There are many auspicious days pooja (prayers), fasting & festivals in the Hindu (religious) calendar. Today is one of them.
It is called `Vinayahar Sathurthi’ where Vonayagar is one of the names for the Elephant-headed Hindu God, also known as Ganesh and Pillayar. Sathurthi’s are special days that happen every month, but the one on this month is the most sacred of all, and belongs to God Ganesh.
Myth of the Elephant-headed God Ganesh.
Ganesh, son of Parvathi (Shakthi) and Shiva (in a manner of speaking) was not born with the elephant head! That came later. He was originally born as a human. Born is the wrong word, as he was `made’ or created by his mother – the great Goddess Shakthi (which means `power’ amongst other things).
The mythology goes that Shakthi was fed up of being intruded by her husband the God Shiva, whenever Shakthi was taking her bath (and he would just walk in). So she set a guard outside. But when the Lord Shiva came through, the guard was hesitant and did not stop him. How could he stop Shiva, who was not only the husband of Parvathi, but also the god of all gods?
Realising that she needs a guard who will not falter, Parvathi set about creating a statue of a boy, using her own skin fragments as clay! She brought this to life (she is Goddess!) and asked him to guard her privacy, and let none through. And so that is what the boy did – when Shiva tried to enter the Chambers.
Initially Shiva’s attempts to talk his way through failed, so he escalated his efforts with force. But the boy was powerful enough to stand against that. Eventually Shiva had to call in all the other gods.. Brahma (the Creator god), Vishnu (the protector God) and more. All joined forces and the conflict became a big battle of magic. The boy defeated all their efforts, and still stood firm. In the end, using diverting tactics, the gods cut the boy’s head off! And rejoiced!
When Parvathi heard this, she was intensely angered. Out of her anger came two fierce war goddesses – Durga and Kali, and they began to destroy not only the gods, but the worlds!
The other gods pleaded with Parvathi for mercy. And she request that her Son be brought back to life! (and Shiva realised who the boy must have been..!) But as the head was missing, Shiva told the others to go in a direction, and bring back the head of the first animal they see. So the other gods travel, and find an elephant, ad brought its head – which Lord Shiva fixed to the headless boy, and brought him back to life. (It often bothers me that the Gods would go kill an innocent animal, but wold mythologies are full of all sorts of such violent acts by the gods!)
Shiva then takes the resurrected boy to his wife Parvathi, and she was semi-pleased. Shiva then proclaimed to all the worlds – that the first prayer in any ceremony or ritual should always go towards the boy, named Ganesh,
This is seen in any hindu ritual to date. People spend the first few minutes or seconds praying to God Ganesh. Sometimes they have images, in other cases, they use `Saani’ (the dung of a sacred cow!) or Tumeric powder-paste to make a small cone, and stick a sacred grass in it. This is treated as a divine symbol of Ganesh, and first prayers and respects are given, before proceeding with the main purpose of any pooja or festivities.
related link. Elephantom Origins – new story by Mani Navasothy
Exactly 2 years 1 month and 2 day ago.. I woke up on my 40th birthday, with the running of a small mouse over my naked back! There had been the odd sounds..but until that very moment, I had had no actual proof that a rodent had infested my room.. and I sleep on the floor on a futon-mattress (due to my bad back). For the next few weeks it was a disturbed time.. sleeping downstairs in the sitting room, on the sofa etc. Eventually the mouse went away (probably due to the ..ahem poison we carefully placed in corners of my bedroom).
Until the day before Christmas eve.. 5 days ago, that is!
Yeap, while I was doing this very blog (one about neighbours?) I heard scratching sounds by the wall..near the room’s fireplace (where my pagan altar is). I was disturbed several times that night…and around 5am while I watched in full room light, a mouse peeped out from just behind a potted plant next to the altar! Needless to say, irritably, I packed my beddings and went to sleep on the single bed in the spare room. Next day I went to stay with my partner for Christmas of course…(followed by the events of bad back injury etc). Today I returned, and while checking …the same mouse ran out from under one cupboard ..across the floor (2 meters) and under my altar!
There were 3 sets of plastic containers on various parts of the room floor.. with mouse-poison (you know the stuff.. greenish coloured grains).. which had been placed there few days ago by my mother and sister.. But obviously, it hadn’t worked! The mouse was still there, having left evidence of chewing bits of news paper and carpet in corners!
Am in the small room tonight.. nursing a bad back that’s been through the hands of an osteopath and quite raw.. but I’ve taken care to mix grated cheddar cheese with each of the poisoned grain-packs in my room floor. Hopefully it will entice the rodent forward. It’s some sort of anti-coagulant. (Interestingly, on the box it came from..there are clear instructions on what sort of treatment medical doctors should give a human.. if a human accidentally ingests the poison!)
The thing is.. I have had discussions with people…. They ask of me- how could a nature loving pagan like me think of killing a mouse?! Such an argument can only come from a person who never had a mouse run over their back in the early hours of the morning! My childhood was in an ordinary urban household near crowded capital in Sri Lanka- where I’ve seen dangerous snakes fall from the roof into the house (once into my sister’s cot), or very large rats run about the house (and some get entombed into the walls by my grandmother who seals their burrows!). Some keep mice as pets, yes. But I don’t have to- and I don’t have to let them run about my back either.
Even in Hindu mythology, the mouse / rat is a demon in disguise who attacked the elephant headed god Ganesh..who promptly tamed the demon and made it his personal `vehicle’! (That’s why you always see Lord Ganesh seated on a large mouse!)
2 years ago I had the problem, and it has returned- demon strikes back?! But then I have poisoned grains just under the altar. Now that one is weird even for me.. an actual tool of death, right under my sacred place. But that’s the fireplace…through which the mouse is coming out. In some ways, I see it as my sacred space being invaded by a demon… or rather, the mouse is a symbol of an alien unwanted energy trying to permeate my inner sanctum. So I will fight it.. in the way best can.. and I’ll tell you when I have won!