By Nithin Sridhar

Ganesha Chaturthi, also called Vinayaka Chaturthi, is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Hindus worldwide. The auspicious festival is especially observed in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

Ganesh_Visarjan_Chinawal_2It marks the birth of Lord Ganesha which falls on the Chaturthi of the Shukla Paksha (bright lunar fortnight) of Bhadrapada month. This year, the festival falls on Thursday- September 17.

The festival is celebrated both privately at homes and publicly at gran pandals (public stages). The public celebration was popularized by Balagangadara Tilak in Maharashtra during India’s struggle for freedom from the British. But, the festival itself is much older.

Every Hindu festival has a meaning and symbolisms associated with it. But, these symbols are not dry metaphors or mere representations of abstract philosophies. Instead, every festival is deeply associated with the living presence of the deities.

Lord Ganesha is the personification of Ganesha tattva (principle) manifested in the Universe on Ganesh Chaturthi. Hence, this aspect of God can be most intimately realized by worshiping Him on that day.

Therefore, Ganesha Chaturthi is not just a festival of merriment. Instead, it is a day when one should worship and contemplate on Ganesha tattva, so that one attains both material welfare and spiritual progress. But, a proper worship is only possible when one understands the deity one is worshipping. So let us look into who Lord Ganesha really is and what does his birth signify.

Who is Lord Ganesha?

Lord Ganesha is popularly known as the remover of obstacles. Thus, he is called as “vigna-harta.” He helps people accomplish their desires and goals by helping them overcome the obstacles that obstruct their paths.

He is also called as “muladhara-stitah”- the one who is seated in muladhara chakra. Muladhara chakra refers to physical Universe. Hence, Ganesha sustains this whole physical universe.

The scriptures say that Lord Ganesha has two consorts- Siddhi and Buddhi. Siddhi represents material accomplishments and Buddhi represents spiritual intelligence.

Therefore, the uniqueness of this form of God is that Ganesha can grant both material prosperity as well as spiritual emancipation. If worshiped sincerely, He will remove the obstacles in one’s path and take one to the ultimate goal of Moksha (Liberation).

Symbolism behind Lord Ganesha’s birth

The events surrounding the birth of Lord Ganesha are well known. Goddess Parvati manifested Ganesha out of her own sweat and asked him to guard the entrance of the cave while she was having a bath. Meanwhile, Lord Shiva came and wanted to enter the cave. But, Ganesha who did not recognize Lord Shiva refused to allow Shiva. Shiva then beheaded Ganesha.

Goddess Parvati came out and saw her dead son. This enraged her and she became very fierce. Lord Shiva promised his wife that he would revive Ganesha. He asked other gods to bring suitable head that is fresh and is present in the northern direction. The gods were able to locate only the head of an elephant that had recently died.

Lord Shiva attached the elephant’s head to Ganesha’s body and revived him. Thus, Ganesha was alive again and he was given a boon that he would be worshiped first before any other worship is started.

These events, though usually dismissed as mere “stories”, have deep symbolism and significance at many levels. The events not only correspond to cosmic principles and the manifestation of Ganesha tattva, it also corresponds to the ascent of a spiritual practitioner from bondage to emancipation and the subsequent descent as a liberated being.

Goddess Parvati is none other than the Cosmic Prakriti, the Shakti, or the Maya (the cosmic energy principle). The son she created out of herself, refers to tattvas (principles) created from this Maya. Hence, internally, the Ganesha who was originally created by Parvati represents the physical and the subtle bodies into which a jiva (individual self) is bound by. Jiva is limited. The Kundalini (the serpent power, the power of ego) is strongly identified with the body.

Therefore, the initial creation of Ganesha represents individual jiva who is in bondage being devoid of consciousness (Shiva Tattva).

The beheading of Ganesha by Shiva denotes the slaying of the false ego that happens, when Kundalini rises from her base in Muladharachakra (physical plane) to the SahasraraChakra in the head. Sahasrara is the seat of Shiva and when Shakti merges in Shiva, the false identifications with body dies.

Elephant denotes “intelligence”. Here, it refers to “Atma-Jnana” or “Brahma-Jnana”. The individual jiva now descends from the Sahasrara chakra into Muladhara chakra (Physical universe), but this time, there is no bondage. The individual jiva, on its return stays as “Jivanmukta”- liberated even while having a body.

But, there is a small difference even here between Ganesha and the path of normal jivanmuktas. Normal jivanmuktas when they return, their power or Shakti is limited to the power that their bodies can hold. In the case of Ganesha, he returns as Brahman itself. He at once, represents the unity of Shiva and Shakti.

It is for this reason that Ganesha is described as “pratyaksham brahmasi”- Brahman who can be directly perceived here itself. Therefore, Ganesha should be worshipped not just as a remover of obstacles, but as the supreme Brahman itself, who has in Himself both the essence of Shiva which is consciousness and the essence of Shakti which is movement.

Worshipping Ganesha

Lord Ganesha is offered various offerings- flowers, fruits, clothes, food, etc. These offerings are modes of expression of one’s devotion and surrendering. At the end of the worship, the life force of the deity present in the idol is requested to return back to its cosmic aspect.

Anant_Chaturdashi

The idol that is left behind is placed in water in a process called as “visarjan.” It is important to understand that visarjan does not mean dumping of or throwing away of idols into lakes and rivers. It is a respectful manner of disposing of the idol that represents the body occupied by the deity for a small duration.

Just as human bodies are respectfully cremated or buried with proper rituals, etc. The idols have to be respectfully submerged in water as well.

For the last few years the festival has been often associated with pollution in the media. But, the fact is that the pollution is a recent phenomenon that is itself a product of commercialization. Previously, people sold idols that were made from clay. In fact, many people used to prepare idols from their own hands and use them for worship.

It is only in the last few decades, that the number of people using Plaster of Paris (POP) has increased. In any case, in olden days there were neither POP nor any chemical paints. Ganesha festival as a public celebration itself is only around 125 years old. Therefore, no question of the festival being polluting by its very nature. The pollution is rooted only in some of the current practices that must be avoided.

The true essence of the festival is not in pandal hopping or buying very large idols. Instead, it is in worshipping Lord Ganesha with sincere devotion and surrendering. Hence, every person must attempt to connect with Lord Ganesha tomorrow through worship and contemplation.

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Do You Know there are only two Leaning Temples in The World? Visit the Leaning Temple of Huma in Sambalpur

Huma is about 23 kms towards the southern direction of Sambalpur, Odisha. and is connected with Sambalpur and other cities of Orissa by road. The temple is situated inside the village of Huma.

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Leaning Temple
The Leaning Temple of Huma. Wikimedia.

The famous Leaning Temple of Huma built in 1670 AD is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is one of the only two leaning temples in the world. It was constructed by the ruler, Baliar Singh, the 5th ruler of the kingdom of Chauhan of Sambalpur, Odisha, India. The speciality of this temple is it’s structure skewed to one direction.

Reason Behind its Tilted Structure:

It is regarded that the reason for its tilted structure could be some interior dismounting of rocky bed at which this temple is positioned, either because of flood current inside the Mahanadi River or earthquake, thereby affecting the position of this original temple.  An interesting fact to be noted is that the other little temples inside the Hamlet are also tilted to various other directions.

The finest time to visit this leaning temple is October to March. Enshrine your spirituality during these months and celebrate the festive season in the town of Sambalpur, Odisha. Shivratri is believed to be the chief festival of this temple. Hence, it advances a huge gathering specially during Shivratri festival during March. You may also find ‘Kudo’ fishes on the bank of river Mahanadi near the temple who are given food by devotees as a part of the worship.

Leaning Temple
The Leaning Temple of Huma. Wikimedia.

How to Reach the Leaning Temple of Huma:

By Road – Huma is about 23 kms towards the southern direction of Sambalpur, Odisha. and is connected with Sambalpur and other cities of Orissa by road. The temple is situated inside the village of Huma.

By Rail – Sambalpur railway station is the closest station from Huma. You may find taxis and cabs to drop you 23 kms towards the temple of Huma.

By Air – Bhubaneshwar is the closest airport to Huma which is approximately 290 ms away from Huma. Catch a taxi or cab to drop you at the exact destination.

Leaning Temple
Huma Leaning Temple is one of the two leaning temples of the world. Wikimedia.

Where to stay:

There are various hotels nearby the temple at affordable prices presenting the pleasant view of the outside village.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana 

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Lord Ganesha Puja: Vaastu Tips to Invite Peace and Prosperity this Diwali!

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Diwali Ganesh Puja
Lord Ganesha Portrait. Pixabay

-by Sidhdheshwar Sharma

New Delhi, October 19: The Idol of God must be placed in the right place and direction.  One must follow the Vaastu Tips or principles to offer prayer to Lord Ganesha On Diwali.

To get the blessings of Lord Ganesha follow these Vastu Tips to place Lord Ganesha Idol in the right place & direction:

Which Ganesha Idol Is Good For: ‘Bring A White Ganesha To Home‘ 
lord Ganesha
White crystal idol of Lord Ganesha. Pixabay

It is believed that one can attract prosperity, wealth, and happiness by keeping an idol of White Ganesha at home. If you can’t place an idol, even a picture of Ganesha can do wonders for you. Make sure, however, that the Lord Ganesha’s back faces the outside of the house.

Never Place Ganesha Idol in South Direction
Ganesha at home
Lord Ganesha idol. Pixabay

It is imperative that you do not put Ganesha in the south direction. Also, keep in mind that Lord Ganesha is nowhere near a bathroom or washroom or adjacent to a bathroom. Do not make such mistakes.

Direction to Place Ganesha-Lakshmi Idols

If there is the best direction to place Lord Ganesha, it is the north-east corner of the house. Other directions where you can place Ganesha idol at home is west or east directions of the house. If a north-east direction isn’t feasible for you, try to place the idol in a manner that you face east or north while offering prayers.

ALSO READ: Diwali 2017: Significance of the Diwali, Celebrations & Rituals, Date & Diwali Recipes

Where To Place Ganesha Idol In Bedroom

It is generally advised to not keep idols of gods in the bedroom. If you really have to, then place it in the north-east direction and your feet shouldn’t face the idol.

Types of Ganesha Idols

To get rid of sorrow and bring in good vibes, Vaastu experts advise buying Ganesha made out of cow dung. Idols made up of neem trees, peepal, mango attract positive energy and luck. You can also consider turmeric idols as well.

 Offering to Lord Ganesha
Ganesh Pujan
Devotees Offer Prayer to Lord Ganesha. Pixabay

Place the Lord on a hosted platform and offer a small bowl of rice to get blessings of Ganesha.

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Karwa Chauth 2017: Know the Customs, Age Old Tale, Meals and Muhurat

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Karwa chauth 2017
Karwa Chauth 2017. Wikimedia

Chandigarh,Punjab [Published on 5th Oct’2017]

About Karwa Chauth:

Karwa Chauth is an important festival for married Hindu women all over the world. This year Karwa Chauth will be celebrated on 8 October 2017.

The festival of Karwa Chauth falls on the Krishna Paksha Chaturthi of the Kartik month (October). On the eve of Karwa Chauth, married women keep an uninterrupted fast for their husband’s long life. The ritual of fast keeping for husbands is prevalent in north India like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana.

On this day married women neither consume water and nor food, to pray for their husband’s long life.

There is a story related to Karwa Chauth that a married woman had brought the life of her dead husband back.

There is another story with this, in the past, when the girls got married in a village or place away, they had to leave their families and friends behind and build new relations.

These little girls did not have any information about their husbands, they needed some time to get involved in new family and customs. In order to make this link easier for girls, people of the village started a practice in which the newlyweds used to be friends with their age girls.

During this time, all the girls could express their minds in front of each other. Between the celebrations of this friendship, they got an opportunity to make Dharam sisters. It is believed that the beginning of this festival of Karwa Chauth took place as a celebration of friendship.

The women used to come and carry them and decorate them to their sisters. But, over time, the traditions changed and women started fasting for husbands on this day.

Karwa Chauth 2017: The story of Rani Veeravati

Veeravati was the only sister of seven brothers, who loved all the family very much. With full devotion, Veeravati awaited for the moon with anxiety, keeping the fast throughout the day. Veerawati’s brothers deceived her and showed moon using glass and peepal tree. She broke her fast by looking at the fake moon, and as soon as she started pouring the mouth of the food into her mouth, the servants came and told her that her husband has died.

After receiving this news, Veeravati cried all night, suddenly a goddess appeared in front of her and she told her that if she wanted to see her husband alive again, then she will have to follow the fasting rituals with complete dedication and devotion. Veeravati again fasted Karwa Chauth and after seeing her devotion, the god Yama had to return the life of her husband.

“How to celebrate Karwa Chauth”

Karwa Chauth 2017
Shiv and Parvati. Wikimedia

Married women eat sargi before sunrise – which is prepared by their mother-in-law. After eating sargi, women sustain without water and food till the time they see the moon at night. On this day women worship Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Kartik. In the evening, women worship God and wish for their husband’s long life. On the first glimpse of the moon, women offer water to the moon. After this, the husbands feed water to their wives and complete their fast.

Karwa Chauth 2017: Customs associated with Karwa Chauth

Before watching the moon, a festival is organized by married women in which women participate in wearing red colored sarees. In the meantime, they all rotate their thalis seven times and narrate the story of Karwa Chauth and sing songs. After this, women worship goddess Parvati and pray for their husband’s long life.

Karwa Chauth 2017: Sargi meal eaten
Karwa Chauth 2017: Sargi meal during fast. Wikimedia

Karwa Chauth 2017: “Sargi” Meals during fasting

On the day of Karwa Chauth, the sargi which is eaten before sunrise, contains mathri, sweet, cashew curry, dry fruits, and other foods. At the same time after completion of fasting, women enjoy delicious recipes like kheer, chhole puri, chaat, dahi bhalle with their families.

Karwa Chauth 2017: Muhurat and Timing

The muhurat to worship Chauth Mata is between 17:55 to 19: 09 according to drikpanchang. You can worship the goddess within 1 hour and 14 mins. Moonrise on Karwa Chauth will be at 20:14. However, do check the timing in your city. Chaturthi tithi will begin from 16: 58 on October 8 and will end at 14:16 on October 9.