Gaṇeśa’s birthday – Gaṇeśa Caturti – is today, beginning the eleven-day “Ganeshotsav” festival. Appropriately, Hindu Blog this morning quoted some questions and answers about Gaṇeśa:
“What is the meaning of the name Ganapati? Where are the Ganas? What is their form? When you investigate this, you find that the five organs of perception and the five organs of action are the Ganas. The mind is the master over these ten organs. Buddhi or intellect is the discriminating faculty above the mind. The ten senses, the mind and the intellect together constitute the Ganas.”
–Sathya Sai Baba
The word gaṇa (literally, “group”) also refers to followers or devotees. In a sense, Gaṇapati means not only the lord/master/leader of his followers, but simply the Lord. We are all part of God’s gaṇa!
At the beginning of this festival, Gaṇeśa is called into an idol that is installed in the home, and he is asked to stay for the duration of the festival. (Preferably this idol for Gaṇeśa-caturti is made of natural materials, because it is immersed in water on the festival’s last day.) The ritual mantra(s), which breathe life into the idol and invite God’s presence to suffuse the image, are called prāṇa pratiṣṭha. There are two Ṛgvedic mantras that are used to do this for Gaṇeśa on this day: II.23.1 followed by X.112.9.
Ṛgvedic wisdom is expansive, timeless, and universal; the mantras carry knowledge for all time, all places, and as such, some of its mantras are precursors to the worship of later Devas, or contain hidden wisdom about a form of God not widely honoured until after the Vedic period, or even serve as direct hymns to those Devas under different names or forms.
However, each Ṛgvedic mantra does have a Devatā honoured by the hymn. And we know that Gaṇeśa was/is not the only one known as the Lord of the Senses, nor the only one to be called Gaṇapati.
Ṛgveda X.112.9 is translated for Gaṇeśa prāṇa pratiṣṭha as, “Sit down among the worshippers, O Gaṇapati, the best sage among the sages. Without You nothing can be done here or far. Accept with honor, O wealthy One, our great and variegated hymns of praise.”
But this is not the only translation possible, for the original Devatā of Ṛgveda X.112 is Indra.
ni ṣu sīda ghaṇapate ghaṇeṣu tvāmāhurvipratamaṃkavīnām |
na ṛte tvat kriyate kiṃ canāre mahāmarkaṃmaghavañcitramarca ||
“Lord of the hosts, amid our bands be seated: they call thee greatest Sage among the sages.
Nothing is done, even far away, without thee: great, wondrous, Maghavan, is the hymn I sing thee.”
I love this verse. In fact, I made it my Gmail-chat status a couple of days ago – not suspecting that I would be encountering it again, and blogging about it, so soon. I adore the knowledge that nothing is done without God, regardless of which form one honours as “thee”!
May all enjoy a blessed and delightful Gaṇeśa Caturti!
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