Volume 9 - Issue 09
August 2011
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Posted on: Sept 01, 2011

 

 

Rejoicing and Realising the Ganesha Principle

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Some call Him Vigneshwara, the One who removes all our obstacles; others adore Him as Vinayaka, the One who is second to none. For the ritualists He is the Agrapujya, the One who has to be offered the first worship; for the students He is Vidya Buddhi Pradata, the One who bestows Knowledge and Wisdom. Mooshika Vahana is how His devotees describe Him and His diminutive vehicle; when the devout relate to His exalted family, they call out to Him as Shambu Kumara and Parvati Nandana; when they think of His enchanting form with that elephantine trunk they adore Him as Sundara Mukha Sri Gajanana, as Gajavadana, Gajamukha, Lambodara; and when they contemplate on His cosmic form and hail Him as the source of all sound and learning, the deity who is the primordial one, they offer worship to Him as Pranava Swarupa, as Sri Ganesha - innumerable are the appellations of this enchanting form of the Lord and equally fascinating are the ways by which this captivating countenance of the Almighty has captured the imagination of people from various lands from time immemorial.

That is why Ganesh Chaturthi, the day dedicated to the worship of Lord Ganesha, is such a lively and reinvigorating festival not only all over India but also in distant countries like Java, Bali, Cambodia, Thailand and so on. In Western India, especially in the state of Maharashtra, the tremendous religious fervour that this festival evokes in the minds of thousands and the way it galvanises multitudes into an ecstatic state of devotional frenzy is to be seen to be believed. Be it a Hindu or a Muslim, a Parsi or a Christian, everyone joins in the slogan “Ganapati Bappa Morya”; to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi is to connect to the spiritual source of joy within.

While this is how this sacred occasion is celebrated in various parts of India, what what happens in Prasanthi Nilayam every year is truly exceptional.

The student's celebrations begin in the Divine presence of Bhagawan in the Sai Kulwant Hall. On the morning of the auspicious day, Bhagawan's students offer a garland of songs and verses in praise of Lord Ganesha. After the program in the mandir the students congregate in the hostel prayer hall where an elaborate and traditional worship is offered to all the Ganesha idols that are to be installed in the various rooms of the hostel. And then with fanfare and rejoicing the Lord is taken to the rooms, which are decorated to welcome their respective Ganeshas. For the next few days these rooms transform into holy shrines. After scrupulously worshipping Lord Vigneshwara, the remover of obstacles for the next few days, the students prepare to take Him to their beloved Bhagawan on the day of the immersion of the idols.

What follows is the most beautiful and vibrant part of the celebrations. Why describe it in words; see it for yourself in the video that follows and be a part of the festivities!

     
   
     

Besides the beautiful statues of this beatific Lord, the innovative and decorative chariots, the vigorous and vociferous belting of chants, the colourful costumes, the dance, the singing and the unmistakable gaiety, what has always distinguished Ganesh Chaturthi in the holy hamlet of Puttaparthi is the deep involvement of Bhagawan in every part of the celebration. In fact, it is Swami who always sent the beautiful idols of Ganesha to every institution in Prasanthi Nilayam; He fixed the date for the immersion of idols including the time, the place and the way it has to be done; even mentioning which class should be doing what, when and how. He always is the sole inspiration for this grand celebration and as with every event that Bhagawan orchestrates, Swami used this occasion too to instill indelible lessons in the hearts of His young brigade. Here is one such, narrated by the current warden of the Brindavan Campus of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Dr. T. Ravi Kumar:

     
   
     

In our Indian culture everything starts with the worship of Lord Ganesha. In fact, this festival of Ganesh Chathurti is something that is celebrated by Swami in a grand manner. And I feel, among all the festivals, this one has something very special about it with respect to Swami and His students. Those days, every year during this time Swami used to visit the hostel. If He was out of station, He would visit as soon as He returns to Puttaparthi and drop in at the hostel where the Ganesha Idol was installed; He would invariably do this every year.

Now I am taking you to the time in Brindavan when I was a student; it was in the seventies. In those days it was a tradition for the boys to make Ganesha idols. They would take clay from a nearby lake (near Hoskote) and make an idol to be worshipped. And after this get it blessed by Swami. It was a great event.

One particular year Swami was in Prasanthi Nilayam. A few days before Ganesh Chathurti the warden remarked: “We are taking clay from the lake and making the idol, but since we are not baking the clay cracks start appearing in the statue after a few days. And it is traditionally not correct to worship such an idol. So I think this year we will not do that. Instead we'll buy a regular idol and worship it.”

 

The very next day the warden received a phone call telling him to proceed to Prasanthi Nilayam; Swami had called him. And when he returned he told us that Swami had called him and after discussing a number of things straight away asked him, “What about Ganesh Chathurti? What arrangements are you making?”

So the warden said, “Swami, I was telling the boys that since the idols develop cracks, this year we'll buy an idol and worship it.”

Swami said, “No, no, that is not how it is done traditionally. In the Vedic times people used to make the idol in their own house and worship it. That is the correct way to do it. So tell the boys to make the idol.”

So when the warden came and told us this, we were all very excited; particularly the art group boys. There were hardly five or six days left. There is a hostel next to the Walter Cowen block called the S. N. Singh block. That time it had just been built and was empty. So as these boys wanted a place where there was restricted access, they started making the idol there.

They kept four bricks and on top of that placed a platform. And when the first trowel of clay was put chanting Ganesh Gayathri and Jai bolo Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba ji ki, suddenly a rat came from somewhere and went under that platform.

However since they had started they said, “No no, it'll go away. Let's continue; let's not stop.” So they continued making the idol and it took them all of those five or six days, and on Ganesh Chathurti day at 5 a.m., it was time for them to shift the ready idol to the prayer hall where the pooja had to begin. And so all of them gathered around it and chanted Ganesh gayatri and Sai Gayatri and just when they lifted it, the rat ran out. Which means, the rat had been there all the while during the making of the idol. This was something which was very surprising. It was a cute little rat, and every one was talking about it very happily and excitedly.

A couple of days later Swami came to Brindavan. As He got down from the car He asked, “Boys, how was the Ganesh pooja?” We all said, “Swami it was very nice”. Then He said, “I sent one rat, did it come?”

So when we were making the idol we actually had a direct representative of the Lord present!

Therefore in every aspect of life, like this Swami would relate to what is happening and show that He is always present with us. Either He would be present in His physical form or would definitely make it a point to show us that He is omnipresent and is always with us, protecting us, guiding us, guarding us and showing us His love.

So that is how interested and involved was Swami even in the making of this celebration. The students were witness to not only yet another instance of His omnipresence and omniscience but also had a glimpse of how significant this festival was, and how much importance Swami attached to observing this festival in its entirety. In fact when the rituals are adhered to with a steadfast and sincere attitude, the results they bestow are absolutely gratifying. Perhaps the best example of this is the experience that Baba granted to Swami Amritananda, a former disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, which has been duly documented in Baba's biography Sathyam Shivam Sundaram, Volume I. This is what Prof. Kasturi, the author of this volume, writes:

Swami Amritananda came to Baba after the passing away of his guru, Sri Ramana Maharishi of Thiruvannamalai.

When Amritananda first came to Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba accosted him, "Amritam", and Amritananda was genuinely astonished at the familiarity and even affection with which the call was saturated, and said, "Only Ramana Maharshi, with whom I spent seventeen years, accosted me in that manner. The voice and manner were exactly the voice and manner of the Maharshi!"

sai ganesh sai ganesh sai ganesh  

Later Baba asked the eighty-five year old Swami about a Ganapati Homa, a sacrifice to Lord Ganesha, which he had performed for forty-one days when he was seven years old!

He told the Swami all the details of that sacrifice, including the long mantra involved chanting which the offerings were placed each time in the fire. The mantra, as disclosed by Baba, begins, Om Sreem Hreem Kleem Gloum Gam.

Baba told him that he had repeated this mantra a thousand times a day for forty-one days and made as many coconut offerings in the fire of the sacred sacrifice. "But what is the reward promised in the scriptures?" Baba asked the old ascetic.

He answered that if the sacrifice is done with scrupulous regard for ritual, Lord Ganapati Himself will appear in "the fiery enclosure" (the homa kunda), as the golden-colored effulgent elephant-headed God; that with His trunk He will receive the final and concluding offerings and will grant everlasting bliss by means of His darshan.

Baba asked him whether he had the Vision. Amritananda replied that it was not so easy for a seven year old boy to get the Vision of the Lord by the mere number and quantity of offerings and mantras. Baba interrupted him, saying, "No, no. It is due to all that mantra and all that sacrifice that you have now come to Me. You will today, after an interval of seventy-eight years, get the reward mentioned in the scriptures."

He asked the Swami to look at Him, and when he did, Amritananda saw the golden-colored elephant-faced Lord, Ganapati as described in ancient texts. He was overwhelmed with joy and bliss for four days following this darshan, and forsook food, drink, and sleep.

That is how Bhagawan confirmed the faith of this holy man in his spiritual practices. And to inculcate this steadfastness of devotion in His students, Baba never missed an opportunity to instruct them about the efficacy of the celebration of this sacred occasion so that through this they could inculcate in them devotion towards Lord Ganesha.

 

 - Radio Sai team

 
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