This is Ganesh (or Ganesha or Ganapati), one of the most popular Hindu gods. It’s appropriate to make this photo the first in my blog because it’s Ganesh’s birthday today! Amongst other things, Lord Ganesh is the God of science and the arts, and of new beginnings. He’s also a remover of obstacles so it’s no wonder he’s so popular. I have quite a few pictures and idols of Ganesh myself, in the hope that he might remove some of my obstacles.
Ganesh has a large belly and the head of an elephant. One of the stories of how his elephant head came about is that Ganesh’s mother, the Goddess Parvati, wanting a son, made Ganesh out of dirt and sent him to guard her whilst she bathed. Parvati’s husband, the God Shiva, tried to enter her bathing quarters, but Ganesh stopped him, not knowing who he was. Shiva cut off his head! Of course, Parvati was devastated and threatened to destroy the universe, and so Shiva ordered his men to find a replacement head. As a human head couldn’t be found, an elephant’s head was produced, and attached to Ganesh. Ganesh is often depicted with a mouse who is his vahana, his vehicle, and his provider of ladoos, which are delicious, round Indian sweets.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated all over India, but particularly in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Idols of Ganesh, which are often made of clay and can be quite enormous, are worshipped in people’s homes and in the streets, and then immersed in lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water. Unfortunately, many Ganesh idols these days are made of plaster, plastic and other toxic materials that don’t break down, but there’s now a growing movement to stop this and make Ganesh idols from non-toxic, biodegradable materials.
If you’re in India today, how are you celebrating Ganesh’s birthday?