Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival that celebrates the birthday of the great Hindu God, Ganesh. Also known as Ganapati and Ganesha, He is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is the Lord of success, destroyer of evils and remover of obstacles. He is also worshipped as the God of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth.
His worship literally breaks down barriers and removes all obstacles, for He is joyfully embraced regardless of caste, sect, and nationality. He is a beloved favorite among Jains, Buddhists, many Pagans, and of course He is one of the primary five Hindu deities. His popularity extends far beyond the borders of India, including throughout Thailand and other southeastern Asian countries.
With His easy-to-recognize elephant’s head, complete with a curved trunk (which represents the symbol of “Om”) and His a big, very well-fed human body, dear Ganesh is invoked at the commencement of any good action and He protects His devotees from all obstacles.
While this is His own festival day, He is worshiped during every festival, for He opens the way to virtue and all good things. He is invoked before people undertake a journey or embark upon a new venture. You will also see Him guarding entrances to temples and homes, peeping out of calendars and happily blessing marriages and other important occasions.
It is believed that offering puja (adoration, worship, reverence) to Ganesh on Ganesh chaturthi will bring success, abundance, peace and prosperity. He will break down the barriers that can be frustrating and painful, and Ganesh blesses His faithful with prosperity.
Traditional rites include chanting puja and working with a clay image of Ganesh that later can be dissolved in a river or sacred waters. Appropriate offerings may include milk, rice, red flowers, Druva Grass blades (Agrostis linearis), coconut, and sandalwood incense.
The best offering, of course, is giving your own time and your devotion to removing humanity’s obstacles of ignorance, prejudice, and fear.
May we joyfully celebrate our gracious, bodacious Ganesh on His most auspicious day!
Om Shri Ganeshaya Namah!