Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A complete Ganesh Chaturthi.

As much as I love Ganeshotsav the awareness of the harm POP does to our environment takes away from completely enjoying it. Ever since I became aware of the harm the plastic decorations do to our ever receding resources, it became increasingly difficult to rejoice in the beauty of the POP idols.  Somehow the celebrations seemed less divine, especially given the number of mandals popping up at every corner, not to mention multiple community mandaps within the same society!

In our home, at the insistence of Ishaan we have a small celebration.  There is an idol Ishaan made out of clay some years back at his school.  We bring out the Idol, do a sthapana, decorate with flowers, colorful cloth or paper. Make offerings of incense, camphor, turmeric, rice, vermillion, fruits, flowers(mostly grown in the window-sil flowerpots), and home-made vegan delicacies.  Thrice a day, we light the lamp, ring the brass bell to clarify the sound space, chant the Mahaganapathi stotram,  and sit in silent meditation.  Aartis are something I am yet to get used to. The second half of the second day, we dutifully bid adieu to the Lord, clean up the idol, and place it back in its case with some camphor to prevent humidity and into the storage.

Well, this is a  tradition formed over the last few years.  Our ancestors belong to the region of Kerala, in South India, where this kind of Ganesh Chaturti celebration was not even heard of until a couple of years ago.

When friends invite to visit their home Ganesha's the first question would be "Are you getting a natural clay image of the Lord? " Most people feel offended by this simple earnest question. Slowly the flow of invitations started to dry up.  The" wise" friends, the " spiritual" community, the "Society conscious" friends, all seem to be bringing home the beautiful but difficult to dissolve, the all polluting plaster of paris idols, painted with shiny and attractive, but toxic paints.

What is it that made an ecofriendly celebration so difficult? The reasons were plenty.  The idols are hard to come by. they are not good looking.  The clay makes the idols heavy.  Cant have a big murti.  If using flowers for decoration, they have to be changed every day  Takes a lot of extra  time, extra effort.  Normal people like us cant do it.   It does not go with tradition. and many more.

 I keep reading about traditional families celebrating a Green Ganapathi. But was yet to experience this in any of my friends or acquaintances.

 Enter Manjusha Kulkarni.

A professional in an MNC, a devoted mother and wife.  One of the grittiest, yet wise and humble human beings I have known.  Last year I was invited to seek the blessings of the Kulkarni family Ganesha.  I have known Manjusha to be  a very conscious individual.  So much against my logical reservations, I decided to follow my instinct and go ahead with the visit, without subjecting them to the "Eco" questionnaire session.

One look at the beautifully crafted idol and I started doubting my instincts.  Man, this is definitely POP! How did my intuition draw me here? Yet I noticed the simple yet beautiful decorations.  The simple elegance drew my and Ishaan's attention.

As we spoke with Manjusha and Prasad, we realized the intuition was not wrong after all!!  They bring home a clay idol of the Lord every year and decorate it using reusable decorations and flowers.
The visarjan is done in a tub with utmost devotion and the water disposed into flowerbed.

Wow! I was thrilled as though I have found the elusive Yeti!   Just look at this idol, wont you just fall in love with the Lord!

 This year as usual, the Kulkarni's had an ecofriendly yet absolutley devine celebration.  So I requested Manjusha to share her experience.

The Kulkarni Family:  Manjusha, Prasad and their son, Vinayak.

This is what Manjusha had to say,
 "We started getting it when my son, 6 years old at that time, wanted a Ganpati at home as he saw others getting the idol in their homes.   We did not know if clay idols (eco friendly ones) were easily available in the market.  So when we started this around 5-6 years back, we went to the nearest Ganpati shop and asked for it.  At that time there were very few idols in his shop which were pure clay ones….more were of POP."

See, it is that easy  You want something, just ask around and you shall recieve!

Manjusha continued; " And my son, wanted the POP one as they looked more glossy; hence attractive.   We convinced him that those aren’t good for the environment as they do not get dissolved in water easily during visarjan."

Wow.  Its never easy to convince kids. But this kid is incredible, indeed.
"  Over the years we have seen that now there are many shelves of clay idols too…so it looks like demand for clay idols too has increased…though even now POP occupies major portion.", she said. " I think it’s a celebration where people come to your house ; you enjoy that day with family; friends who come over…even if you don’t meet them for the entire year ahead"
  I wanted her to elaborate a bit on the unique visarjan.  "Visarjan is very easy, no need to go anywhere carrying the murti(though my son likes to go to the lake; do the immersion.  We have a big tub in which we immerse the idol; in the next one hour it gets dissolved in water…we then mix that water in near by greenery or bushes."

Simple.  Efficient and so very earth friendly.  Just take a look at some of the idols that they have welcomed into their home.  How very beautiful!

How can we say we love God, when in His praise we destroy His creation, the nature all around us? The essence of God, of the Divine, is in the abundance of creation, in the natural resources, every being on this beloved Earth.

When everything syncs with the rhythm of existence, it becomes a celebration of life, of existence itself.  That is true worship.
In our worship, if we can stop polluting our water resources, stop frightening our fellow living beings with the fireworks and loudspeaker, not to forget the weak of health and the sensitive to hearing amongst our own species, we would be one step closer to our beloved Lord.
Wish more of us will make this simple and easy shift and make our celebrations truly complete.

Ganesh chaturti is supposed to be a festival that brings together, not divide.
Amongst the traditional followers, Bappa was brought home only by the eldest son in the family. Kids would sing with glee--"mamachya gawala jao ya!" Whatever the little differences in the various branches of the family tree would be put aside in the presence of the Lord. All would be one in His welcome and in serving him during His stay.
In essence this was the true meaning of Ganesh Chaturti.
Even in a community celebration, the mandap, the pooja, the aarti, the lighting, the prasad and of course the talent shows, formed a base for unifying the people, for cultivating humanity and tolerance amongst each other. Hence the communal mandaps would comprise many homes, one village would have one big mandap.
In his presence Everyone is ONE!

Lets go back That essence of the festival.
No, do not bring home a Bappa Idol just because you dont get along with that sibling who is supposed to host the festivities. Bappa is everywhere.

No, dont bring home an Idol because you have promised him you would do so if He fulfilled certain wishes of yours. Bappa is in your heart. He does'nt barter, he does not discriminate. There is just love and prosperity flowing from the Divine to you. It is unconditional. Just keep an open heart.

No dont create your own mandal because you cant stand the attitude of some people in the other society or because your children dont win any talent contest, because there is bias and partiality. In Bappa's talent competition all are winners. Focus on the purity of the Ganesh energy and be blessed in all areas of life.

Ganesha doesnt ask you for a pompous display of your devotion. He does not need it. Divine in the Universe is not dependent on material forms of human obedience. The Divine is within us, surrounding us, in people, in Nature. The idol, the shloks, the aarti and festivities are a way for us to connect with the qualities metaphoric in the Elephant head image and awaken them within us.

With all the POP, the plastic containers, flowers, thermacol we are in fact doing just the opposite, we are not connecting with the Divine, but moving further from all that is good.

This Ganesh Chaturti, lets awaken the Ganesha within us,
--May we be the radiant storehouse of wisdom and knowledge
--May we be the good and patient listener
--May we live with dignity and respect
--May we awaken focus and determination on our chosen path

--May we sail through all challenges, become solution oriented.
--May we axe out the self defeating thoughts that arise.
--May we be kind benevolent and compassionate.
--May we be patient and shine every moment.
--May we bring peace in our surroundings.
--May we celebrate every moment.
--May we find balance when desire overwhelms.

Wishing you all a very happy Ganesh Chaturti.


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