Ganesh Chaturthi is the celebration of Lord Ganesha or the elephant headed god as he is popularly known throughout the world. Each year Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with a lot of excitement and joy, but what exactly is Ganesh Chaturthi and what does it signify.
The hindu religion has been studied and interpreted by different people in different forms including the myriad rituals that are performed to the deities but the essence of all the interpretations is the same and leads one towards the supreme god.
Celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi is one such festival which reinforces the Advaita vedanta principle. Advaita (non dual in Sanskrit) refers to the identity of the true Self, Atman which is pure consciousness and the highest reality,Brahman , which is also pure consciousness. Followers seek liberation from the birth circle by acquiring Vidya (knowledge) of the identity of Atman and Brahman.
Lord Ganesha is praised in the hymn composed by Adi shankaracharya as Ajam Nirvikalpam Niraakaaramekam. This means that he is never born. He is Ajam (unborn), Nirvikalpa (attributeless) and Niraakaar (formless). He is omnipresent. This has also been described beautifully in the following stanza from "Atharvashirsham" which is considered to be the most powerful hymn written on Lord Ganesh.
Lord Ganesha is not outside us he is within us; the individual self is not different from Brahman. This is again described in the following stanza from “Atharvashirsham” where he is stated to reside in the mooladhara Chakra.
The ritual of immersing (visarjan) of the idol in water after few days of worship reinforces the understanding that God is not in the idol, it's inside us. So while we experience the omnipresent in the form we ought to bear in mind our formless reality. This is the essence of the Ganesha Chaturthi festival.
Another interesting aspect of Lord Ganesh can be found in the first line of the above mentioned stanza from “Atharvashirsham”. He is described as “tvam gunatrayatitah” guna means qualities. There are three primary qualities (gunas) of nature (prakriti). It is present in varying degrees in different permutations and combinations among all living beings as defined in the Bhagavad gita they are Sattva – (awareness, being), Rajas - (activity, intent), and Tamas - (lethargy, inertia). The role of gunas is to bind all living beings through wants for all objects desirous of their senses thus keeping them under the control of prakriti.
Tamas represents darkness, ignorance, stagnation, inertia, indolence, obstruction, dullness, heaviness and is Black in color.
Rajas represents desire, passion, energy, movement, expansion, greed, restlessness, agitation, craving, attachment and is Red in color
Sattva represents light, truth, goodness, intelligence, knowledge, joy, pure, calm, clarity and the lightness of being and is White in color
This is my abstract version of 3 gunas. If you are interested in buying this painting you can do so over here
The three gunas are present in the divine consciousness and they exist in perfect harmony. When this harmony is disturbed the process of creation begins and all living beings are created possessing these gunas in various proportions.
These gunas are there in all of us in various levels and depending on the circumstances, environment, the food we eat etc., one of these gunas are dominant than the other two during various times in our life.So if we understand these gunas we will be in a better position to curb and cultivate some of our gunas to be able to lead a better life.
I have been celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi for the last three years by making Lord Ganesha at home with natural clay. Here is a pic of the ganesh that was made by me this year.
I hope Lord Ganesha gives us the intelligence to watch our conduct and keep in mind the 3 gunas while we go about our life. Let us endeavor to awaken the consciousness which lies veiled within us.