This post is a direct result of landing myself in trouble at Grannymar’s post, Shapely Legs.
One commentator there said something about elephants with which I disagreed and Grannymar had to put out the fires that developed after that. Please do visit her post and read all the comments. Totally fascinating.
In the process of putting out the fire, Grannymar has suggested that I write about Ganesha.
I am not an expert on Ganesha. I shall leave experts to tell my readers all about Ganesha in a nut shell. (What a paradox!)
I am a Hindu. What that makes me is an anarchist as far as religion goes. I can do anything I want, or not do anything, believe or not believe, pray or not pray, visit temples or not, perform sacrifices or not and so on so forth. There is no one sitting over my head and telling me that I will either go to heaven to enjoy the company of virgins or pomegranates, or to hell and roast at very high temperatures. Some Hindus go to elaborate lengths with rituals and ceremonies and many like me, do not. We live and let live. God is strictly personal and we do not like to be told how to approach him. So, you have a colourful kaleidoscope of deities, festivals, ceremonies, rituals etc and all dovetail nicely into a hotchpotch called Hinduism.
In this chaos, Ganesha plays a very important role. It is not because he is a funny figure but because of what he represents. The link would have given you some background about that. For Hindus, the attitude is the most important aspect of worship and prayer, and it has been rightly observed by many that Indians worship milestones too. Yes, they do. If the milestone remotely resembles some fancied deity, some Indian will anoint it with sandalwood paste and red coloured powder called kumkum and start a worship. He will however first invoke Ganesha to remove all obstacles in the process of anointing and then only proceed. How does he do this? He takes bit of sandalwood or turmeric powder, add water and make a dough to form a cone shaped figure. He then summons Ganesha to come and sit in that shape and bless the proceedings. After they whole affair is over, he will dissolve the shape in a plate of water, throw it out and bid Ganesha farewell after profusely thanking him for being symbolically present and preventing any mishaps.
This is not because he is stupid. For a Hindu, it is simply a form to focus his attention on. For a Hindu, there is not many Gods, or one God, but there is ONLY GOD. He therefore does not find it odd to worship a milestone. He will worship anything that takes his fancy because he cannot picture anything without it representing God.
My very first blog post on this site, made last June, is an invocation to Ganesha to bless this blog. You can read it here.
Maria, I hope that you are reading this. You and Grannymar expressed the desire to learn something about our religion and culture. This is an attempt to briefly give you the role Ganesha plays in it. To talk in detail about the whole subject, I will need to write a tome. I am however willing to answer any questions that you may have on what I have written and elaborate where necessary to explain.