Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ganeshotsav - 2014

As Mumbai gears up in a big way, in the biggest way possible - to celebrate their favourite God tomorrow, the excitement has caught on and I had to write about Mumbai and its most elaborate love affair with the Elephant God Ganesha. There is no place you should be, but in Mumbai on the 11th day from tomorrow as thousands of Ganeshas from every single home, every single temple, every single street, proceed towards the ocean, to be immersed, only to be brought back into our homes the next year.

Usually the birthday of Lord Ganesha is a one day celebration in most parts of India (where I come from atleast). You make his favourite sweetmeats, you mould a Ganesha out of clay( that was how he was born, his mom Lordess Parvati wanted a baby and moulded some clay into the form of a baby boy with an elephant trunk and lo! he was born) , do puja (worship)- (which consists of invoking the Lord in the clay idol, bathe, dress, perfume and decorate him, sweet talk to him (hyms), feed him his favourite dishes and then send him off when he is ready to go which is the next day, we immerse the clay idol in a bucket of water) and he is gone.

But in Mumbai, you can keep the Lord for 11 whole days. What a treat !! And keeping Ganesha at home is like having the most important guest in your house. You have to take care of him hand and foot, people keep the oil lamp lighted night and day without it ever going off for all the time he is there, so there is light for him always, do puja daily, make his favourite dishes every day, sing his praises (exactly what you would do with a guest)  and never leave him alone (who would leave a guest all alone in the house, to fend for himself) and then when it is time to say adieu, send him off in a grand fashion with promises that he come back again soon.

This would seem strange to someone who is not from India. So a little religious and spiritual background of India is due here :

When Klaus was visiting Mumbai, I mentioned – ‘India is like an onion, the more you peel, the more you can revel in her beauty’.

Same with Hinduism, there are many layers or levels to it. At the outermost level, you have around 33 crores of Gods in India. Of different forms and fashions, to suit everyone’s temperament.
People ask for things from Gods, they go to the temple, they do good karma in fear of repercussions from the Gods and ask for good things. Hinduism figured out long back ‘to send your wishes to the universe and they will be fulfilled’ much before Rhonda Byrne. And there is truth to it, when we articulate what we want, it helps us understand what we want and go after it. The Gods are just a sounding board but that is, at the next level you realize ‘thoughts maketh a man, what you think - so shall you be’. So since we need to be surrounded by good thoughts, all good things are written in scriptures and stories to convey the victory of good over evil. The good and evil is not outside, but inside our ownselves and all the stories and all the gods with 8 hands slaying demons depicts we slaying our inner beasts or the seven deadly sins. But to understand that, man needs a stronger mature intellect, so we are told the fanciest of stories when we are kids, fancier than Harry Potter with flying chariots, many-armed Gods, more fantastic than Greek mythology of animal heads on human body and so on. They are just stories, fiction, but weaved with facts on what life is all about.

Not all Indians progress to understand the deeper meaning of their philosophy. We are all in different stages of evolution. Some still are stuck, asking to God for toys when they are kids, and asking for Toyotas when they are adults.  As one matures and wants to know more about Hinduism – it is for all to discover and to seek  - it is all about answering the eternal question ‘WHO AM I’, ‘WHAT IS MY PURPOSE’. It has nothing to do with the 33 crore gods we started with. It is about transcending the body, mind and intellect and once you transcend, you realise that we are all the same. Every single person, thing, matter, universe are all one. Just like gold which is liquified to make bangles, bracelets, chains and earrings is essentially but gold in different forms.

The movie Matrix (based on this philosophy) differs slightly in the fact that it believes there is only THE ONE. But in Hinduism, we are all THE ONE.
There is one more movie which tries to explain the advaita philosophy - ‘THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR’.

The answer to the question WHO AM I is this – I AM HAPPINESS. (SAT CHIT ANAND). You ask how ? What is sugar ? Sugar is sweet. In any form, crystalized, liquified, solid – it can’t taste like anything else but sugar. – So sweetness is its natural state. Water is essentially cool. You boil it to a 100 degrees and it finds it way back to coolness when left on its own. Its other forms ice snow vapour are all cool to touch. Fire’s nature is heat. It cannot be anything but heat. So what is man’s true essential nature – it is HAPPINESS. That is why when he is disturbed or agitated, he is not happy and he wants to get back to his natural state which is essentially HAPPINESS. Whenever he is not happy – he is restless, like the ripples of the water settle down to the stillness of a lake – so does man want to settle down to his natural state of HAPPINESS all the time. All he really wants, at the end of the day is to be happy, and the best thing is HE IS HAPPINESS. He needn’t search for happiness anywhere. It is within himself. So that is the essential Hindu philosophy played out in one form by celebrating Ganesha’s birthday on the Mumbai shores. Do check out some youtube videos on Ganesh Visarjan, Lalbagcha Raja.
So this was my experience on one AnantChaturdasi day, written 2 years back :