Om Shree Ganeshaya Namah
(Salutations to you, O Ganesha!)
It’s an invocation that has a very special place whenever a new endeavour is begun in our country. Ganesha the elephant-headed god is one of the most frequently encountered icons of the Hindu pantheon. Widely worshipped and regarded by millions with love and adoration, devotion towards him transcends boundaries of caste, religion or geography. Scholars say he is supposedly the most recent deitiy to be incorporated into the Hindu pantheon…as late as the fifth century AD. Some trace his origins to animist traditions of pre-Aryan times. Others seek to show how an elephant-deity was worshipped in many ancient cultures. The fact is somewhere down the centuries this multifaceted-persona fired the human imagination with scores of myths around his every aspect…you have tales of his extraordinary birth, his broken tusk, his appetite and penchant for the sweet ‘modak’, of his devotion to his parents…different stories from different regions and each more colourful than the other.
The beauty of Ganesha is that he is many things to many people and for those who seek his benediction all such discussions are of no consequence. For his devotees he is simply ‘vighanhara’…the remover of all impediments and obstacles. He can be the portly, merry, childlike god as well as a sage and a complex philosopher. He is accommodating and easy to please…a god who seeks no penance or austerities, just simple, sincere devotion. His image also lends itself to a living craft tradition that revolves around fashioning Ganesha in figures of clay, brass, marble, stone, even silver or any other material you can think of.
So in our country you find him everywhere…over entrances of homes, in niches and alcoves in shops and offices, in antique statues enhancing the aesthetics of a five star hotel lobby, in carved friezes of almost every temple and of course in every family shrine.
This tradition came to me as a gift from my husband’s boss many years ago and since then has grown into a collection of its own! They say once a Ganesha figurine enters your home it keeps attracting more of its kind. So he sits on the shelves in our living room in dozens of different avatars…playing musical instruments, in various dancing-poses, reading a book on a rocking chair, slaying a dragon, resplendent with five heads, rowing a boat, holding a candle, in a reclining position, even one where he is carrying a laptop in one hand and a mobile in the other! The collection is one of my most prized possessions…representative of every human need, be it spiritual, emotional or material. The Grace of Ganesha…
“Whose icon is a hallowed charm
That assures fulfillment of all desires
With the fanning of whose broad ears
All obstacles are scattered away
As though they were weightless cotton…”
Om Shree Ganeshaya Namah